Happy 6 Months, Jack; Read & Drink

First off, my baby boy celebrated six months yesterday. Not much in way of a celebration. For our daughter, we had these stickers that you placed on a white onesie that said the month. We diligently took series of photographs for her; Not for him, however. Apparently that happens to your second child. Alas ..

Jack looks like me, but acts like his mom. He’s always smiling and he’s never in a bad mood, unless he needs to eat, of course. He’s flying around the house, picking up stray dog hairs and dirt from the various shoes that traverse are hardwood floors. It was easy to clear the way of obstacles for Avery when she was that age because it was just us playing two-on-one. A nice zone defense. Now that it’s evened out, we’re typically outmatched and outwitted.

Six months sure does fly by especially when it coincides with the warmer months. We can’t wait to see who you turn out to be, our little buddy. We’ve got so much growing and so much fun ahead of us. We already miss the days of your immobility, of the days when you’d casually fall asleep in someone’s arms or in a rocker. Now? Your on the go at all time. You nap just once a day. You wake up a dozen times a night some times. Sometimes not at all. You’re a wild card. But you’re always smiling. And we love you.

***

The way I’m going to day Fridays is going to be an idea that I simultaneously jacked from Peter King and a beer website I like called Good Beer Hunting. In essence, it’s this: I’m going to recommend something to read and something to drink. I’m not much of a television-watcher, nor are movies really something I’m into, so I have no grasp of what to recommend. Though, I suppose I will occasionally suggest a show. Mostly, though, I’ll share something I’ve read in the past week and something I drank in the past week that I think are worthy of your consideration.

Read: “The First Family in Focus” by Michael Fletcher 

Few long-form series have been better than The Undefeated’s Fletcher’s on the Obama legacy as his second term comes to a close. I think what inspired a generation about our current president is how human he seemed to us, how flawed, and how he seemed to occupy the same world we do. He wasn’t above us the way some presidents seemed, those who grew up rich and attended private schools. I’ve been really pleased a writer of Fletcher’s caliber is putting this man’s challenges, successes, and family in focus.

Drink: Modern Times Fortunate Islands

Fortunate Island is labelled as a hoppy wheat ale, which does it a disservice in a craft beer culture that values high-ABV juicy, fruit-forward IPA’s and double IPA’s. Modern Times is a San Diego brewery that may be my favorite brewery right now. Everything they do — from an amber to a coffee stout — are top-notch. Fortunate Island drinks softly, a delicate and low ABV beer with tropical fruit up front and no lingering bitterness at the end. Find it. Drink it.

Come on. Stop shooting schools (and everywhere else), man.

Yesterday, as I was about to head out to work, casually thumbing through Twitter, a headline came across as breaking news that there was a school shooting that was being investigated at an elementary school in South Carolina.

“Are you fucking kidding me,” I said to my wife, who I then told the news.

I don’t care that this wasn’t some big massacre; I don’t care that it doesn’t seem like anyone at the school will lose their lives. A teen killed his father and then went into an elementary school to shoot people. We gotta be better than this America.

I’m going to say what I’ve said dozens of times already and continues to be true. If we’re not going to do anything about our gun problem after someone walked into an elementary school and slaughtered more than 20 children, we’re never going to do anything. All because of this bullshit document written more than 200 years ago that says we should be allowed to have muskets in case we need to form a militia to revolt against an oppressive and tyrannous government.

Apparently we don’t need to update legal documents to reflect the society in which we live. If there’s going to be an end to American society, it may be because of our blind and never-wavering adherence to every letter of the Constitution.

I didn’t want to start off my lunch time writing with something so somber and angering as gun rights, but I’m just trying to make sense of all of this, too. I was going to write about optimism, actually. Oh well. Now we just sit and wait until someone else with a gun shoot up a mall or a school or a movie theater or any other place that seemed okay to send our children until about a decade ago.

People will continue to defend guns for personal usage and will never understand that no one is actually trying to take their guns; They are actually trying to make it more difficult to buy guns for the people who shouldn’t own them. Oh, “criminals are going to be criminals regardless,” but at least we try to deter them from committing crimes by putting them in jail; Oh, “drunk driving is illegal, people still do that.” Yup, this is true, but, again, there are laws in place to deter this behavior. The point: At least we’re making an effort with those things. With guns, apparently, we should be throwing our hands up and saying, “Fuck that! No one is going to listen, why try?” We put laws in all the time, but try to pass a gun reform act and the world goes batshit.

