A longing for the past

I wrote this about a year ago. Just now catching up to post it.

A few days ago, we were in New York, and while meeting up with some co-workers at a bar in Brooklyn, I ran across a flagpole in front of the Barclays Center at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic Ave.


The plaque on the flagpole reads as follows: “This flagpole stood in Ebbets Field until Brooklyn’s famed ballpark was torn down in 1960.” Ebbets Field was where the Brooklyn Dodgers played their Major League Baseball games before they moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were also my Grandpa Dave’s favorite team.

I read the sign, and I suddenly felt a very real connection to my grandfather who’s been gone for nearly 20 years. He often wore a gray Brooklyn Dodgers T-shirt when my family visited him and Grandma Essie in Fort Lauderdale when I was growing up, and my mom told me that she had looked for that piece of clothing after he died. She never found it.

As I looked at the flagpole on that cold day, I was about two miles northwest of the actual site of the stadium where I’m sure my grandfather used to cheer for the Dodgers on warm summer afternoons as a young man.

In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the past more than normal. I’ve always thought that if I had a time machine, I’d immediately go to New York City in the 1940s to see the men in their baggy suits and their wool hats, to ride the subway amid all the cigarette smoke, to catch an afternoon ballgame at Ebbets Field or the Polo Grounds, and to spend a day without worrying about what’s on the internet. Maybe, I’d even run into my grandparents in Brooklyn—to see what they were like before they had kids of their own (they apparently loved going out on the town—even after their children were born).

But my longing for a past I’ll never experience isn’t unique. Just now, I stopped a DVR recording of my favorite Twilight Zone episode. It’s called “A Stop at Willoughby,” and it’s about an ad executive from the late 1950s who is stressed by his job and his unsympathetic wife. One day, he falls asleep and dreams that the commuter train he’s riding has suddenly stopped in a town called Willoughby. He looks out the window and gazes at a scene where a mustached man is riding a penny-farthing and two barefoot boys are on their way to a fishing hole. A man sits waiting on a horse carriage, and musicians run through a parlor song on a bandstand in the middle of the town square. The conductor of the train tells him it’s 1888.

The episode continues with the ad exec daydreaming about Willoughby and trying to make his way back there. The episode ends in tragedy, but I’ve always appreciated that appreciation of history, and hopefully, my kids will one day share that same sense of wonder of what it must have been like in the days gone by. That’s why I’ve interviewed my parents about our family history. That’s why I’ll do the same for my in-laws. That’s why I interview the kids the night before the first day of school every year.

Maybe someday, the kids of my kids will stand at the former site of Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta and wonder what it must have been like when their grandfather cheered on the Braves in the 1980s, where the men wore mesh trucker hats, short jean shorts, and long, striped socks, where the place smelled like stale beer and cheap cigarette smoke. And for them, I have one clear answer:

It sucked. The Braves back then were fucking terrible.



Why Disney World is magic for parents, too

It’s been 10 months since our trip to Disney, and that means it’s finally the perfect time to post my memories from the vacation.

June 5, 2017 10:11 p.m. ET: LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – As we finish our first day at Disney World – a day that began at 6 a.m. with a wake-up call so we could be at Animal Kingdom by 7:30 and one that ended just a few minutes ago as the kids fell into an exhausted slumber – I have one big reflection.

With the kids finishing first grade, I have begun to think, as I so often do, about the regret that they’re getting older and getting one day closer to outgrowing the little kids they are. B and J claim they’re big kids, but they’re not. Not really.

They still wake us up in the middle of the night when they have a bad dream, and they still need us to carry them up to their rooms and brush their teeth when they fall asleep in the car. But someday, their 3 a.m. visits will cease. Some day, they’ll just walk upstairs themselves and go to bed without so much as a good night.

About a week ago I read a story from a mom blogger about how she’s haunted by the thought that one day she’ll put her kid down, and never pick them back up again. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that moment with B and J – they still, after all, love to be carried around – but in the next couple of years, surely that moment will pass without me realizing it until it’s too late.

But on this day, with the kids blasting out a 14-hour day at Animal Kingdom like big kids, I got to feel that moment when a 7-year-old can still be just a little boy.

We were on Expedition Everest, one of the scariest rollercoasters in the place (and one that made me totally nauseous – going backward really fast on a thrill ride is no longer for me). The first part of the ride is relatively tame with not much of a major drop and not much speed, and I convinced J to put his hands in the air as he screamed in delight.

But a minute later, he was frightened, and he reached out with his hands, grasped my arm and pulled it toward him. He was holding on to me like his life depended on it. And it was so cute and so suddenly sweet that, for a second, I forgot that I was getting majorly motion sick.

