Monday, November 28, 2005

SC Justices vs. the Bankers

I haven't said much of anything about the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court. So let me weigh in now. Alito, if confirmed, would be the fifth Catholic on the Court, along with Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy, and Roberts. Two more Catholics on the Court would open up great commercial possibilities of pitting the Catholics on the Court against the seven Swiss Jewish bankers who pull all the strings in the financial world in something akin to the Battle of the Network Stars (I still have disturbing memories of Dan Haggerty racing Kristy McNichol through an obstacle course). Or maybe we just do an annual basketball game. I know, I know, I know. The Jews will cry conspiracy if we play basketball and say that Thomas is surely a ringer, but how sympathetic will the audience be to the seven Jewish bankers crying conspiracy? And what they really should be concerned about is the two Italians as coaches.


$1.83 per gallon of gas in New Jersey on Thanksgiving. That's what I'm thankful for. I haven't seen anything beneath $2.00 per gallon in a long time. I pulled over and topped off even though my tank was 3/4 full; I was tempted to buy some gas cans and fill them up too.


I had been meaning to post this picture for awhile, because if I commented on the wedding of Senior Senior Guard Jack Vizzard without photographic evidence of the event, no old guards would have believed it. Well, there it is, proof positive. Senior Senior Guard Joe McGrath was in attendence, as was I. His beautiful wife's name is Laurie. The Superstar could not be reached for comment, but McGrath did make his wife sign the guest registry as Dave Shuster.


The Saturday prior to Thanksgiving I had a reunion of sorts with the old fraternity buddies at the Lehigh Lafayette game. Lehigh lost in the closing minute of the game. That's the first time I returned to the campus since 1991, the year after I graduated. Anyway, the rivalry is marked by faux hatred - In my day we expressed it with "Lafayette Sucks" graffiti. Today's students are arguably even less clever, and certainly more vulgar, as our old expression seems to have been largely replaced with "F*$& Lafayette" face painted to the cheeks. Tuition probably exceeds $30K there these days, and no one can come up with anything more clever than that? Makes me sorry I donate money to my old school. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot that I've never donated a dime to them. My bad.


I note with glee that Commander in Chief, the Hillary infomercial, has just hired Zack from Saved by the Bell. That has to be a sign of trouble, right? Good news for my beloved Office. I am worried, however, that they'll decide to can Geena Davis and replace her with Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell as president. On second thought, I'm not worried about that - I'd actually start watching it then.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The World's Most Influential Hand Wringer

So the cover of Esquire magazine has Billy Clinton, and the title "The World's Most Influential Man Gets His Hands Dirty." World's Most Influential Man! A rather large title. There is no doubt he is very popular througout the world, but even Jerry Lewis is popular in France; it doesn't mean he influences anybody. He clearly is very respected for his intellect, and has the ear of the elite ruling classes abroad, but why is this true and to what end has he used it? He arguably spent most of his foreign policy energy banking on Arafat's ability to be a civilized leader, and by his own words Arafat made him a failure. I suspect part of the reason he is so loved abroad stems back to his apology tour, where he gave credence to the moral relativism that viewed a free and democratic US as one of two very similar scorpions in a bottle along with a Soviet regime that killed 20 million of its own citizens, and more than a handful abroad, as well as to many other supposed sins that are uniquely American. Now most of the sins he apologized for were none that he had any influence over, with the exception of Rwanda.

Apparently Richard Clarke, of Against All Enemies Fame (who should have titled his book Against All Evidence) was the key man on Rwanda within the Clinton administration. He has his second book of fiction out, and in one of those surreal DC moments, I was in Costco about 1 month ago picking up a birthday cake for the twins, and there at the head of an aisle stocked with small household appliances, was the greasey looking Clarke sitting at a table signing his books. There was a black woman there chatting him up; he looked very bored.

