Category Archives: Sports

2016: A Spaced Elegy

So many low points.

So many illnesses, deaths, heartaches, heartbreaks and stabs to my soul. So many slaps across the face, tears in their wake, shouts thrown into the night. A few bad decisions, a few good ones that turned out to be bad, and a few too many days alone… that was 2016.

Eff off, 2016.

Eff off, 2016.

But I don’t want to talk about those, as I’m not even close to alone on that. Most people appear to have had a shite 2016. Most people were so glad that the calendar turned to 2017 that they expected some sort of magic moment on Jan. 1, like they’d turn on their phones and all the pains and woes of the world would have been eradicated by Prince and David Bowie, who came back to fix the world aboard the Resurrectium Falcon piloted by Carrie Fisher with Leon Russell riding shotgun.

They expected Donald Trump to tweet something benevolent on New Year’s Day. WRONG.

They expected all 25 pounds they’ve gained to just magically shake off Sunday morning.

They expected their wishes — people to grow a soul and do the right thing – would come true.

Reminds me of that horrible phrase my stepdad used (may he rest in peace… thanks 2016) – “wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up fastest.”

So yeah, let’s leave the wishes in the dust. Let’s leave 2016 in the dust too, but first, the miracles of 2016… yes, they were there, just fewer and far between.

mountaopI climbed this mountain this year. My heart was broken, wrung out, on the 60-day DL for repeated fractures. I wanted to see Dr. James Andrews and have him put me on the exempt list. (Sports humor, y’all…)

It was the first warmish day of an incredibly long, warm , beautiful Connecticut summer, and I climbed this mountain. Me, who used to weigh 315 pounds. Me, who had never shown much interest in hiking before… me, who found that it was life-saving.

Me, who a few months before was in “the best relationship of my life” only to have it disappear in a few short months. Me, who had it “all together.” I was not OK on that mountain that day, not on the inside.

But I was much better when I left. After I had gotten to the top, laid down and spaced out for an hour or so, listening to the world teach me lesson after lesson, dripping with the time-honed wisdom of the trees and breeze.

I had a staredown with a buck, keeping my quiet while he and a fawn behind him traipsed through low underbrush.

buckstaredownI watched as tender new June leaves danced in the intense mountaintop wind, and as the sun beat down on glittering quartz-filled rocks. I heard crows everywhere – Connecticut is home to enormous, beautiful crows – and the warblers were out at every treetop. Mountain laurel was blooming and the forest floor carpeted with moss and new grass. But the higher I got up the mountain, the quieter it got and the flora and fauna more scarce. It also got more peaceful. A peace I’d never really felt.

I lay on that mountainside and felt the elements underneath me and around me. I felt the heat of the rocks below me. I gazed into the abyss and realized how close I could be to violent death should I amble too far and tumble off. I nearly fell asleep in the peace, though my heart was racing. I looked up at the brilliant sky and I cried out at the top of my lungs, saying aloud to everything that could hear: “THANK YOU.” I meant it. I still do.

ontopofoldsmokyThe mountaintop brings gratefulness. I had to climb it to find that out. And though I’m not anywhere near fitness perfection, I’ve climbed two mountains in my short hiking career, and multiple trails have welcomed me for their miles of glory. I have come to find solace and strength in the quiet brilliance of a mountain trail, and I don’t question anymore why that is – especially after that day.

I was broken. Broken by a man who I still don’t understand, and probably never will. Broken by life and its many foibles. Broken by death, grief and misunderstanding. I was fixed when I came down the mountain. I’d be dinged again later, but at that moment, I was OK. I spent the weekend camping and the rest of the summer planning to do what would make me happy.

Maddie. My heart.

Maddie. My heart.

Part of that happiness, I didn’t realize, would be adding to my family in the form of Maddie, my senior citizen Golden Retriever who makes me so very happy. Going to get her was an adventure – a first date (and there would be no second) in the car to gather her up from Maryland. Once she was in the car, it’s like the guy didn’t exist. Kevin Durant left the Thunder the next day and all I could think about was the joyful red girl lying on my living room floor. She’s been about the best thing to happen to me in a long time. And her owners wanted her to be put down. How lucky can I be?

So a few months later, I moved to a place that’s not far from the mountain I hiked that day – Washington, Ct. – to be closer to nature and the people who appreciate it. I am a mile from hiking now, living in a tiny village with real people who do real things and make real memories.  There are family farms out here that are 300 years old. There are places I can walk in, pick up fresh produce and leave cash in an “honesty basket” without ever seeing the farmers. There are memories to be made here by the boatload, and I will make them, I can tell. It was a whim that I moved here, but it was rooted in a need to be where the peace is. I felt something, and I don’t think I’ll be leaving here anytime soon.

I went to LA to hang with Renae for her 40th birthday. We also went to the first Rams preseason game... or should I say, the first DAK PRESCOTT GAME!

I went to LA to hang with Renae for her 40th birthday. We also went to the first Rams preseason game… or should I say, the first DAK PRESCOTT GAME!

I traveled a ton this year as well… and realized that city life is just what I have to tolerate when I travel. I spent a few days in Nashville (sick) to cover the SEC Tournament in March, and then spent several at Disney World (sick) with people I love. I took two trips to Oklahoma and Texas (sick), went to Los Angeles (healthy, but exhausted) to celebrate my BFF’s birthday, and finally moved out to where I really wanted to be (and got sick almost immediately. For two weeks.) Since I’ve moved out here, traveling is about the last thing I want to do. Long weekends at home are spent, with me hardly ever leaving, and not feeling like I’ve missed out.

I spent quality time with family and friends, and have already had my parental figures, one sister and one brother over to the new house. Considering I live far away from everyone, that’s a big thing. This year, I’ll spend more time with friends, if I can pull myself away from my haven out here.

Oh, and I should mention — my career, bracing for all the change of the coming wave of technology — is ever-changing, as usual,but still one of the most important things ever for me. I’m just glad that I now have something that can shut off the work voice on my way home — my new scenery. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still count my lucky stars and pinch myself every now and again. FIVE YEARS AT ESPN. What the hell.

So yeah, the year that started off beautifully quickly landed in a heap on the ground — wings broken off, smoke and ash blocking the fresh air and taking hunks of my humanity with it. But I rebounded. I made some mistakes along the way, I said some things I shouldn’t have, and I spent a few months in a dark place. But it went away. And now there is light. There may be no answers for why it went the way it did, but I’m not going to worry about that anymore. Not everything has a reason. Sometimes, life is just bullshit.

But you gotta find a trail to get over the mountain of bullshit to get to the mountain of peace. It’s there. Just look.

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Filed under Birds!, Connecticut, Hiking, Kevin Durant, Love, Moving, NBA, Personal musings, Politics?, Relationships, Sports, Thunder, Women

A Real American Hero: Why everyone should be cheering for Ronda Rousey

“Oh, I’m sorry — did you think YOU were going to win this?”