If there’s a second best part of the South Carolina shooting (the first being the lack of child casualties), it’s that the hero that stopped the shooting was not armed. You hear that, GOA? You hear that NRA? You don’t need to be a maverick gun owner to stop bad things from happening.

Let’s get better people. Let’s have some common sense.

Lunchtime Thoughts

I’ve been listening to a lot of Brian Koppelman’s brilliant podcast called “The Moment” recently and something struck my in a recent episode with Seth Godin. Brian, the host, called Seth, a three-time guest and a good friend of the show, “one of the more disciplined” people he knows.

This hit me hard because while writing has been going well (see: mattosgood.contently.com for the newest stuff on Smithsonian, Slate, Vice Sports, Paste), it’s incredibly easy to get caught in the malaise of quasi-success. It’s also easy — with two kids at home most days and a wife at work — to take the time “off” to do stuff around the house. My wife did me the incredible favor of getting the two kid’s naps synced up. They both go down immediately after lunch for a two-hour (give or take) nap.

That said, it’s easy to kill that time. Yesterday, feeling under the weather, I napped for those two hours. I literally couldn’t help it. I was sick. But there are many days that I get other things accomplished around the house: I clean, I organize the pantry, I help with the dishes. Other times, I dick around on the internet. Peruse Reddit, some beer sites; I read the news. I look at Twitter or listen to a podcast.

But back to The Moment: I know I need to be more disciplined in sitting down and taking that small window in the middle of the afternoon to write whatever is on my mind and, like Godin talked about on the same episode, worry less about audience and worry less about who I’m doing the writing for. The jobs have been coming; The work is getting done. But the discipline needs a little sharpening.

So my goal is this: a few hundred words or more every day at lunch time. That goes regardless of whether or not there’s an article that’s being worked on or a pitch being sold. They will be about anything and everything, I hope.

A Day in the Life

The Website of Matt Osgood

Last week, I was going through my iPad, looking at pictures of my daughter through the eight months she’s been in this world. Littered throughout various blurry shots and repeats of literally the same exact pose are videos of various stages of motor skills. Here she’s crawling; In this one she’s rolling over. As I swipe left, the feats of physical skills become less and less impressive. It’s what we do as parents, especially first-time parents. We think every little thing our child does is amazing. It’s not.

A friend of mine told me, when our daughter was born, that, “People have been having kids for a long time, but when it’s yours, it feels like the first time anyone’s ever done it. And, in a way, it is.” Sound advice, really, and captures the heart of all of this: that the mundanity is what we’re looking for. The simplest…

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A Day in the Life

Last week, I was going through my iPad, looking at pictures of my daughter through the eight months she’s been in this world. Littered throughout various blurry shots and repeats of literally the same exact pose are videos of various stages of motor skills. Here she’s crawling; In this one she’s rolling over. As I swipe left, the feats of physical skills become less and less impressive. It’s what we do as parents, especially first-time parents. We think every little thing our child does is amazing. It’s not.

A friend of mine told me, when our daughter was born, that, “People have been having kids for a long time, but when it’s yours, it feels like the first time anyone’s ever done it. And, in a way, it is.” Sound advice, really, and captures the heart of all of this: that the mundanity is what we’re looking for. The simplest moments can be the best moments.

Most of my work is done from home. It’s a good thing, mostly. We get to skip the exorbitant cost of day care. Our daughter is with a parent at all times. We worry a bit about socialization, but I think most other kids are assholes. She’s better off with me. I have hotter takes on the sports world, plus I’m smarter than most toddlers. Ever seen them try to fit blocks into the correct holes? Most of the time they completely screw it up.

Perfect baby? Nailed it. Or so I thought.

Perfect baby? Nailed it.
Or so I thought.

In working at home, I’ll be able to introduce our daughter to classic albums (we’re currently big Astral Weeks fans), public radio, the joys of mid-morning naps, and after-lunch walks with the dog. She helps me prep dinner, which amounts to not much more than picking up stray onions or peppers and me having to wrestle them away from her before she sticks them in her nose.