If you haven't seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, about the Hutu massacre of the Tutus, go rent it today and reflect on what the Most Influential Man in the World and the ageless American Bandstand Dick Clarke did to show the beneficence of our great nation. And then reflect on all of the Europeans, so enamored with big Bill, who likewise stood back and let it all happen. I'll paste most of the story here, from an article written long ago by Mark Steyn. Here is the link: Here are the highlights:

Bill Clinton felt their pain. Retrospectively. In 1998, on his Grand Apology Tour of Africa, a whirlwind tour of whirlwind apologies for slavery, the Cold War, you name it, he touched down in Kigali and apologized for the Rwandan genocide. ''When you look at those children who greeted us,'' he said, biting his lip, as is his wont, ''how could anyone say they did not want those children to have a chance to have their own children?''

''All over the world there were people like me sitting in offices,'' continued Bill in his apology aria, ''who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.''

Au contraire, he appreciated it all too fully. That's why, during the bloodbath, Clinton administration officials were specifically instructed not to use the word ''genocide'' lest it provoke public pressure to do something. (hatcher: They show that part in the movie). Documents made public confirm that U.S. officials knew within the first few days that a ''final solution'' to eliminate all Tutsis was under way.

General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian commander of the 2,500 U.N. peacekeepers, said he could prevent the killing if he had 5,000 men. Instead, the Clinton administration blocked him from taking any action and got the blue helmets to pull out. The U.N. has to learn, said Clinton, ''when to say no.'' There weren't people like him all over the world sitting in offices. There was him, sitting in his office, the Pain-Feeler-In-Chief kissing off half-a-million nobodies: Toot-Toot, Tutsis, goodbye!

It's a tenable position to feel America has no interest in preventing one bunch of Africans slaughtering another bunch of Africans. But it requires especial reserves of cynicism and contempt to seek approval for feeling bad about it four years later. Whether or not the Bush administration could ever have put together a few random clues — an uptick in Arab men taking flight-school training, etc. — in time to prevent what happened on Sept. 11, Bill Clinton knew about Rwanda and chose to do nothing.

Why was this? Well, Somalia, of course. When 10 Belgian peacekeepers were hacked to pieces in Rwanda, it reminded the administration of those 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu. As Samantha Power writes in her book A Problem From Hell: ''The news from Rwanda only confirmed a deep skepticism about the viability of UN deployments. Clarke believed that another U.N. failure could doom relations between Congress and the United Nations. He also sought to shield the president from congressional and public criticism.''

What was that name again? ''Clarke''? Who's that?

Turns out it's Mister Apology himself, Richard Clarke. He was the guy in charge of Rwandan policy for the Clinton team and, as far as I can tell, unlike the Pain-Feeler, he feels not even a twinge of pro forma remorse. As we know, regrets, he's had a few. But this isn't one of them. ''It is not always the United States that has to answer the 911 call,'' Clarke said. ''It is not always the United States that has to be the world's policeman.'' Correct. But in this instance, Clarke and Clinton went further and scuttled a U.N. mission that had already answered the 911 call. Nothing the supposedly ''unilateral'' Bush team has done damaged the U.N. and its credibility as much as the Clinton-Clarke team did during the Rwandan bloodbath. And whenever a local bully gets away with it, it emboldens others.

By all accounts, Clarke is a difficult man to work with. He reminds me of that comic classic on British history, 1066 And All That, with its battles between Royalists — ''wrong but romantic'' — and Roundheads — ''right but repulsive.'' In much of his Clinton-era approach to terrorism, Clarke seems to have been ''right but repulsive,'' which is why nothing got done; in his more fanciful moments, he was ''wrong but romantic.'' But in his present incarnation he's wrong and repulsive. He seems to have learned from his old boss, who's always preferred to apologize for the mistakes of others rather than his own: Shortly after 9/11, Bill Clinton apologized for the Crusades.

By Sept. 11, Clarke was far removed from the decision-making process on Afghanistan, al-Qaida and beyond. He has no more authority to apologize for the events of that day than I do.

But he bears a lot of responsibility for Rwanda. Any chance of an apology for that?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Comrade Hatcher Joins Revolution

On Saturday I joined a revolution. The sleep revolution that is! All you have to do is lay out a couple grand for a Tempur-pedic mattress and you too can be a sleep patriot. The viscoelastic technology is originally NASA developed, so I hesitate to even call this a bed; doing so is tantamount to calling Tang a form of orange juice. Astronauts drink Tang and sleep on viscoelastic surfaces; they don’t drink orange juice and sleep on beds. Here is how their website explains it:

Visco: resistant to change of shape.
Elastic: able to return to its original shape after being forced to change.