I did something in the ESPN newsroom last night that I don’t often find myself doing due to the unspoken rules of the newsroom – I clapped like an idiot over a sporting event.

Just like baseball, journalism has its own unwritten rules, especially sports departments. You don’t say “We,” as in “We (the Sooners) are going to be really good this year,” you don’t wear team colors, and you don’t show too much emotion over results of events.

There are exceptions – one of my favorites being watching Oklahoma State make it to the Final Four on the back of John Lucas III in the Tulsa World newsroom in 2003, two more coming during my ESPN years — Tim Tebow’s entire 2011 season and American Pharoah’s ride to the Triple Crown this year. In those instances, we all shook off those rules, watching and admiring from our impartial seats. It didn’t matter who you were a fan of – in those moments, you are just a sports fan, watching history being made. We crowded around TV sets and just went with it, tearing down that Fourth Wall for a few moments and living like the regular fans live.

It’s one of the most satisfying, sweetest things – and I don’t even know if there’s a word for that feeling. Joy, I guess – joy and pride, a heady combo that makes some people start fights after feeling it (looking at you, Vancouver.)

I felt it last night. And it felt like the entire world – minus a few negative ninnies – agreed with me.

Watching Ronda Rousey become the greatest at her sport — and let’s face it — the greatest draw the UFC has and the face of the brand, has been a strange and wonderful experience for me. Back in 2011 when I started at ESPN, I had no love for UFC, and certainly none for Ronda Rousey. She seemed like a bully to me then. She seemed like a one-trick, armbar-laden pony.

But after researching her and learning more about her, I realized hers is a skill and talent that is unique, precious, and deep down inside her. She channels a place that we all know – fear, resentment, aggression, extreme sadness, withdrawal from society, poverty and shame. She is the walking embodiment of turning yourself around.

I met Ronda this year at an ESPN Women event in which I sat in a room with her and about 20 other women. It was an open Q&A session moderated by Jemele Hill. All of us – Jemele included – sat in wonder as we listened to Ronda speak. It was like talking to a family member or a close friend. It was like she knew all of us and was honestly, openly talking about her life, her past, her future, her fears, her love life – she’s an open book, really. Now, despite the fact that she gracefully took a picture with me and my friend Elanna at work, she also told me she liked my necklace. She looked me in the eye. She put her arm around me and smiled for the camera. She was wearing a cool dress and house shoes.

She was possibly the most beautiful woman I’d ever laid eyes on. I was in awe – and still kind of am. Her past is similar to many of ours – wild, full of things you probably wish you hadn’t done. But she realizes that you have to turn the page, move on, live your life and roll with the punches… in her case, those punches are deadly, but she can absorb them as well as dish them out. She’s been taking punches her whole life

Ronda was a bartender, drinking too much and partying too hard, and living in her car. Then she unlocked that place in her that wanted more. She has always listened to her mother’s advice, and she kept her father’s suicide in her heart, the grief slowly turning into motivation and strength. She’s tough and vulnerable at the same time.

I think that’s why I clapped like an idiot last night – I knew the 34-second beatdown of Bethe Correia was for her daddy, whose suicide Bethe – knowingly or not – made light of a few months before the fight. Bethe taunted and taunted in the buildup of the fight. Ronda stood firm, never lowering herself to such trash talk. She just gave Bethe that terrifying look that said, “You know what, keep talking. This’ll work itself out.” And it did. In 34 glorious seconds.

Aug 1, 2015; Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil; Ronda Rousey (red gloves) fights Bethe Correia (blue gloves) during UFC 190 at HSBC Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-231228 ORIG FILE ID:  20150801_ads_db3_526.JPG

Aug 1, 2015; Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil; Ronda Rousey (red gloves) fights Bethe Correia (blue gloves) during UFC 190 at HSBC Arena.  (Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports)

The look on Ronda’s face the second she knew she’d won was not evil. It’s pure joy. That same joy you and I feel when our team wins – the same joy you get when you do something you’ve always wanted to do professionally. That same glee you find in yourself when you know you’re really good at something. The intense pleasure of knowing people are proud of you.

Ronda Rousey is as much like you and me as you and your sister. She’s charming, funny, emotional, tough and brilliant. If you don’t believe me, read up on her reading (she’s an avid reader), read her interviews, watch her on YouTube – she carries herself in a well-spoken, introspective, genuine way. She loves animals. She has had bad boyfriends too. She’s the most “real” athlete we have right now. Every ounce of her perfect body is genuine. Every pore on her beautiful face has been filled with blood, sweat and tears. Even after movies, TV shows, countless interviews and junkets, Ronda is Ronda, and always will be.

It’s what makes her climb to the top so fabulous and fun to watch. She is creating fans. More importantly, she is creating a legion of female fans who are so glad to have another female role model who isn’t a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, a Kardashian or someone who’s thought of as beautiful first, athlete second. (Serena, Venus and the entire U.S.Women’s National Soccer Team were getting lonely.)

Between her and Serena, I don’t think I can pick. Both are dominant and both are the best in their fields. Today, I am more on the Ronda bandwagon because of her domination, pure strength and emotional vulnerability – something the sometimes-aloof Serena can seem to lack, though we know she really doesn’t – but that’ll change for me the next time Serena does something awesome. I’ll say this – they are 1 and 1A in terms of top female athletes. They may be 1 and 1a among ALL athletes. They have certainly had to dominate more, and for longer periods of time, to be thought of as such.

But that’s what women are used to doing – having to work just a little bit harder than male counterparts to prove they’re good at what they do. I am in a male-dominated field, so I speak from experience.

I read a tweet today that Ronda Rousey is “almost a household name.” I think she’s closer than that – like she already is, and once more and more people watch the (Illegal) Vine video of her beatdown of Correia, her status will just tenfold. Women and men alike are falling for her, not because she’s beautiful – that’s just a happy coincidence – but because she’s an Everyman with panda buns and boxing gloves. She’s a soldier intent on her goal, and she doesn’t need Hollywood or stardom to do it. She’s doing it IN SPITE of those things. She’s making hay(makers) while sun shines on her.

She’s a role model, pure and simple. And she made me lose my composure in the newsroom last night.

I don’t think anyone judged me too harshly. They were too busy clapping too.

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Filed under ESPN, Ronda Rousey, Sports, Women

Teach Your Children Well: Our history is important too!

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

THIS, friends, is Michael Jordan. ALL HAIL THE GREATEST.

The first thing I read this morning was a tweet about a fourth-grade class getting a visit from a grizzled sports reporter who covered Michael Jordan in his heyday. The kids had no idea who he was talking about, but the teacher proffered “He’s the guy who makes Air Jordans.” Everyone got it then.

