He Who Controls The Gate Controls The City

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Back then, this mattered. I saw it with my own eyes.

I never knew what the city of my grandfather looked like. We only had a picture of his house. It was a small two-story country villa built beneath a horizon of hills. It stood alone, triumphant, defiant.

My first thought was, given those traits, how would anyone not expect my father’s father to look at those hills – actually a ridge of small mountains – and wonder, “What’s beyond them? What’s on the other side?”

Truth be told, if he ever did venture deep into the valley below his house and up those mid-sized mountain ridges, here’s what he would have discovered upon reaching the top: Continue Reading “He Who Controls The Gate Controls The City”

When You Want To Control Risk, Sometimes An ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ Is Better Than A ‘Plan B’

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Here’s something they don’t tell you. Sometimes a “Plan B” does more harm than good.

I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I do have a few. For example, I should have listened to my brother and never sold that 1965 Topps Joe Namath rookie (in mint condition). We paid less than a dime for it and sold it for $125 a short time later. Sure, it was a pretty good return. Today, however, that card is worth $200,000 or more.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

But that’s not the regret that gnaws at me. This is the one that occurred in 7th grade. And, ultimately, a different type of card.

I began playing the violin in 3rd grade. It wasn’t my first choice. I kinda liked the idea of the Continue Reading “When You Want To Control Risk, Sometimes An ‘Ace Up Your Sleeve’ Is Better Than A ‘Plan B’”

40 Years Later And The Ties Still Bind

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Yale 82 Davenporters

D’porters (et al) begin to assemble at Yorkside

Heraclitus has visited this page in the past (“You Can’t Go Home Again… Or Can You?Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, September 22, 2016). For those new to this column, he’s the Greek fella who said “You can’t step into the same river twice.”

Get it? It might be the same river, but the constant current means the water isn’t the same. It’s a nifty little metaphor about the ever-changing world.

Cool. You can live with that, right?

Now, let me throw a monkey wrench into those churning waters of the relentless Continue Reading “40 Years Later And The Ties Still Bind”

Why The Things That Don’t Matter Really Do Matter

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Cars packed all the parking lots in and around the baseball fields, spilling over into the lots surrounding Ye Mendon Tavern and the Old Bean Mill. Even more impressively, they nearly filled the lower parking lot by St. Catherine’s Church.

It’s been a long time since the diamonds were this active. Perhaps it’s a sign that either the pandemic has moved behind or we simply have decided to live with it. Whatever the case, it’s good to see at least some sense of a return to normal.

Betsy & I witnessed all these as we arrived at our scheduled sitting for the St. Catherine’s Parish Directory pictures. As we got out of the car, we heard the distant murmur of the parents and kids cheering on their favorite ballplayers.

Suddenly, the unmistakable sharp clang of aluminum against ball rang out. As it echoed throughout the lowlands of the 100-year flood plain girding Irondequoit Creek, an excited cheerful roar quickly rose.

As we walked towards Legacy Hall (nee, “The Connecting Wing), a rush of memories swiftly appeared in my thoughts. How many times had Betsy and I been on those very same fields rooting on our children? And what did we tell them every time their team came up short on runs (even when the score didn’t matter)?

We’d tell them (even when the score did matter), “You have your whole life ahead of you and, in the grand scheme of things, what happened today won’t matter.”

And it didn’t.

But it does.

As those long ago memories filled my head, they took me back to a more relaxing time. At least how I remember it now.

Those dewy mornings, sunny afternoons, and early evenings filled with threatening skies bring a smile to my face. Despite serving as coach, the outcome of the games never bothered me, including the year our team won it all. No, it was all about the fun, the companionship, and building an inventory of happy experiences that could be called up anytime we needed a smile.

Indeed, fun was one of the handful of rules we lived by that winning season, (see “5 Tactics of a Winning Little League Coach,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, April 26, 2018). Winning happens when you’re busy having fun. You’re laughing too hard to worry, and worry is the quickest route to mistakes and disappointment.

Now, here’s the really funny thing. Back then, I was so focused on making sure the kids didn’t get upset when they lost (we lost half our games that season), that I convinced myself none of it mattered. And with each passing year, it mattered less and less. Life presented more important memories, and baseball faded away like an old picture.

Then we got out of the car and the crack of the bat woke up those old photographs within my head. The friends. The family. Watching a new generation emerge from naïve innocence to stalwart leaders. All that crossed my mind.

That it occurred within a day of Ray Liotta’s passing made it all the more poignant. While the headlines all led with his powerful performance in Goodfellas, my mind kept a soft focus on his portrayal of Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams.

Like The Natural, Field of Dreams stands out as one of the best baseball movies. Despite the backdrop, they’re not at all about the game because the game doesn’t matter. They’re about the part of what doesn’t matter that does matter.

What matters? Helping demonstrate to the next generation how to make moral and ethical decisions matters. If this sounds too highfalutin for baseball or any other game, consider this: How many times have you gotten upset when someone cheats to win?

And ‘cheating’ isn’t limited to simply breaking the rules. It includes staying within the bounds of honor and of unwritten rules. It’s good sportsmanship. It’s not being a sore loser. It’s not acting like a sore winner. That’s ethics. That’s morality. That matters.

On the more casual side, friends matter. Think of all the friendships that you create, develop, and cement over the course of several seasons on the grassy diamonds. Some of those friendships slowly disappear once the kids graduate and people move on. Others grow beyond the kids that inspired them. These matter, both in terms of memory as well as your current social vibrancy.