Imagine lying on a surface that senses exactly how far to let you "sink in" so that every point on the contour of your body is supported.

When you are not on that surface, it then "flows" back to its original, flat shape. This phenomenon is similar to pushing your hand into the surface of a bowl of water and feeling the water flow to fill every contour and curve of your hand, then return to its original shape once your hand is removed.

I don’t have to imagine! I am already enjoying more restful sleep, and estimate that I require 5-7 fewer minutes of sleep per night. Assuming I live another 40 years, this gives me approximately 60 more waking days, enough time to fit in 2,920 more sitcom reruns on TV Land. Now that’s what I call living your life to the fullest.

My one concern – Tempur pedic is a Swedish company. It figures that the only revolution these risk-averse socialists can foment is one involving the safest activity on the planet. But that is ultimately to their credit, because when people of like ides of economic justice usually launch a revolution, a couple million bodies later and another five decades on they learn it was all a very noble mistake on their part.

I’ve also found that sleeping on my stomach leaves my back rather achey in the morning. I’m sure if I complained, they would explain that it is designed purposefully to make that uncomfortable due to the much greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) when sleeping on your stomach. And that while I am an adult in my late 30s, one can never be so sure you are not still at some risk of SIDS. Again, just hearing that makes me sleep more soundly.

My other minor complaint is that the mattress has a distinct odor, not necessarily unpleasant, but enough to trump the smell of freshly washed sheets, which is pleasant. Now here is where I really get concerned. As they used to say, communists are socialists in a hurry. So if the commies in the fifties were compromising our precious bodily fluids by fluoridating the water, is it not possible that the socialist Swedes have chosen some alternative and much slower technology, embedded in my viscoelastic surface, which nightly compromises those same precious bodily fluids a little bit at a time? Call me paranoid, but when I woke up on the third day and inexplicably called my wife “comrade,” I thought to myself – revolution indeed. From each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs! Does anyone know where I can buy a black turtleneck? Any suggestions on a good proletariat cigarrette I can start smoking?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Michael Irvin - No Hall of Fame

First, to the important topics, like sports. The Eagles season - Done! I meant to write that in week 3, when it would have been a somewhat novel observation, but I've been very busy. 2 of their 4 wins - the comeback against the Chiefs and the absurd win against San Diego - show that even when they win it is a minor miracle. You could argue the Dallas game was kind of the opposite, so what goes around comes around, but either way, Eagles fans must now look forward to 2007.

On a different note, a reader asked me the following question: Should Michael Irvin, ex-Cowboy receiver, be inducted into the Hall of Fame. My answer is unequivocally no for the following very obvious reasons: 1) I hate that guy; 2) his post-game press conference garb in his playing days was eggregious, what with the high buttoned suits and the bowlers; 3) in his liesure time he sat around snorting coke and ordering hits on his enemies, which by itself is not a disqualifying set of facts, except that 1 above, combined with the logic that the enemy of my enemy is ny friend, implies he was trying to knock off my friends; and 4) I hate that guy. All good and sufficient reasons, but for those skeptics out there who will argue that none of these have anything to do with his play on the field, I offer the following observations:

1) The baseball Hall of Fame should be the model for all such halls - you should be truly extraordinary to make it in;

2) Given that as the model, and football I don't think follows that model (it has weaker standards), football should be the hardest sport to make it into the Hall due to the difficulty in judging the individual ability of the player. Clemens, for example, didn't have a great record this year (13 wins), but his ERA was something close to 0.0001. Clearly a Hall of Fame like season. If Michael Irvin was getting passes thrown to him by Sean Salisbury, who was handing off on other plays to some crappy running back, with a lousy offensive line and a defense that was so lame it made the opposing defenses well rested whenever they took to the field, he probably would have sucked. A guy like Barry Sanders - clear Hall material, because he to dodge three tackles just to avoid a 2 yard loss, and he still ran like the wind;