While I can be accused of being a serial nostalgist, it’s ludicrous that this is happening. I don’t often get fired up and opinionated enough to blog about this, but COME ON people. We’ve got to do a better job of teaching our kids about our lives, our world, our mark on this generation. We’ve had some pretty awesome moments in pop culture, history, sports and more. It’s on us to encourage our kids to know more than what’s right in front of them.

I think it’s important because, right now, a lot of kids don’t seem to know their own parents’ history, much less what came before that – the Civil Rights Movement, women’s liberation, the holocaust, the suffrage, slavery, the Trail of Tears – it’s our job to teach them what we, and our ancestors, learned from each of those horrible things. It’s our job to teach these kids that there’s more to life than shoes – shoes inspired by a man who brought magic and majesty to a game. They’re just shoes. What led to them is what kids should know about.

Why are kids so fascinated by commercialism? Why is money, and the crap it can buy you, No. 1 in the minds of a lot of kids? Where are the artists? Where are the music lovers who, like me, hung on their parents’ every word on the subject? “Tell me about the Beatles,” I’d ask my mom. “I didn’t like them,” she’d say. “They were too popular.” (Yes, my mom was a hipster.) But I wanted to know about the 60s, and 70s, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith – I asked my parents and they told me. Then they forced me (haha – not really) to listen to their music. I learned so much from songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield – songs that wrapped history in with the vibe of the time. Songs that made me want to live through that era, that gave me the willies, that mystified me. “White Rabbit” had the same effect on me – as did so many others.

How can you not look at this picture and want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

How can you not look at this picture and NOT want to know more? Grace Jones embodied cool. And I bet a lot of kids have never heard of her.

My dad bought me and my sisters each a copy of “Who’s Next” when we were kids. It’s one of his favorite albums, and now mine. My mother forced me to listen to Leon Russell and now he’s my hero. My little sister Anna knew every word (and had developed a dance) to “Closer to My Home” by Grand Funk Railroad when she was 3. All of us, along with my other siblings, learned pop culture through our parents, and it’s made us appreciative of their generation.

Someone – parents, teachers, communities – has to teach them about the past. They have to learn they aren’t the first people to inhabit this earth. They have to learn about their parents’ struggles and fights and rebellions and love lives. We have to show them why we were once cool! It makes parents relatable. It makes generations closer. My dad and I talk music a lot. He still inspires me.

There’s too much stuff out there now. We have to help our kids navigate the past, as well as the future. We have to give them an understanding of the past.

But this isn’t a new problem. A few months ago, Kanye West announced he’d be pairing with Paul McCartney for songs. Kids on Twitter went crazy saying this Paul McCartney dude was going to “blow up” when exposed to Kanye’s audience.

PAUL EFFING MCCARTNEY. The one who was more popular than Jesus fewer than 50 years ago. The one who, along with some other dude Kanye couldn’t make famous, have written some of the most well-known songs of my generation. How can they not be known by this one?

We can’t let our culture – our pre-cell phone and Internet culture – not impress the next generation. And I’m not saying they can’t be anything without us – but we should inspire them. We should guide them. We shouldn’t try to emulate them – we should try to help them.

Pop culture is spoken-word history. Songs, shows, movies, etc., are a sketchbook of our lives, and reflect what we’ve been through. Our kids need to know what we’re all about.

Don’t distance yourselves from that. Remember, you were cool once. Tell your kids about your past. They’ll love the stories. Play them some music, and tell them a story about when you first heard that song. My dad told me when I was a kid about listening to “Abraxas” by Santana as a teenager – what it felt like, the freedom he felt, what he was experiencing at the time, and how, when he hears it now, he’s back in that time. It made me listen to it, and I get it. I see my dad as a human being, someone who’s experienced things in his life – someone who had a life before me.

Teach your children well. Crosby, Stills and Nash taught us that. Now go play that song for your kids! And then play them some Led Zeppelin. Hearing “Stairway to Heaven” on my dad’s sound system at full volume when I was about 8 changed my life. There was a bustle in my hedgerow, and I was alarmed at first. But I realize now it was a spring clean for the May queen. A spring clean in which my parents planted the seeds to whom I would become. And as I wind on down the road, I am ever thankful.

Teach your children well. They need us too.

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Filed under Childhood, Family, General Nonsense, Movies, Music, NBA, Sports, TV

The Electric Christmas Card: 2013 (Happy Holidays, ya’ll!)

First things first, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your holiday season is fantastic – and you get everything you want, physically or spiritually! Thanks for reading, for being my friend, and for supporting me and laughing at my lame jokes. Mucho amor, ya’ll.

Here it is, Christmas Day, and I haven’t sent out a single card. I had some written, but just like everything else I can’t get done at a computer, they wallow in the bottom of a tote bag somewhere, unstamped.

I did this last year, so yeah, we’ll call it tradition that I’m going to do an electronic Christmas card to all y’all. And I’m sure all y’all were just holding your collective breafs waiting for this.

So wait no more! Exhale! It’s time for the Electronic Christmas Card, 2013 Version.

 Part 1: Aunts Marching

elliottWhile I already had two perfectly acceptable nephews (Jesse and J.T., my sister Lila’s boys) my other sisters took it upon themselves to have more babies and increase the nephew population. Apparently my sisters are incapable of birthing girls, because Natalie, my oldest sister, WANTED a girl and got a boy anyway. I think she’s pretty happy with Elliott regardless. But he is sleeping in a Barbie princess bed.*

 (Key: * = UNTRUE.)

(But seriously, what gives? You can’t pick your baby’s sex nowadays? No flying cars AND only a 50 percent chance of getting what you want? Thanks, Obama!)

Elliott’s pretty great, even though I met him when he was a really-boring three weeks old. I Skyped with him (and Natalie – she just HAD to be there) recently and he appeared much more fun. Natalie didn’t want me to meet him when he was already fun for fear I’d steal him.* I would, too. Natalie says he’s a really good baby, so even I could probably keep him happy, or at the very least, fed.

Anna, my youngest sister, had a boy too, Henry. He’s OK, if you like ridiculously cute babies who love you right back.henry

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Henry really liked me right off the bat – except for the moment he did almost a complete backbend when I was holding him… But otherwise, I think he could tell then, at just under four months, that I’m that aunt who will give him everything he wants. I’ve already got a pony on back-order.

Meanwhile, Lila, the only sister still living in Oklahoma, is very kind and sends me pictures of Jesse and JT even though I never send her pictures of my cats or dog. J.T., her youngest, is having a hard time adjusting to Elliott being the baby. I bet he’ll end up loving his cousin… or maybe they’ll play on opposing professional basketball teams. Elliott will be with the Heat and J.T. with the Thunder… it’ll be epic! (Why yes I do work in sports, TYVM.) Her oldest son, Jesse, is in college (at the unheard of age of 7! Amazing!)* at Bacone in Muskogee. He’s kind of a big deal.