A few hours later, he did the same thing again on the Dinosaur ride. It’s not that scary, but a couple dinosaurs do jump out at you and make loud roars. J insisted on riding in the seat on the end, even though Mom told him he could sit next to his sister in the middle of the car between her and me. But again, he was frightened, and he said that if he ever went back on the ride, he would want me to sit on the outside.

It was so refreshing. And probably just as comforting to me as it was to him. We’re in a place where a kid can truly be a kid, where the kid shouldn’t want anything more, where a kid should feel all right reaching out for his father’s hand when he’s scared and needs it most. Big kids need that too.

June 7, 3:59 p.m.: While eating a cinnamon roll that was about the size of his head, J had an important declaration to make today. “I think the best vacation in the world is a Disney World vacation.” Really, I asked? But why?

“It has parks and fun rides,” he said.

Disney World is great and all, but it was probably the sugar high talking.


June 8, 9:12 p.m.: After we went on Spaceship Earth for the second time today (and as the last attraction before we left Epcot for good), B couldn’t stop talking about the postcard from the future we had made. It featured Daddy and B in the future, living together as we ate breakfast at a pop-up table in the kitchen, got dressed by some kind of algorithm that picked out our outfits and took a hover train to our respective jobs that stopped in front of our house and connected us directly onto the back of a centipede-like train.

Anyway, it was a cute video that we helped select on a kind of choose-your-own adventure screen at the end of the ride. But damn if it didn’t tickle B. The video was about 30 seconds. She literally told and retold the story for about 30 minutes.

June 9, 2:10 p.m.: We had our second character meal of the trip today.

The first occurred at Epcot yesterday when we traveled to Norway to eat brunch with five princesses (Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella and Arielle). Most importantly, the restaurant served us about 20 pieces of bacon (I ate all of them, and so far, it’s my greatest accomplishment of the year).

The second occurred today at the Contemporary hotel where we had a character brunch with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald. I wondered if these were the last times we’d attend a character meal. Assuming we return to Disney in a couple years, will the kids be too old at, say, 9 or 10 years old to appreciate meeting and taking pictures with big costumed characters?

There’s no telling, but here’s what I know. On this day, B and J believed. B wore her Minnie dress, and she was so pleased that Minnie seemed so excited that B was basically her twin. And when B hugged Minnie and when J wrapped both arms around Pluto, the love was real. B and J hugged with an intensity I didn’t expect, and it was so cool to see, especially if this is the last time we do this.

Goofy and Pluto both twirled B around like she was Minnie Mouse herself. Pluto waited patiently (and pantomimed that he was, in fact, impatient) while J swallowed his Mickey waffle before the photo. And both kids gave all their love and affection to Mickey.

If this was the last time, that’s OK. It was also the best time.

June 9, 9:55 p.m.: As a parent, there are some moments you wish you could bottle forever. Most of those moments, you end up forgetting.

I had one of those moments with J on our final day at Disney.

It had been a tough evening. Seemed like everybody was annoyed with each other. B was cranky. J’s feet hurt. The ice cream had run on people’s fingers and sloshed on people’s clothes. It was time for the trip to be over.

But with one last thing to do, J reminded me why we had taken the trip in the first place. As we began watching the night’s final show – an outlandish video montage broadcast unbelievably on Cinderella’s castle in the Magic Kingdom – J wanted me to pick him up because he didn’t have such a good view while sitting in his stroller.

I didn’t really want to have to hold this 50-pound boy for the 15 minutes it would take for the show to finish, but I sucked it up and said OK. Then, as Mrs. Potts and Chip began to tell the story that would glitter across the castle, J leaned his face into mine and rested his cheek on my cheek.

And I was transported back to our bedroom in Cincinnati at 3 a.m. in the first few months of the kids’ lives when we’d have to feed them every three hours and I’d hold them against my face for just a few extra seconds to make the world stop. So I could bottle that moment and let it breathe for only a couple moments.

Tonight, J was initiating the contact. He was putting his face on my face and watching the wonders of Disney, watching the true magic of the world. You wish you could bottle those moments, but you can’t. I write about them, and some day, the kids will read about them. J probably won’t remember this moment. But I hope I will. Because it was the moment that makes everything worth it.

Kavitha Davidson, Bloomberg sports columnist


In our second podcast of 2015, we’re back to exploring the journey that female sports writers and broadcasters have to face on Twitter. Coming off the controversy a couple months back in Chicago when two radio personalities publicly discussed a TV sports reporter’s body, we’re talking to Kavitha Davidson, sports columnist for Bloomberg who writes plenty of controversial stories that lead to plenty of unwanted responses on Twitter. During our chat, we talk about whether she questions why she continues to write despite a backlash she knows she’ll face on just about everything she writes, what she believes rape culture to be, and how exhausting it is to cover the never-ending domestic violence issues in sports.