Finally, there’s family. Nothing matters more than family. Don’t you think it’s more than a coincidence that the father/son relationship lies at the heart of both Field of Dreams and The Natural? Both movies appear to be about the game and its players, but when you get right down to it, they each end with a father and a son playing catch with a baseball.

There’s a certain Americana – a certain masculine ideal – in that image. Mothers want their husbands to nourish a strong relationship with their sons. Daughters treasure the relationships they have with their fathers, but they’re strengthened knowing there’s also a strong bond between their brothers and their fathers.

In total, youth baseball isn’t about baseball at all. Baseball is merely a metaphor. You might also see it as a tool, as a means to get to an end. And that end isn’t developing your skills for the game, it’s about developing the bonds within the family and within the community.

If your experience succeeds at this, the investment of time you’ve made on those fields of dreams will pay dividends later and forever.

You’ll know whenever you hear that distinct ding of metal on cowhide leather. It’ll take you back and you’ll add your distant voice to the excited roar of the crowd.

And, in the end, you’ll finally know why what doesn’t matter really matters.

‘What Success Means to Me…’

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The Parable of the Sicilian Fisherman and the Harvard MBA
(based on a grandfather’s story to his grandson)*

*My grandfather, an immigrant from Sicily, always laughed when he (repeatedly) told this story to me. If it sounds familiar it’s because this Parable has been told in many different ways by many different ethnic groups. Next week I’ll reveal the story behind the original story and why you may have seen this particular version, albeit with a different international flavor.

One morning, a Fortune 100 CEO, vacationing in a lush Sicilian villa overlooking the warm Mediterranean sands, came upon a local peasant sleeping comfortably against a fig tree. The peasant’s children danced around him, only occasionally tugging at the straw hat that protected his relaxed face from the tropical sun.

The energetic CEO studied the placid scene. Curiosity getting the better of him, the CEO woke the native and asked him what he did for a living.

“I’m a fisherman,” yawned the perplexed peasant.

The CEO then asked the man why he wasn’t fishing.

“I’ve caught enough fish for today,” replied the tranquil fisherman. He didn’t seem to mind the CEO interrupting his quiet family life. “I am the best fisherman on all the seas,” he continued matter-of-factly. “Each morning I take 30 minutes out of my day and haul in a boat-load of fish. This is enough to feed my very large family and still have some left over to share with my less fortunate neighbors. I can then spend the rest of the day watching my children grow or whatever else I want to do.”Continue Reading “‘What Success Means to Me…’”

Adventures In White Knuckle Driving

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This past weekend reminded me there’s a good reason why I stopped scheduling travel meetings during the winter.

It didn’t always used to be this way.

In the time before Covid, unusual was the week when I did not put on several hundred miles of business meetings. I find riding for an hour (or more) relaxing. I’ve got a huge library of college-level lectures on a variety of subjects. (As the price for an intensive virtually triple major in the hard sciences, my college major left little room for electives.)

The destination also (usually) excited me, too. Either a conference to learn more and meet Continue Reading “Adventures In White Knuckle Driving”

The Truth Behind The Mystery Of Weather Forecasting

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Ah, winter. Remember that? Well, if for some reason you had forgotten, last week certainly provided a useful reminder.

Of course, if you live in New England, you got your reminder a few days earlier with a classic Nor’easter.

Yes, that’s the way the National Weather Service (“NWS”) spells this famous type of storm. These weather events feature notorious low pressure systems that travel up the eastern seaboard. They’re so named because the winds along the coast come from the northeast.

Nor’easters are not limited to the winter. The NWS tells us these storms generally occur in Continue Reading “The Truth Behind The Mystery Of Weather Forecasting”

How To Be A Successful Writer (In Five Easy Steps)

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To begin with, most people ask the wrong question.

This doesn’t happen too often locally, but because I also write for national publications, I often get this question: “What do I need to do to become a good writer?”

This question comes in many flavors. For example: “How can I become a better writer?” “What should I do to improve my writing?” “How did you learn to write so well?” That sort of thing.

These are all the wrong questions. Their common mistake: they all assume good writing is the key.

Here’s what most people (and most writers) don’t realize. There’s a difference between Continue Reading “How To Be A Successful Writer (In Five Easy Steps)”

This Is More Important Than Being ‘Tolerant’

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Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187No matter where you are, there it is. It’s called by a lot of different names, but it all means the same thing.

The trouble is, it doesn’t. And that can hurt people.

You may have heard this story before.

Decades ago, before I had the joy of children, I was assigned as the Town Board liaison to the school district. It was during the initial hype of political correctness. At the time, and not so different from today, you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the maxim “Be Tolerant” plastered somewhere.

During one meeting, (a strategic planning discussion), we were asked to brainstorm on Continue Reading “This Is More Important Than Being ‘Tolerant’”

What’s Your Dream? (Here’s How To Capture It)

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The vision of the three mountains

The original vision that was my “sure winner” in the Florence Brasser art contest. It didn’t win. Then. But The Vision ultimately prevailed.

You have a dream. It may be new. It may have been lingering in the back of your mind for years. Either way, you have a dream.

And it’s compelling.

If you’re like most people, you’re wondering “How can I achieve this dream?” If you’re ambitious (and who isn’t?), you’re wondering, “How can I accomplish my LIFETIME Dream?”

Many years ago, I wrote a column about an ironic first-place award I received in an art contest (see, “Sometimes Second Best Turns Out To Be the Very Best,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, March 20, 2016).

I say “ironic” because the winning drawing was a throwaway picture not meant for the Continue Reading “What’s Your Dream? (Here’s How To Capture It)”