 Part 2: Katydid!

robkateMy middle sister Katy, who lives in Seattle, brought home news on Thanksgiving. Someone wants to marry her! I know! I can’t believe it either! Kidding, she’s fabulous, and her beau/betrothed Robbie is pretty great too. They are getting married in August in Seattle in a swamp or something hippie-dippie like that. And she’s not having a wedding party, which makes me ecstatically happy. I look terrible in every single bridesmaid’s dress ever made. I’m so proud of her, and so happy for both of them. But now I’m officially the old-maid sister.

 Part 3: My Brother the Roommate

My brother, Nick, has lived with me since early January. It’s made life in Connecticut better by a country mile (though I don’t think they say that or even have any nscountry miles here) and I don’t feel like the only weirdo in New England anymore. He graduated with his master’s, didn’t know what to do with his life, and moved to Connecticut. I might have promised him streets paved with gold and water made of wine – I really wanted him to move here. And I’m still glad to have him. He met a great girl who he took to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. She’s still dating him, so I guess she liked our great state. If she didn’t, Nick might have ended it.

We are the biggest Okie-loving people in Connecticut, for sure. We have a full-size Oklahoma flag in the basement. We continually educate people about the Sooner State (no we don’t live in teepees, no we’re not all related to each other, yes there are hills in Oklahoma, yes I’ve met Carrie Underwood/Zach Swon, yes [insert name here] really is from Oklahoma…)  We also spend a great deal of time trying to replicate our home state’s delicious foods. I have become a damn fine biscuit and gravy chef, and I made chicken fried steak a few weeks ago. It wasn’t Hungry Traveler off Highway 40 near Henryetta good, but it cured what ailed me. It’s amazing to me still that you can’t find plum jelly here. And if you want something spicy at a restaurant, it better be Asian or you’d better be packing your own Sriracha.

We also have the NBA League Pass package, which takes me back to when we were kids, watching an NBA game every night. It’s good for my career… or something.

 Part 4: My Phone Autocorrects “Obama” to “Ibaka” and Other Sports Tales

ESPN campus in the fall -- it's really purty.

ESPN campus in the fall — it’s really purty.

Notice that all the love-life updates are about my family? It’s because I’m married to Mickey Mouse. So without further ado, let’s talk shop.

It’s my third Christmas in Connecticut, which is beyond bizarre because it honestly seems like I just got here. Work is all-encompassing, and I don’t mind at all. I love the job still, even though there are times I’m so far-removed from the “real world” that I forget to live in it. I no longer watch any news at all, it seems. I read headlines, AP wires and Bottom Line-style scrollers, but I don’t know what’s going on outside the sports world – at least not in-depth. My phone really does autocorrect our president’s name with the name of the 7-foot center-forward for the Thunder. I’m OK with this.

Regular holidays are work days to me. Having time off means I only check my email 10 times a day, as compared to 100. I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s a blessing to have this job, and this year was exciting. The highlights in news breaks and events:

NBA Draft: Nearly a full week in NEW YORK CITY and I get to go to the draft, serving as an editor? It was a lot – LOT – of work, but it was also an amazing experience. I got to see how live TV happens outside a studio setting. It ain’t easy, folks. The next time you see something weird happen on TV and think everyone’s just out getting stoned or whatever, keep in mind that making television is hard and what you just saw was a tiny crack in the porcelain. It could be so much worse!

mel

Melissa in Greenwich Village

Live TV aside, I got to meet all the top picks in the draft too. Most were gentlemen – Victor Oladipo, the Indiana stud who’s now with the Magic – was a gent in every sense of the word. Our reporter, Andy Katz, was interviewing him when Victor realized I was in the room. He stopped the interview to introduce himself to me and another woman who was there, apologizing for not doing so as soon as he walked in. Right then and there I wished for him to become an All-Star one day. I’m a sucker for a gentleman, especially a really tall one in fantastic clothes.

The trip was great – my wonderful stepmother, Melissa McConnell-Hart, stayed with me most of the week. We went to Little Italy, walked all over Greenwich Village and toured Ground Zero. She traipsed all over NYC while I worked, revisiting her stomping grounds from her early days with American Airlines, when she was based there. It was hotter than hell that week, but we had a great time. I ordered room service like three times. And learned to hail cabs. What a country!

Aaron Hernandez: During the NBA Draft, the Patriots tight end was arrested on homicide charges. Needless to say, that whole thing kinda took over the summer.

Boston Marathon Bombings: It was a dark day, one I felt compelled to work on. It was a very Boston-rich year, with Hernandez and the marathon bombings, then the World Series. I can’t say I’m a fan of Boston sports teams, but I do admire their grit. They take tough situations and use them as fuel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots ended up winning it all this season too.

Biogenesis: So there was this little steroid sting this year that caused all sorts of chaos in the baseball world, especially with my favorite player, Ryan Braun. He was suspended 65 games for testosterone use. Alex Rodriguez was suspended too but hasn’t yet accepted that. Braun was suspended on the second day of the worst vacation I’ve ever taken (Leon was sprayed by a skunk on the first day, so the rest of it was spent cleaning and pouting) so I just think of it as the dark part of the summer. When A-Rod’s news broke (211 game suspension) I was NOT on vacation, and subsequently worked one of the longest, but more satisfying, days in my career. It’s something I can’t really explain—being a part of the news, watching it unfold, sitting in the control room while it’s happening… it’s just what I always wanted, and I had no idea. Small favors and all that… I’m thankful.

Interesting people I met this year: Besides the whole cast and crew at the NBA Draft, I met a lot of neat people this year.

kenjKen Jeong, from The Hangover and Community fame, was a guest host on SportsCenter this year. He was incredibly gracious, charming and did a really great job on SC.

Lovie Smith, a former University of Tulsa player and coach, was in Bristol shortly after being fired from the Bears. I nearly tackled him (like I did Mike Gundy when he was in Bristol) to talk Oklahoma. He obliged, very happy to talk about his former life in T-Town.

David Koechner, aka Champ Kind from Anchorman: We had to cancel Will Ferrell because of breaking news about Jameis Winston (the Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner). But we still had Champ in-house to make the rounds and shoot some promos for us. He was so nice – and he says he loves going to newsrooms because they all remember his lines from Anchorman!