3) Well, maybe he would have still been good, but nevertheless the standard should be that he would have been great. He said it himself in assessing Randy Moss's chances for success under Norv Turner (Cowboys offensive coordinator during Irvin's playing years): if Norv Turner could make Alvin Harper an All Star, look for Randy Moss to break every record in the book (he said it on ESPN). So there we see him take a gratuitous swipe at a former teammate while being too stupid to realize that the same argument must apply to some extent to himself;

4) A real Hall of Famer doesn't become an ESPN analyst. (And don't give me Steve Young - I said real Hall of Famer). What is ESPN thinking? Between Michael Irvin and Steven A. Smith, I think it's time someone started a competing network. And don't call me racist, because I like Stuart Scott.


Now, to less important things, like politics. Finally Bush has started to call on the carpet the many irresponsible liberals who want to endlessly claim he lied or deceived us into war. In a couple of speeches he's accused them of undermining troop morale and fortifying the enemy. Such conspiratorial fantasies of the "Bush lied, people dies" variety are fine for nutjob bloggers like myself (but of the opposite political stripe) to entertain, but they shouldn't be indulged, encouraged, or propogated by U.S. Senators and Reps. Your crazy lefty needs to believe it's a matter of good and evil (Saddam - good; Bush - evil); it's the only way to assuage his delicate psyche and enable him to sleep at night while Bush is in charge. I'll permit him his psychological venting, but more should be expected from our so called leaders. All halfway intelligent people in the US may know that Ted Kennedy is a boorish windbag, but when he says something that gets echoed on Al Jazeera, the Arab world probably doesn't view him as the drunken ass he is. (MaryJo Kopechne could not be reached for comment). Bush said it right - criticize the decision if you disagree with it, or the planning and execution if you think it went badly - but don't offer up a conspiracy theory with zero proof to back it. And for those of you who think there is anything to the conspiracy theory, please read this link:

The problem is that most of the Democratic Senators cannot criticize the decision, since they were fully on board with it. And while there may have been execution problems, does anybody really think any of our windbag Senators, who manage nothing but a staff of sycophantic lemmings attracted to their power, could have done it better? Whether Democrat or Republican, any government run endeavor (maybe even any human endeavor) is going to be hopelessly inefficient - the only difference between the two is the type of policies they typically choose. But if all agreed initially to go to war, as they did, it's hopelessly naive to believe that Democrats would have run it better. Not saying they would have run it worse, just not better.

Franky, when these guys go off as they do on the lies and deception rants, I honestly believe 3 things: 1) they know they are spouting nonsense; 2) they know it may be detrimental to our efforts; and 3) they know it nevertheless serves their political interest, and so they carry on. For a notable exception to this rule of asininity among Democratic Senators, see these comments by Lieberman:

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Glory Days

On the heels of a rain shower last night, with an overcast November sky, a leaf-coated ground, and Indian (Native American, not the Vijay type) Summer temperatures, one cannot help reminisce about his glory days as a high school cross-country runner... the drugs, the women, the rock-n-roll. Anyway, work is quite busy so I have limited time to post this week, so I'll leave you with a story from those glory days, which you are bound to find too long and too boring, unless you also have fond memories of running through the woods half naked on mild fall days. Enjoy.

When your team is on top, there is only one direction of movement – down. In the first major meet of the 1985 season, our Paul VI high school cross-country team had fallen to another South Jersey squad for the first time since 1980. For the first time in years we appeared to be vulnerable, and many pretenders to the throne of the Courier Post Cup, an award granted by the South Jersey’s largest newspaper to the top ranked team in the region, began to think what had been unthinkable - that they too had a shot at knocking us off.

Our loss came on the heels of the most successful season in team history: the prior year we had won the New Jersey Parochial A State Championship, the New Jersey All Group meet of Champions, and the prestigious Easterns A race, hosted by Fordham University, in Van Cortland Park. Twice in that season our team beat North Hunterdon, which boasted the fifth and fifteenth place finishers at the Kinney Nationals that year. Our team was so deep that we had 13 runners complete a sub 10 minute 3200 meters that school year. At major meets that had JV races, with business like efficiency, we would invariably sweep the top seven places, setting the stage for a less dominant, but no less convincing, varsity victory. That season in the fall of 1984 capped a string of years that showed steady improvements, with each bringing more success. But there was no trophy left to win in the fall of 1985 that wasn’t already in the case.