I figured there’d be a schedule. We’d wake up, have a cute little breakfast together like in those Cheerio commercials. She’d play peacefully with her toys for a couple of hours. While she did this, I’d get some note-taking done for an article I’m working on, or get work done on something larger. I’d shoot out a couple of e-mails all the while glancing over occasionally and commenting, to myself mostly, “Of course she’s behaving. She’s perfect.” Then she’d nap around the time the pot of coffee was finished and I’d write for the two to three hours she napped.

We’d repeat this schedule until late in the afternoon, when my wife would walk into our home to the scene of a father and daughter sitting on the couch reading a book with the dog at their feet. “Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” I’d say, “Oh, and I handed in another piece and a couple of new pitches found homes.”

Of course, I’m an idiot for thinking this way. It wasn’t too bad at first because she was immobilized. If I could deal with a little fussing, I could get some chores done, some writing done. She was a good baby, too. Very self-directed and happy. Then she learned how to crawl. Then she learned how to climb. As I write this, I assume she’s in the next room learning to drive a car.

My days now are filled with chasing. She eats breakfast alone and gets filthy, then screams when I wipe her face as if I’m sanding her smooth. Her playing now involves climbing everything from bookshelves to couches to hutches to refrigerators. When she naps, it’s when I do things like shower, eat, use the bathroom, and punch myself in the chest. Usually by the time the weeping (mine, not hers) stops and I pour a cup of coffee, the baby monitors chimes because she’s either thrown her pacifier at the camera like a pissed off convict or she’s put on a Metallica CD.

It is, unlike her very Bush League kicking or rolling over, quite impressive actually. She can climb stairs. She rarely falls anymore. She can make it from the living room to the dining room — passing through the kitchen on the way — with the stealthiness of a samurai. When she realized we weren’t coming to get her when she would cry at night, she decided she’d try to come to us, using all her might to scale her crib wall like it’s the Khumbu Icefall on Everest.

What's the saying about having to explain a joke? Anyway, here's the Khumbu Icefalls (read a book, dummies!)

What’s the saying about having to explain a joke? Anyway, here’s the Khumbu Icefall (read a book, dummies!)

She’s an absolute hurricane tearing through our home each and every day. Some days I’m FEMA; Some days I’m Red Cross; Some days I’m part of the wreckage and some days no writing gets done at all. It’s a difficult and frustrating way to spend a day. But the fact that she can create all this havoc and fear and frustration and exasperation, and then make me fall much more in love each time she fades into a deep sleep in my arms? That’s impressive.

On Jenner; On Waddell

One of the facets of journalism that I’ve always been interested in is the collection of otherwise inconsequential numbers and frivolous facts. We recall difficult-to-spell last names and memorable-sounding hometowns. The stories we tell end up becoming a part of the fabric of our memories, and dot our conversations — when they sway a certain way — with sentences with begin with, “I was talking to someone once who said …”

The point, I guess, is that there are stories, both large and small, that stick with us. Maybe not in their entirety, but points of interest or fascination remain as fragments of some larger portrait of who we are. Sometimes, even the stories we don’t tell remain. All writers have files and files of unpublished material, thousands of words unfiltered, unedited, unorganized, research done for stories we never got to tell.

Sparing the details, I wanted to tell a modernized version of the Tom Waddell story last summer, in the year of his 60th reunion from Springfield College. Waddell’s story is a remarkable tale that Dick Schaap wrote a book about, and that my friend Marty Dobrow masterfully retold for ESPN. Long story short, he beat me to it by a few months. It’s a story I’m happy to have lost to him. Losing it to anyone else would have been heartbreaking.

Dr. Tom Waddell was an Olympian, a paratrooper, a doctor, an outspoken social rights activist. He died of AIDS in 1987.

Dr. Tom Waddell was an Olympian, a paratrooper, a doctor, an outspoken social rights activist. He died of AIDS in 1987.

Having said all of this, Waddell’s story, one that I read in college at our alma mater is a story that has endured in my mind. I said to Marty, during his presentation to Waddell’s classmates at the reunion weekend, “This is a story you must feel so grateful to be able to tell.” Some stories are like that.

And so I couldn’t help but think of Waddell when another decathlete, Bruce Jenner, decided to tell the world on 20/20 Friday night that he was living life as a transgender. That’s what happens in journalism. When something important happens, we immediately seek a precedent. In cases like Jenner’s, where there will undoubtedly be people who are intolerant or confused at what transgender means or just plain old mean, it is important to look back in our files and smile that the stores we have told — or, in this case, almost told — are of the people who’d be incredibly proud of Jenner’s braveness.