Part 5: In Closing

A few more bullet points:

  • My group of friends suffered a huge loss this year, with my friend Clark dying unexpectedly right before my NBA Draft trip. Clark and I were planning to go to a Yankees game while I was in town. But he was taken from us so quickly. It nearly dropped me to my knees. I miss him—he was one of those souls who just made the air sweeter, one of those people who never treated anyone like a stranger. I’ve already blogged about him, so I won’t get into details on this Christmas day. It’s too sad. All of us are getting together in Florida in February to memorialize him. There have been a few Big Chill jokes already made… I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a gathering for a sad event.
  • My parents finally came to Connecticut, and we had a great time. Dad, Melissa and I went to the Hill-Stead museum in Farmington, and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day. This autumn was exquisite, and I’m so glad they got to be here for that week. After they left, the temperatures dropped and it snowed.dadmel
  • My brother and I took a trip to Philly because my fabulous boss gave me her tickets to a Brewers-Phillies series. It was a fun drive, except for when we drove home and somehow ended up on the George Washington Bridge in New York City with my brother at the wheel. It was a complete panic situation for both of us, and I felt like Kevin Nealon in “Happy Gilmore,” giving Nick useless advice the whole time he navigated through NYC traffic… looking back, it was kind of hilarious.
  • When I met Elliott, I did so in his hometown of West Palm Beach, where Natalie moved a few years ago. It is the eppy-tome of gorgeous cities.
  • I went to opening day of the NFL season and tailgated to boot! My fantastic friend Fran, a proud Jets season ticket holder, took me to Bucs-Jets. It was glorious – I get why fans are the way they are about the NFL even though it’s not my favorite sport.jets
  • When I was in Dallas for Thanksgiving, I finally got to go to a real NHL game, and with my Canadian hockey-loving bro-in-law and Sharks season-ticket-holding cousin John. Now I’ve been to every type of pro game (except soccer and cricket… and those other non-‘Murican sports – kidding, kidding…)
  • I didn’t get to go to Oklahoma this year, which is a real travesty. But it only fueled my desire to get there next year!

So one more time, Merry Christmas, ya’ll! Let’s talk more next year, OK?

–Sarah

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Food, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Kevin Durant, Love, New York, Oklahoma, Sports, Travel, Tulsa, TV, Uncategorized

My long overdue tribute to ‘Downtown’ Clark Brown

Vacation, as a rule, especially in New England, involves going to some sort of shoreline and dipping your toes in some sort of water, be it fresh, salty, moving or still.

I did not do any of these things on my vacation this summer. Last summer’s trip to upstate New York to see my entire Hart family and Troll relatives was so much fun, it only makes sense that this year’s vacation would be a little bit of a letdown. We do the family reunion every other year – makes sense, really, for balance’s sake. Makes you miss it when you don’t have one.

Anyway, I spent this vacation in Bristol, Ct., doing lots of things I needed to do – shopping, cleaning, paying bills, going to the doctor/dentist… and trying to rid my house of the stench of a skunk who crossed my dog’s path on the first day of my vacation.

I kind of had a blah Friday. A doctor’s appointment wasn’t very enlightening, and I was just all-around feeling down. No real reason. When I got up, I realized I had Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” randomly stuck in my head. I didn’t really acknowledge it.

Then on my way to the doctor, I was flipping through the radio stations and lo and behold, one of the “high 80s” stations – you know the ones, the experimental and NPR-ish public stations – was playing a live version of “Bertha.” Weird, I thought, but was so wrapped up in getting to New Haven for my doc visit that I didn’t pay it much mind.

I go to the doctor, leave and head back for a dental appointment in Farmington. Teeth cleaned, I head back to Bristol for home. Again, this time on my mp3 device, Grateful Dead reared its head. It was “Cassidy,” which is my favorite Dead song. I started taking notice then.

clarkfishThe Dead makes me think of a lot of really great people in my life – my cousin John, my old roommate/gay husband Erin, and Clark Brown, may he rest in peace.

We lost Clark in early June to a freak health issue. I was supposed to go to a Yankees game with him later in June. He was there one day, the next gone.

So yesterday, when I heard all the Dead songs, I realized I hadn’t truly dealt with Clark’s sudden death. I like to think of myself as someone who deals with her problems and moves on. But my tendency is to compartmentalize these types of problems into “deal with this later” moments. Clark happened one day, and the next, ESPN laid people off. It was a double whammy and I just kind of pushed it aside.

But emotions have a propensity to need to be expelled. “Cassidy” made that happen. Clark made that happen.

A bit about Clark, who can’t be summed up by a lowly writer like me – Clark was a cool guy. That’s the easy way to put it. Clark was friends with literally everyone who met him. I never heard him disparage another person. He defended those who were being disparaged. If anyone embodied Good Guy ‘til the end, it was Clark.

Clark was both friendly and mysterious at the same time. Not a jaded kind of mystery, but one where you were always surprised by what he knew, the depth of his feelings and understanding, what he’d been through in his life.

He didn’t wear his problems on his sleeve. You had to roll up his sleeves – up to the bicep – to get him to talk about himself.

We had a rainy afternoon in Manhattan a few months back where we talked about his family. I learned things about him I’d never thought to ask. It made me ashamed for not asking him more about himself. I felt selfish.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt selfish around Clark, like I was using him for something and not being a good friend in return. Clark could get you… things. Concert tickets, backstage passes and beyond. One Thanksgiving, when we were all still in our early 20s, I threw a Thanksgiving feast and invited Clark. Oddly enough, it was the first time he’d come to one of my real parties as a guest. He was always invited after that. He came to all our reunions – including one we had in 2011, which was the last time many of my friends saw Clark.

But he’d made so many plans to see us all – he was really close to a lot of us, and we all have this weird arc of Clark friendship. One minute he’d be in Oklahoma visiting Amy Lee at a wedding, the next in Colorado with Gretchen Crowe. He’d tried to convince me to come to a Leon Russell concert in New York, but I was too lazy to go. I regret that.

We all had our Clark experiences. Mine came, surprisingly, in New York City. When I first moved to Connecticut, I was stunned to learn Clark had moved to the area after he’d lived in North Carolina for years after leaving Oklahoma. He met me in NYC for my maiden voyage to the city. I was terrified, but Clark knew his way round and took me anywhere I’d ask to go. We had real Spanish Harlem tacos and real Malaysian food in Chinatown.

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! :)

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! 🙂

The next time I visited, we had Katz’s Deli pastrami. We walked in hot August drizzle all over downtown Manhattan, telling stories and stopping to look into store windows. There was nothing but a platonic friendship between us, and it was so comforting and wonderful to talk to someone who not only sounded like me, but had the same friends as me, had been to many of the same parties as me, etc.

We went to shows, texted and got to be really good friends again. It was just pleasant having him around and so close to me. We’d planned a few outings once the weather warmed up and I was to be in Manhattan for a week in June, so we had some plans in place. Unfortunately, those were not to be. And I felt like I’d lost not only a friend, but someone who was on the same journey as me in a new land.

I think he bridged the gap for me between Oklahoma and Connecticut. He – again – was there for me without asking for anything in return.

Clark was more into live music than almost anyone I know. He wasn’t just the guy at the show – he knew the bands. He did work for them. He and I went to see Jane’s Addiction in 2011 and he was passing out information, posters, stickers, etc., to fans because he was working with the record company. He was the king of the odd job – but they were cool odd jobs.

When Clark died, I didn’t believe it for a day or two. I even dreamed that the whole thing was a joke. I woke up hoping I was right. Sadly, I wasn’t.