We had lost five of our top seven runners from the prior year. The two returning runners - Ron Faith and John Wolfram - were the captains, and both were counted among the top seven runners in the state, with Faith expected to vie for the individual state championship. Three other seniors and a junior ran varsity in 1985: Rich Wright, Tim Tschida, myself and Steve McNally. We had all spent the previous year warming down from JV races as spectators for the varsity, impatiently biding our time for our turn. By the end of the year, the freshman phenom Jason DiJoseph would round our top seven.

When our turn finally came, we blew it. Holy Cross, a South Jersey team led by two very talented sophomores, had managed the upset that no one, least of all us, had predicted. The race was the Philadelphia Textile meet, held in the early weeks of September at Belmont Plateau in Fairmont Park. The course was short, covering only 2.8 miles, but it was brutal. Its hallmark was “Parachute Hill” - three hundred yards and straight up. (It drew its name from the rumor that you could take a running leap from the apex with a parachute strapped to your back, pull the rip cord, and land safely at the bottom of the hill.) In the eyes of every team in South Jersey, the course at Belmont Plateau that Saturday had made us human. But we were not at full strength - Rich Wright, our third man, had developed mononucleosis early in the season, and he did not compete. And Steve McNally, our fourth man, was hampered by an ankle injury during the race.

Dominating the South Jersey cross-country scene had ceased to be a goal for our team, having done it repeatedly in the last four years. Coach Mike Glavin knew that the real competition lay up in the Northern and Central parts of the State, and the test of our mettle came in essentially four meets - The Shore Coaches Invitational, the Easterns, the Parochial A state championship, and the New Jersey All Group meet. The largest major outside of these was the South Jersey Open, which was restricted to South Jersey competition. Usually the safe and timely arrival of our team bus removed any uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the Open. The other quality teams in South Jersey had given up the possibility of ever beating us two years prior with a defining display of defeatism. That year, we arrived for the race to find that one of the better teams in the region had fashioned a small paper singlet with a blue “P” on the front to resemble our team singlet, and placed it upon the bronze runner adorning the championship trophy. That defeatism was not uncommon, and it irritated Coach Glavin.

What irritated Glavin more was losing. After our loss to Holy Cross, we were ranked second behind them in the Cup rankings, to the joy of every team in the area. Two weeks later, Holy Cross lost a dual meet to Shawnee, leaving us ranked third behind Shawnee and Holy Cross. Our goals, nonetheless, were still focused upon the more important meets, specifically the Shore Coaches Invitational and the Parochial A State championships. We expected that the rankings would quickly change once we were full strength and matched against our rival South Jersey teams.
But we were still not at full strength when our team hobbled up to Holmdel state park, the site of the state championships, for the Shore Coaches Invitational meet. Our concern was not with other South Jersey teams scheduled to compete against us. Instead, we were focused on Christian Brothers Academy, our perennial rival for the Parochial A state championship. Until two years prior, CBA held a virtual monopoly on that title, but we had wrested it away from them the last two years and we intended to keep it. Holmdel was their home course, and they took us apart that day, establishing themselves as the clear favorite to win the Parochial A race the following month. And, strangely enough, Shawnee and Holy Cross did not show for the race, despite being scheduled to compete against us. They were dodging us, afraid to jeopardize their chance at the Cup. The irony is that we were still vulnerable, and each may have beaten us that day, solidifying their respective claims over us to the Cup.

Shortly after that meet, McNally was beginning to run at full strength, and Wright was running again, after a month long hiatus. To test their fitness levels, Glavin held a time trial on our home course with a local roadrunner setting the pace. There were doubts as to how strong Wright would be after his absence and his illness, but they were erased with his time trial. Both he and McNally looked strong. After the time trial, we each had a feeling that the season was about to take a turn for the better, and that we would shortly return to our winning ways. We began to set our sights on the Parochial A meet, but we had some unfinished business within South Jersey.