Jenner’s story on 20/20 with Diane Sawyer was, as he predicted, an emotional two hour of television. The program was aided greatly by doctors and experts on gender identity who explained the basics of the transgender community; ABC also did a wonderful job adding anecdotes about the difficulties transgender people face on a daily basis from society. Some of these stories were heartbreaking tales of abuse and violence and suicide. Again, I couldn’t help but think about Waddell facing the same ignorance so many years ago; I couldn’t help but feel helpless watching Bruce Jenner explain his inner turmoil the same why I know Waddell did as they succeeded at the very pinnacle of athletic achievement: the Olympics.

Bruce Jenner announced he was transgender in April, 2015.

Bruce Jenner announced he was transgender in April, 2015.

We have a long way to go, of course. We don’t readily accept things we don’t understand. The media doesn’t help sometimes. Sensationalism sells. Intolerance does too. As tolerant and loving as a family can be, I’m sure even that famous family will face some obstacles and discomfort. We’re not perfect, but we are living in a society much more accepting and understanding than when Waddell came out of the closet — also very brave — in the same year Jenner was setting the decathlon record in Montreal. I wonder if these two men ever met. I wonder if Jenner thought of his own struggle when he read of Waddell’s in People in 1976.

I can say with certainty, though, that from what I know about Waddell, wherever he is. He’s proud.

 

Madness of March

A friend of mine is well-connected within the elite hockey circles. Many of his friends have played at the very highest level of hockey. He’s been told, and he relayed this information to me that within every NHL locker room before every game, both teams are fairly certain of who is going to win that game. Of course, there’s a lot that can swing the outcome in either direction, but, true or not, this seems to throw a proverbial wrench in our belief that anyone can win on any given day.

College basketball fans are unified in what they don’t know. That’s what makes this tournament, in which a field of 68 can be reduced to 16 in a matter of a maddeningly exciting weekend, the most compelling sports programming of the year.

Millions of us play prognosticator, athletically-minded Punxsutawney Phil’s, in not-so-furtive pools in the form of Xeroxed sheets of paper handed to us by Dave in accounting or forwarded along in e-mail inboxes from personal accounts. We fork over our $10 or $20, nothing to steep to be exclusive, just low enough to include the shrewdest, but acquiescent-in-the-name-of-workplace-camaraderie person in the office; We pour over match-ups and guess at which tiny college will unseat the powerhouse or which #1 seed will be the first to exit the tournament and head back to campus to attend class on Monday. Ultimately, we choose a winner. Winning six games in a row is difficult at the highest levels of collegiate basketball, but one team does it every year.

promo_RonHunter_0

But, in the end, these are just guesses. We don’t know and it’d be safe to assume, too, that even the coaches and players are clueless as the what the outcome of any contest will be. So much can go right and even more can go wrong in a game played by 20-year-olds, coached by mostly by unnaturally competitive and driven coaches, and governed by possibility the shadiest organization in organized sports. No one is infallible. Sometimes shot don’t fall; Sometimes world-class physiques fail themselves.

Kentucky’s presence hovers over this tournament like an omnipotent body. Every team is playing against the Wildcats even when there is no blue in sight. A win is judged against how well that same performance would have registered against the tournament favorite. In Kentucky’s 13-point win against Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, the Wildcats were threatened, but threatened in the way threatened by the specter of no dessert: They knew that, ultimately, they’d get what they want. They’d just have to endure the annoyance of forcing down some vegetables, in this case, the constant cajoling and pestering of a tough-minded Bearcat team. Kentucky was never truly worried and never played with an urgency that suggested so.

So on one hand we have a tournament that is filled with uncertainty. Anyone, it seems, can win one game. In the professional basketball ranks, the playoffs are a series. The cream will, as it is said, rise to the top in a best-of-seven contest. But in a one-and-done format, the beauty is the unpredictability. On the other hand, the tournament produces much of the same. John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Tom Izzo all have their teams poised for another shot at the crown. Kentucky is the most common pick to win the whole damn thing.

And so we know, but we don’t. It’s why we root for David, but why we bet on Goliath.

John Calipari is the coach at Kentucky, the favorites to win the NCAA title.

John Calipari is the coach at Kentucky, the favorites to win the NCAA title.

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