When Clark died, everyone went to his Facebook page demanding to know what happened.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz's. He was absolutely right about that one.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz’s. He was absolutely right about that one.

Since Clark died, the messages on his Facebook page haven’t stopped. Bands that he’d worked for held memorial concerts, and still do. Tributes sprung up all over the place and I’ve been truly amazed again at his reach – how many people loved him.  It made me realize how many lives he’d touched and continues to touch.

Mine included.

I don’t know if Clark was controlling my radio yesterday or just trying to get me to pay attention. All I know is, after the Bertha and Cassidy incidents, I played the Dead all day and I felt better.

And when I went to bed, I guess I’d accidentally turned on my music player, because just when I was lying down, “Estimated Prophet” started playing through my Galaxy speakers. I couldn’t help but think he was behind that.

Clark, I get the message. Life is to be lived. You lived it, man. You were a wonderful, pure soul and you made your way through this life collecting friends, experiences and memories, not battle scars. You were beautiful. And I hope you are watching us down here telling tales of the great Downtown Clark Brown.

They won’t make another one like you. And not to get cheesy or switch bands midstream, but to borrow from Neil Young, if you were a miner for a heart of gold, Clark’s would’ve been a place where you’d have been rich.

I miss you, buddy. More than I ever expected to – then again, I thought we’d all die at 80. Thanks for showing up in my day yesterday. We will continue to honor you because you deserve it.

Here’s some of the lyrics that made me sure Clark was in my stratosphere yesterday:

Estimated Prophet:
My time coming, any day, don’t worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I’m in no hurry, no
Rainbows and down that highway where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying they tell me where to go.
 
Cassidy
Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac.
I can tell by the way you smile he’s rolling back.
Come wash the nighttime clean,
Come grow this scorched ground green,
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me,
Cassidy…
Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.
 
Jack Straw
We used to play for silver, now we play for life;
And ones for sport and ones for blood at the point of a knife.
And now the die is shaken, now the die must fall.
There aint a winner in the game, he don’t go home with all.
Not with all.
 
Attics of My Life
In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.
I have spent my life seeking all thats still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.
In the book of loves own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.
In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

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Filed under Baseball, Connecticut, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Oklahoma, Sports, Tahlequah, Tulsa

Some are mathematicians, some are carpenters’ wives…

I’d like to point out that this is one of those blogs that I thought of the title of first, and I spelled “Mathematicians” correctly the first time through. THAT is PROGRESS.

I’m having one of those “Every song ever written is great” sort of days. Where I could do nothing but sit in a room and listen to music nonstop — I do this at least once a week. Usually it’s happy stuff, or something that’s sparked by a memory, whatever. Today, it’s been maudlin and a bit dreamy-sappy. And I’ve just let it happen. Maybe it’s because my music player is shuffling with the best of them tonight  — I’ve heard a lot of great songs on this holiday Thursday — it’s the Fourth of July, I’m in the ESPN newsroom, and the only thing going on is the rent. And a few baseball games. But meanwhile, I’ve been in a weird place the last few days. Not sure why, perhaps it’s the summertime blues, for which we all know there is no cure.

Regardless, the only thing that has really helped break my malaise has been the occasional moment alone with the headphones on.

Which brings me back to the title. “Tangled Up in Blue” is one of those songs that I always like, but on days like these, I truly, deeply FEEL. Near tears all day long, I’ve tried to figure out why. It’s probably due more to the fact that it’s really hot out and I hate heat, and I’m really tired after the NBA draft, and I’m just kinda whiny with all kinds of first-world problems. Oh, I can add this in too — my favorite baseball team, the Brewers, is playing really badly and my favorite player on said team, Ryan Braun, who I’d like to think will be my betrothed someday, has been on the DL for weeks. Like I said, first-world problems.

Anyway, through my veil of tears, faux, reasonable or otherwise, on my way to work today, I heard “Mother of Pearl” by Roxy Music, which wins the Favorite Song of the Last Two Years award, if that were a real thing. Damn  — if you don’t know that song, listen to it. Research it.  It’s not particularly sad, but it reminds me of leaving Oklahoma… I listened to this about 100 times a day my last few months in Oklahoma.

I got to work, where the sports news was slow, so I went to get a Diet Coke. On my way, I realized it’s been 10 years to the day since I saw my mother. She died on July 11, but July 4 was the last time we saw her at the hospital still alive, though she was barely that then. The week after, we shut off her machines. July 4 was when we had the meeting to decide her fate. And that made me cry in the elevator. I stepped off, stopped by the ladies room, cried some more, came out of the stall, tried to look like I wasn’t crying, and went back to the newsroom. Fortunately there was hardly anyone there.

A good cry in the bathroom at work kind of did the trick for a few hours. I didn’t really feel like talking, so I put on my headphones and immersed myself in my little world of melancholia and subversion. I was not let down– “Monkey Man” by the Rolling Stones, “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who, “Stand Beside Me” by Hothouse Flowers, ” “California” by Liz Phair, even “Unsung” by Helmet… all special to me in some silly way or other.

Then the hammer fell: “Southern Cross, ” Crosby, Stills and Nash. My mom’s favorite and also in my top three favorite songs.

I had to turn it off before I created a scene in the newsroom. I got up and talked to some co-workers and now my inner stage play seems to have taken a somewhat happier turn.

I’m not sure what causes these weird moods in me. I like to think it’s something simple, like a vitamin deficiency or hormones. But chances are, I’m just, like I said, tired, cranky and possibly irritated that I’m working on the Fourth of July. But it could be worse… I could be unemployed and not working at a place I’m very happy to work.

In a few days, that’ll make me happy again. For today, apparently I’m wallowing. So bring it on. I’m armed with 25,000-plus songs, a few of which will surely keep me going.

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Filed under Baseball, Brain Disorders, Brewers, Connecticut, ESPN, General Nonsense, Music, Ryan Braun, Sports

The Electric Christmas Card: It’s not lazy, I wrote like 2,800 words!

festivus

I rewatched Seinfeld this
year. It’s funnier if you live on the East Cosat.


Festivus is tomorrow, Hanukkah is behind us, Christmas is two days away and Kwanzaa
starts the day after Christmas, which coincides with Boxing Day.
Folks, we are in the thick of a holiday season that grows bigger
each year. And as usual, I’m as tardy as ever. Because I suck at
holiday correspondence, and frankly all correspondence, I have
turned to the Internet to let ya’ll know I’m not a cruel,
heartless, thankless wench this Christmas. Yes, I’m letting my blog
be my Christmas wingman. Consider it an effort to be green, but
know that really, I’m lazy and pressed for time, a noxious
combination that really cuts into my sitting around time (Trey,
that’s one of my favorite lines of yours.) So with those caveats
out of the way, I’ll turn this into a yearlong wrapup. But first,
happy holidays to all, and thanks for tolerating me this year. This
year, like the one before it, has been a complete blur. I started
out the new year working, and that trend continued at least five
Even the geese that live at ESPN have a job -- pooping on
sidewalks.