The South Jersey Open was two weeks away, and we had considered not competing in the Open for the first time in years. Glavin was a St. Joe’s University graduate, and his old coach, Kevin Quinn, had set up a race at Belmont Plateau that would attract the top teams from Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania suburbs. This would be the inaugural year for the race, and a set of watches was the award for the winning team. A watch was an attractive incentive in comparison to another medal that would be one of many. It was wholly plausible that we would forsake the Open in favor of the Philadelphia race, given the ties between Glavin and St. Joe’s. And from the beginning of the year, we had contemplated winning those watches. One of the drawbacks in doing so was that the Philadelphia race was a varsity only event. There would be no freshman or JV race, as there typically were, and as there would be at the South Jersey Open.

We were itching for revenge with these South Jersey teams, and we were still ranked beneath them despite the fact that people knew we were at full strength. This was the overriding consideration - had we no score to settle, we would be sporting watches by that Saturday afternoon. We decided upon running the Open, but we let the runners of various other teams have visions of the Cup throughout the week leading up to the meet. Glavin announced to the press that we would be sending our JV squad to run the Open varsity race, while our top seven would traverse the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia to bring home the watches. We could only imagine the excitement at the practices of the five or six teams who now thought they had a legitimate shot at the Open title, and hence at the Cup. For the first time in five years the race itself was viewed as less than a formality.

The truth was that the race would be over before it started in far more dramatic fashion than in the past. The ruse was now in place: expecting to see our JV runners lagging behind the field, every team would be surprised to see the familiar faces of our top seven - but they would not have a view of our faces for long. This subterfuge was the unique creation of Coach Glavin, who had an excellent gift for motivating runners. Our team had presented him with his toughest coaching challenge to date - we required a different approach then teams in the past, and he provided it for us. With his plan, the South Jersey Open was transformed from a no win situation, where victory is always expected and never cause for much celebration, to a covert mission of revenge. And exacting revenge would prove to be very fun.

The Open was scheduled at Clearview high school’s course, where we had never previously competed. Normally that would not have been a problem - we always warmed up for the race by running the course. But we were supposed to be in Philadelphia that Saturday morning, and so the sight of us doing a warm up would be incongruous. We were forced to learn the course by running it on the Friday prior to the meet. But many teams routinely did the same and would take a bus to the site on that Friday to gain knowledge of the terrain. To avoid the possibility or being seen, we drove in a caravan of cars to the site of the meet, arriving at 5pm Friday night. We laid low in our cars as the last busses pulled out of the parking lot. When all was clear, we began the familiar stretching routine that preceded our every run - we were very loose, and we were grinning from ear to ear just thinking about our grand entrance scheduled for the next morning. We ran the course as the sun set and darkness slowly enveloped us. Negotiating the course in darkness required concentration, and the grins slowly left our faces as we began to focus on our footing. Having finished the course, we ran for ten minutes up a country road, with farmland on either side of us, in order to scout out a location for our warm-up on the following day.

There were sixteen people who knew the whole plan that afternoon - the varsity and JV squads, Glavin, and the girls’ cross-country coach, Mike Bussarello. Bussarello was the acting coach for the JV team that was scheduled to run the varsity race. Saturday morning, as the bus left the Paul VI parking lot for the race, it departed without the top seven and Glavin. We met later that morning in a shopping store parking lot, dressed in generic, rather than team, sweats. We traveled in two cars - Glavin’s and my own. The concern for secrecy was still so important that as we drove by the race sight, everyone excluding myself and Glavin ducked down to avoid notice, while the two of us cloaked ourselves with hats and sunglasses. There was no sense in blowing our cover now. To a man, we knew that we were recognizable. Our entire team would attend a weeklong cross-country camp in the late summer that was frequented by many South Jersey runners, and they knew who we were. And a team of our caliber was watched from the moment we stepped off the bus. Glavin used to claim that most people probably knew what type of shoes we wore.