We also talk about whether, because of Mo’ne Davis and Ronda Rousey, we’re entering the era of badass female athletes and whether that could help change the culture.

Interviewed on 3-30-15

I actually ended up writing a story for the Daily Dot about the experiences shared by Davidson and other women in sports media.

Here’s something similar:

We reference Jessica Luther a few times on this episode and because I also wrote a story for the Daily Dot that included Davidson and Luther, here’s my chat with the latter in Episode 45.

Laura Kaye, romance novelist


For the first time in MTTS history, we’ve got a romance novelist on the line. And what an interesting interview with Kaye, whose website is available for perusal. In our chat, we talk about how she generates so much damn content (22 completed books since 2011 with a goal of 3,000 written words a day), how a traumatic brain injury gave her a strong creative urge and changed her entire career path, and how an independent author has to worry about being seen by her original fans as “selling out.”

Plus, we talk about why the romance novel industry continues to sell plenty of hard copies of its books, and (perhaps most importantly) we talk about how she approaches writing a sex scene (no “purple-headed warriors” or “throbbing members” stuff here).

Interviewed on 12-10-14

Here’s something similar:

One of my college buddies, Colleen Oakley, published her latest novel, Before I Go, on Tuesday. It’s getting great reviews, and you can buy a copy right here. We also had her on Episode 6 of the MTTS.

Don Van Natta, ESPN investigative reporter


For the second-straight week, the MTTS welcomes a multi-time Pulitzer Prize winner. This time, we have ESPN.com’s Don Van Natta, who’s won three (!) of those awards. In our chat, we talk about how Van Natta could take notes in the midst of a 165-mph hurricane and then churn out a 1,400-word story that helped his newspaper win the Pulitzer, why he turned to sports writing after so many years as an investigative newshound at the NY Times, how over-reporting can help and hurt his stories, and how an investigative reporter spends his days.

Plus, we recount our experiences trying to report and write separate biographies of Sid Gillman at about the same time, and we talk about how tough the book-writing world can be.

My favorite quote from the podcast on how Van Natta operates: “You have to report with insecurity, and you have to write with overconfidence.”

Interviewed on 12-1-14

Here’s the Comfort Inn/Hurricane Andrew story from the Miami Herald we referenced early in the podcast.

And here’s where to sign up for Van Natta’a weekly Sunday Long Read choices.

Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial cartoonist


The first Pulitzer Prize winner joins the MTTS, and it’s an honor to have him — particularly since I grew up looking at his fantastic editorial cartoons. In our discussion, we talk about how Luckovich’s brilliance is, in some ways, inspired by fear and procrastination; his daily work schedule (hint: he doesn’t get in to the office until noon (!)); and how long it takes him to get from the genesis of his idea until the last cartoon is colored.

Plus, we discuss why Luckovich likes the image of the pearly gates when he’s drawing a cartoon on a celebrity who’s just died; why people feel comfortable asking him for free drawings; how he deals with cartooning controversy; and how he came up with a cartoon the day of 9/11.

Luckovich’s quote on his job: “I friggin’ still love it.”

Check out some of his work here, including the Lewis Grizzard obit, the 9/11 firefighters reaching the top, and the 2000th soldier dying in Iraq.

Interviewed on 10-10-14

Here’s something similar:

In Episode 17, I talked to Mack Williams, one of the original animators on FX’s Archer. Like my conversation with Luckovich, Williams and I talked about the inspiration that was Mad magazine and we discussed the problems of plagiarism in the cartooning world.

Our Favorite Stories, part 3


I must say that I love conducting these Our Favorite Stories, and version No. 3 — featuring Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins, MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince and USA Today NFL writer Lindsay Jones — might be the best one so far.

For those who haven’t seen the first two editions of Our Favorite Stories, here’s No. 1 with Scott Michaux, C. Trent Rosecrans, Travis Haney and Marc Lancaster and No. 2 with Paul Dehner, Dan Wetzel and Candace Buckner.


A quick reminder: I asked the three guests the same five questions.

1) Who is your favorite player/coach to have covered?

2) Who is your least favorite?

3) What’s your favorite story/moment from the road/from the beat?


4) Who’s your favorite current writer, sports or otherwise?

5) Who’s your all-time favorite writer, sports or otherwise?

You’ve got to hear Calkins’ immense problems covering legendary basketball coach John Calipari (awesome stories contained within), you get to hear about my legendary night in Pittsburgh with Anthony Castrovince in the mid-2000s (and why Castrovince once got the evil eye from Roger Clemens), and why Lindsay Jones draws inspiration from reading the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins and ESPN.com’s Liz Merrill.