Even the geese that live
at ESPN have a job — pooping on sidewalks.

days a week
for 52 weeks. It’s like those people at ESPN expect me to come in
FIVE DAYS A WEEK and work! Actually, I love my job. I have
continued to become more and more entrenched in Connecticut life,
and it’s starting to feel like home. People still don’t understand
my accent all the time, but I don’t understand theirs either, so we
just usually laugh at each other and call it a day. One co-worker
of mine, Brian Tully, likes to point out when I really slip into
Okie. It’s funny because when I lived in Oklahoma, I often got
accused of not sounding country enough. One time someone said I
sounded like I’m from Boston. Well shit ya’ll, I just don’t know
where I stand! But back to work, which has been what I’ve done most
of this year, and with glee. I love my job, love the people I work
with and am challenged each day to immerse myself in the mode of
TV. My print journalism ways are falling away, and I find myself
straying from AP style more often. I don’t like it, but it’s
happening.
Can you believe ESPN promoted this person?

Can you believe ESPN
promoted this person?

I was promoted in September, from
associate news editor to news editor I, which bumps me into the
management pool. It’s nice, and a nice pay bump. With the
promotion, I adopted a fake British accent and started wearing
full-length gowns and white gloves to work, along with minks and
diamonds (that’s for you Ward, who said I sold out to the corporate
monster and was now part of the 1 percent.) Still, it was a sellout
that I was willing to do. And the day after my promotion went into
effect, my job got more complicated. I feel I’ve earned it, and
hope to keep earning it as I go. I thought it would be fun this
year to write a weekly football column to send to our anchors,
analysts, producers, etc. It was called “Under the Radar Love.” And in typical Sarah
style, I bit off more than I could chew. It was designed to
showcase some of the games that might slip through the cracks in a
society obsessed with SEC football. It worked, and it was fun to
write, but I became like a crack fiend with it, toiling over
numbers and stats and patterns to try to come up with new entries.
I call that success! I’ll probably be doing it again next year. And
for my Okies out there, Oklahoma schools were
mentioned in nearly every installment. They had kind of an
under-the-radar year, so it worked out well. I’ve become the
sort-of Twitter Girl on my news desk, and I’m trying to come up
with new ways to implement guidelines in the finding of and
fleshing out of tweets. I won’t bore you with gory details, but
know this – I follow the maximum amount of people (2,000-ish) and
am on Twitter for at least 10 hours a day. So if you thought I was
rampant on Facebook, wooh boy, lemme tell ya.
I'll miss the river flowing next to my house...

I’ll miss the river
flowing next to my house…

I moved from my quaint little
riverside town of Collinsville, Ct., to bustling Bristol, Ct.,
because I was really tired of the drive. I work until 3 a.m. at
least twice a week, and often have to be back at work by 2 p.m. the
following day. So it made sense to me to cut out the drive time.
Plus, my friend/colleague/supervisor Ken got engaged and decided to
move elsewhere, opening up a fantastic house for me to live in. I
moved right after Thanksgiving, and my stuff is kind of getting
settled. My cat Penny has taken over the second floor of the house.
I haven’t seen her in a month, but she’s eating and all that, so I
know she’s alive. Or I have really hungry mice up there. Leon is
basking in having a fenced backyard again. He’s back to his old
pre-move-to-Connecticut self, frisky and butt-waggling. He’s 8-ish
now, and a little gray around the eyes. But who among us isn’t? Not
to say this in the same breath, but my old family is doing pretty
well too. I’m still single, unless you count my spouse ESPN. I hope
this singlehood doesn’t last forever, but if it does, I’ve reached
that point in my life where I’m not waiting anymore. I’m doing all
the things I was meant to do – travel, explore, work, write, enjoy
my many blessings. It would be nice to not have to do it alone, but
I’m extremely picky and I’ll know it when I see it. I haven’t seen
it yet. And Ryan Braun is engaged, so really, why
bother? {Side note, I became a huge baseball fan this year. Not
strictly because of the aforementioned/sexy Braun, but also because
I think I finally understand it. I found myself this year applying
baseball knowledge to real-world situations, like algebra. I
finally get it. And baseball people are just cool people. It’s
something more Okies should embrace. }
My dad and Melissa at Keuka Lake.

My dad and Melissa at
Keuka Lake.

My dad and Melissa are still in Colleyville, Texas, and Melissa
announced earlier this year that she is retiring from American
Airlines after a really long career with them. Just like every
other corporation, money is somehow tight and she’s taking a
buyout. She’ so great and so boisterous and full of life, I know
she’ll be doing some other job in no time, living life to the
fullest. She continues to be an inspiration and I’m so lucky to
have her in my life. My dad had a minor health scare – well, he
played it minor, I of course had a meltdown – but he’s in great
health again and still kicking ass. He continues to be my best
friend as long as we don’t get into political talk. My sister
Natalie is expecting her first child in March, and I’m planning to
go to West Palm Beach to see her and Baby Boy Garrett shortly
afterward. I’m so proud of her, and she’s just beautiful in
pregnancy. She’s beautiful all the time, but she just positively
glows right now. She hears every single one of my problems and is
so good to me, as she always has been. She is the glue of our
family, and having her son will be yet another tether that keeps us
together. My sister Lila is raising two perfect boys – I got to see
my nephew Jesse, a senior, play basketball while I was briefly in
Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. He’s really good, and has gotten offers,
both academic and athletic, to go just about anywhere in the United States. I’m trying to
Me and Stacy at ESPN in the most-humid part of
the summer.

Me and Stacy at ESPN in
the most-humid part of the summer.

talk him into coming
to UConn. He says it’s
too cold up here – but it’s so close to so much great stuff. JT is
the cutest child ever born, and he’s precocious and charming and
doll-like. She’s got her hands full with him. I’m dragging my
brother Nick to Bristol at some point – he graduated a few days ago
with a master’s in kinesiology and now awaits a dream job. He wants
to be a strength coach. Anyone who’s seen him knows he’ll be good
at it. But I’m forcing him to come see me next year – he helped me
move with two cats and a dog in the car and a bitching sister
driving, so I can understand why he’s hesitant to come back. I’m so
proud of him – he just skated through his master’s degree without
an iota of effort it seems. He’s just too smart for his own good.
My sister Katy lives in Seattle because she wanted to be as far
away from me as possible, I guess. She’s loving life and doing
great, working as a bartender in a hip establishment. She’s hip and
cool, she’s got a super-nice, hilarious boyfriend (Robbie) and
she’s entertaining entrepreneurial possibilities. She’s a dreamer,
and that’s what I love about her. She’ll do what she wants when she
wants, thank you very much, and she’ll be damn good at it too.
She’s so much like me – sad for her! But she’s more self-aware and
confident than I was at her age. She’s just beautiful and
wonderful. Anna and Joel live on the Southside in Chicago – they
moved away from a ritzy area to be with the regular folk on the
Southside, very similar to my move to Bristol. Anna is closer to
graduating from nursing school, and Joel just completed his
theology program. They’re two of the most-fun people I’ve ever been
around, and I’m not saying that just because they’re family. I
honestly don’t know anyone like them, and I cherish every moment I
get with them. We spent several days together at Thanksgiving and
it was basically a laugh riot the whole time.
My cousin Ryan lives here -- and manages to go
to work every day. Wow.