We reached our designated warm-up camp safely, but the spot was rather conspicuous. We were in God’s country - where dense Pine Barrens had long ago been cleared for farmland. Behind a small grove of some thirty trees, all shorn of their leaves, we threw down our race bags on the outskirts of a farm. We were visible from the road, and it must have been a strange sight - eight of us stretching behind the limited shade offered by leafless trees in the middle of nowhere. Always aware of the time, we arrived with thirty minutes to spare before we needed to begin stretching and running our warm up. The mood was light, as we relaxed and kidded each other about anything and everything. Occasionally, a car would drive by, and we would duck down in what by that time could only be construed as paranoia.

Meanwhile, the JV team began their pre-race routine, in preparation for a race they would not run. As they set out to run the course, they did so with the knowledge that the Paul VI team would win going away, and they tried to make that clear to the other teams. In the course of their warm-up, they received several jeering remarks from opposing runners to the effect that they would be beaten badly that day. They responded with what must have appeared to be foolish arrogant bravado by letting these runners know that precisely the opposite would occur. But their warnings fell on deaf ears.

The JV warm-up that day must have been pure joy - ours was pure business. The good-natured joking always began to dissipate as the stretching began, so that by the time we began to warm-up, there was no conversation. We ran in unison a simple out and back course, heading away from the race sight. The plodding of fourteen feet, and the faint sound of slightly labored breathing was all that was heard for the next twenty minutes. Normally during a warm up, many eyes fell upon us, and our demeanors clued them into how seriously we took winning. Our routine display had become so familiar that the facial expressions were no different in the absence of our usual crowd. At the time, I remember thinking that Ron Faith’s dour pre-race countenance was affected – it seemed unnatural and rehearsed to those of us who knew his personality. I still think that it was, but it effectively signaled to all other runners that they’d go through the wringer if they had designs on beating him or our team. Leadership, in many cases, requires such acting – General Patton practiced his war face in front of a mirror his entire career. Faith’s “game face” was undoubtedly learned from Glavin, and his was one hundred percent real. For our coach, an indifferent countenance on race day would have been an Oscar worthy performance.

It was a beautiful fall day, with a giant blue sky, and a temperature of about fifty degrees. We peeled off our warm-up gear, slightly wet from the sweat of our warm-up. I remember feeling chilly as I put on my racing singlet. The chill, coupled with the familiar pre-race nervousness, produced goose bumps all over my upper body. But not on the legs - they were warm and ready to go. We piled into the cars and headed for the starting area of our race.

The starting line, backed up by an apple orchard, was just off the road. We parked our cars along the road about two hundred yards behind the starting line, and dashed into the orchard in our inconspicuous gear, remaining unseen by the other runners. Bussarello, who had picked up our race packets and numbers, met us inside the orchard. As we pinned the numbers to our chests, Glavin instructed us on the plan from here. We said the customary team prayer, and Glavin left the orchard. Awaiting him on the starting line was the JV squad.

His emergence should have raised some eyebrows - he was the most recognizable man in South Jersey cross-country, and he was certainly the most vocal. Though he had pulled off some unbelievable feats as both a coach and an athlete, no one believed he could be in Philadelphia and at Clearview at the same time. He had a commanding presence that must have been more impressive when wholly unexpected, and I’ve often wondered what raced through the minds of the other coaches when he yelled to the JV to take their last strider - sprinting from the starting line to loosen up the legs. But the puzzlement of his presence for both coaches and runners was not so troubling as long as they had our JV team in sight. As the seven JV runners began their strider, we watched from within the apple orchard, about fifty yards behind the starting line. The JV gave us our cue one hundred yards later by waving good-bye to the field of runners. As the other teams stared blankly at a squad that seemed to be leaving the race, we sprinted out from the orchard.

We sprinted past the teams standing poised around the starting line, and continued our strider for another fifty yards, screaming as we went. In an ostentatious display not common to cross-country meets, we tore off our sweats and long sleeve T-shirts, revealing our uniforms, and began high-fiving each other, all the while keeping up the noise. Within one minute, all eyes were surely upon us, and within two, in the minds of every team present, the race was on for second place. Our behavior was more appropriate for a post-race celebration of win, and it belied the fact that the race had not even begun. But every team there knew that despite the premature celebration, it would be earned in the end - we were just reversing the traditional order.

This was not our usual way. We were always very professional in the moments before a race, but we had to draw attention to ourselves and serve notice that the gold medals had been claimed. As we jogged back to the starting line, you could see the sunken expressions of the runners who had gotten over the shock. Those we recognized we greeted in a confident and friendly manner. One top runner from a team that would have otherwise contended stuttered in shock to John Wolfram that he thought we were in Philadelphia. John smiled as he said that we had changed our minds at the last second.

Better teams might not have responded with sunken resignation, but rather with righteous anger. These teams were impotent to do so - some of them had avoided confrontation in the past, and they knew that there was no avoiding it now. As the gun went off, we quickly separated ourselves from the field, and it was obvious after the first mile that no one would challenge us. We placed our top five in the top 25 of the field of over two hundred runners, with Faith and Wolfram finishing in second and third place. The race was more of a five thousand meter victory lap than a contest.

We went on that year to win the Parochial A state title, avenging our previous embarrassing loss to Christian Brothers Academy. At the finish of the season, we were ranked second in the state behind a strong team from Bernards. Ron Faith took the individual state title, and went on to compete at the Kinney Nationals in San Diego. The prospect of matching the successes of the previous year was never realized - we had less depth and less talent in the Fall of 1986. The South Jersey Open victory was not the crowning accomplishment of our season, but nonetheless it is the race whose every detail sticks with me nearly twenty years later. It may not have been classy, but it sure as hell was fun!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


The Sun King writes from outside Ft. Lauderdale after the Hurricane Wilma did a number on the Kulick compound, as seen in the picture he sent.

This one just about sums it up. No power. No phone. No cell. Minimal water and all the beer is getting warm....where is FEMA? Which way to the Superdome?

But the wireless internet connection was still in tact! Remember to thank Al Gore.

Heck, I knew George Bush didn't like black people, but who knew us whities were also at risk of being hit by a hurricane? Maybe he let this one hit just to make it look like he was an equal opportunity president. Anyone choosing to make donations to Kulick can send them through me. Unfortunately, no compensation can alleviate the suffering caused by the short-term damage to his tan - these are the intangible costs of natural disasters that can't be covered by insurance. Maybe Katie Couric should do a story on Mike's plight.

In more traumatic news, last week this Wednesday the Hatcher suffered a deep laceration between the knuckles of the ring and middle fingers on my left hand. I was cruising up to a red light on my bike, between a row of cars waiting for the light to change and a row of parked cars, when a woman sprung the passenger door open to exit her car. The door sliced right through the skin, but did not impede my forward progress. There was a large gaping whole, about an inch in diameter; when I spread my fingers it opened up into a small pool of blood. I didn't cry.

I went to urgent care for four stitches. As luck would have it, my firm recently offered us the ability to purchase supplemental insurance from Aflac. It pays you certain fees for all different types of accidents - cuts, broken bones, dismembered limbs. I figured with four sons, a trampoline that is 12 feet in diameter, and my lax parenting skills, Aflac insurance would be my most lucrative investment. I got $65 for the stitches and $120 for the visit to urgent care. If only my cut were in excess of 5 cm, I would have gotten $250 plus the $120 for the emergency room visit. Damn my luck!

Anticipating the inevitable advice of the Anonymous Chartreuse Alcoholic, prior to going to urgent care I disinfected the wound with a shot of chartreuse. Good thing I have a case in my desk at work - you never know when you are going to need it. In any event, the urgent care scene was quite dramatic. I insisted that she not amputate either finger; it would throw off the balance of my left hand and make typing with my left index finger inordinately hard, causing irreparable harm to my career as a corporate consultant who needs to type almost daily. I pleaded for cortisone just to get through the day without loss of productivity. She explained that it barely needed stitches. I fear she got her MD in the Falklands.

In other news, Sam Alito is a huge Phillies fan. If I were gay, I'd want to marry him, except for the fact that he'll never rule in favor of it.

Finally, I'm still laughing over last night's episode of the Office - easily the funniest show on television. In the scheduling, it's up against the hour long campaign commercial for Hillary starring Geena Davis. If that kills the Office, there is no justice in this world.

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