My cousin Ryan lives here
— and manages to go to work every day. Wow.

I got to see
my California cousins (well, two of them) a lot this summer! As
well as their mom and dad. I finally got to go to our family
reunion on Keuka Lake this summer, a trip I’ve only made once
before. Keuka Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
I spent a week with my dad and Melissa, Aunts Sandee and Maribeth,
and Uncles Jack, Rick and Steve. My cousins John and Ryan were
there, and again, laugh riothood ensued. Dear God I love those
boys. It was a week of fun, sun and frivolity. Our cottage was next
door to a bar. The water was about 10 degrees, so swimming wasn’t
the norm. In that time, I also got to meet/see a whole lot of
family I haven’t seen in YEARS or ever met, my Troll cousins, who
live in upstate New York and Alaska. It was so great getting to
spend time with this part of my family. They’re the artistic side
— so much I could learn from them. I look forward to many more
gatherings with them.
My first trip to NYC, this was the first thing I
saw when I left Grand Central. Okies. We're everywhere.

My first trip to NYC, this
was the first thing I saw when I left Grand Central. Okies. We’re
everywhere.

A few days after returning from Keuka, I went
to Los Angeles to work from the ESPN offices in downtown LA. While
there, I got to meet my cousin Richard’s daughter Maelle, who is
eight months old now. She’s gorgeous, and her mom, Kay, is doing
all the heavy lifting while Richard finishes up his Navy assignment
in Meridian, Miss. They live in Mar Vista, and my Auntie Maribeth
is often there to help. She, Kay and I had a luxurious dinner at
home with Maelle, and I was so glad to be able to have the
opportunity to travel for work AND see my family. My last day in
LA, I elected to take the redeye out of Cali so I could hang with
my cousin Ryan in Laguna Beach. He’s a pilot and showed me around
where he works, then we spent the day in beautiful Laguna Beach
where he lives across the street from the Pacific. Holy crap, I
could’ve gotten used to that. I LOVE the East Coast, but I can see
myself in California should the opportunity ever arise. Ryan and I
went to a great restaurant, offended and were offended by an
accusatory bartender, then wandered around Laguna Beach so I could
find souvenirs. I took two trips to Oklahoma-Texas this year, the
first time to go to a mini-college folks reunion and the second for
Thanksgiving. Both were great, and I got to eat Taco Bueno both
times. What the Connecticut folks refer to as Mexican food makes
Bueno look authentic. I got to hang with Renae, Trey, Oliver, Mark
and Margaret a couple of times, and shared a trip to Dallas with
Elena, which was an unexpected, wonderful event. Nothing like being
in a car with an old friend for more than four hours to make the
trip go by quickly. washmonI traveled by train to go
to Washington, D.C., to see Natalie and our nation’s capital. I had
never been, and went on no sleep, so the train ride there was kind
of a sleepy blur. I’d also never been on a train, so that was cool.
But we saw just about everything I’ve ever wanted to see, and of
course, I bawled like an infant at every national monument. My
sister the archaeologist knows everything, so she was an excellent
narrator/companion and didn’t shoot me in the face when I started
complaining about blisters. (Nat, I’ve since bought good walking
shoes, so please give me another chance.) jaI went to see Jane’s
Addiction in Waterbury, Ct., in March with my Tahlequah/Manhattan
friend Clark Brown. I saw Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey with my
real-life Jersey Girl friend Fran Rotella, who entertained me
greatly with fantastic Italian food and diner grub. I’ve had pork
roll – it’s not just something Ween made up and sang songs about.
It’s like sausage and bologna had a baby. And it’s heaven. The
Italian place we went to in Jersey was across the street from where
they filmed several Sopranos scenes, so yeah, pretty authentic. I
went to New York City twice, and I’ve got many more in me. I fell
in love the second I stepped into Grand Central Station. It’s
intimidating, but awe-inspiring too. My plan is to stay at the
Carlyle Hotel in January so I can see how the other half lives. As
my dear friend Stacy Pratt reminds me, we earned our money, and the
starving poet in each of us won’t hate that we’re making money now
and possibly spending it lavishly. I hope she gets to go with me on
my trip – she lives upstate. She and her husband Joe came to
Connecticut over the summer too, and we got to spend a few days
together.
See my Rosie O'Donnell face?

See my Rosie O’Donnell
face?

The funniest thing that happened this year was
meeting Snoop Dogg while I was under dentist’s anesthesia. I had
four shots of Novocain in my face and had to go to work for a few
hours – no makeup, messy hair, stretchy pants – and of course,
Snoop was there. I had my picture taken with him, but felt the need
to tell him about my harrowing dental visit. Snoop told me I was
beautiful and wrapped his 6-6 frame around my shoulders for a
picture. I look like Rosie O’Donnell in the shot, but he is
grinning like only Snoop can. So at least I can say, I made Snoop
Dogg and his posse laugh.
A typical NYC Saturday - random free concert in
Bryant Park.

A typical NYC Saturday –
random free concert in Bryant Park.

I also met Mike
Gundy, Donovan McNabb and Jerome Bettis. I saw lots of other famous
people but was either too intimidated or too busy to go talk to
them. I truly have a dream job. It’s an insane, brain-draining
dream job, but it’s great nonetheless. Jerry Rice being in the
newsroom still makes me giggle maniacally every now and then, but I
am getting used to it. I attended a summit of bureau reporters and
producers that was like meeting the Mount Rushmore of sports
journalism – it was so fun. I am so glad I found my calling, and am
thrilled to be working in such a fun medium as sports and in such a
large spotlight. I hope it doesn’t come off as braggadocios – I
still just feel extremely lucky. The Thunder made it to the Finals,
which was the sports highlight of my year. The second best sports
story of my year was the Brewers being 14 KDgames out of the playoff
picture and then getting to within 1.5 games before injuries and
the Nationals came to town. And the most important part of the year
was that we all made it through the Mayan Apocalypse without too
many scratches. Of course it’s only the 22nd. Seriously though,
thanks for reading my slop and for supporting me. Happy holidays,
and please keep in touch. You don’t have to write a novel like I
just did. And if you find yourself in the Northeast quadrant of the
United States, come on up to Bristol-town.

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