Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween From Benjamin!

He's a bumble bee and no, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are not recruiting Benjamin. While we are on the subject of Halloween, here is my Halloween mix of music currently playing in my living room. Happy Halloween!

In The Midnight Hour by Wilson Pickett
Season of the Witch by Donovan
Blue Moon by The Marcels
Wherewolves of London by Warren Zevon
Spooky by The Atlanta Rhythm Section
Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.
Thriller by Michael Jackson
Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Pickett
Furry Happy Monsters by Sesame Street (Sung to Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.)
The Boogie Monster by Gnarls Barkley
I Walked With A Zombie by R.E.M.
The Munsters Theme

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Maryland Football: Behind the Scenes

Maryland 27, Florida State 24

Incredible game by the Terps, who never trailed. Florida State dominated total yardage, outgaining Maryland 458 to 223. Read the Washington Post recap here.

I got to live out a dream of mine thanks to my friend Kelly. Through the friends he and his son Patrick have made at the University of Maryland athletic staff, we were able to attend Head Coach Ralph Friedgen's press conference. Part of me has always wanted to be sports journalist. I have this forum to attempt to be one at times. This night I got to see what goes on behind the behind the scenes after a football game. It was fun seeing what sports journalists do, what the football coaches and equipment staffers do after a game. I took some pictures (click to enlarge these) so I will do my best to describe the behind the scenes activity after a very important Maryland victory.

Here is coach Friedgen's press conference and an excerpt:

"What a win. I don't know where to start. We faced some adversity tonight in so many different areas. So many guys stepped up. Darrius Heyward-Bey made some big plays and Sam (Hollenbach) played really well. He managed the game really well and made plays when he had to. There were a couple of situations where he probably could have fumbled, but he didn't. I can see him getting better and better right now. I thought we ran the ball well early too."

"Defensively, we broke down a couple times and broke assignments, but we ended up getting the big play at the end."

"It's a big win for our team and a big win for our program, but we've still got such a long way to go. We've just got to continue to improve. We're not there yet. We're bowl eligible, but our goals are bigger than six wins. It's probably a relief for the team. That sixth win is a big monkey on your back, but it doesn't get any easier from here. We've got to keep our eyes on the next game and keep getting better."

"They keep fighting, that's just what they do," Friedgen said of his players. "Sometimes it's not pretty, but they give you all they have."

One thing that was pointed out to Coach Friedgen was the Terps did not turn the ball over for the first time in two years. Friedgen said he wasn't aware of that until FSU's Head Coach Bobby Bowden pointed that out in the post game meeting of the two coaches.

I recognized two local sports journalists that were in attendance. Chick Hernandez of Comcast SportsNet and Mike Wise of the Washington Post. Here is Wise's column about the game.

After this we went to the main floor where Chick Hernandez was interviewing Coach Friedgen one on one for the 11:00 SportsNite show on Comcast SportsNet. I didn't take a picture here as I did not want my flash on the digital camera to disrupt the interview. Still, it was pretty cool to see this. Here are a couple shots from the main lobby:

The 2001 ACC Football Championship trophy

A couple of recent bowl trophies

Next we went down to the weight room and I took this picture

We caught up with coach Dave Sollazzo there, who we chatted with briefly. He brings a lot of energy on the field. If you watch a Terps game in person, you'll be able to pick him out as he's always fired up on the sidelines. He coaches the defensive line. We also saw Defensive Coordinator Chris Cosh meeting with recruits who were at the game.

Next we got into the locker room where we chatted with a couple of the members of the equipment staff. The game started at 7:00 PM and one of the guys on the staff said they would be lucky if they got out of there by 3:00 AM. We were also a bit lucky as we were able to catch up with Terp QB Sam Hollenbach, who graciously chatted with us and signed game programs to our son's for Kelly and I. Hollenbach has shown a lot of heart in the two full season's he's been the Terps QB. He was the fourth string QB in 2004 when he got the start against Wake Forest during the last game of 2004. He worked hard and he's been the starter since. This season he's been very efficient running the offense and has the team poised to return to a bowl game.

After that, we returned to the football offices where we met up with Coach Friedgen, who was nice enough to sign my game program for Benjamin as well. He believes the ACC Champion will have two losses as it is a highly competitive conference where everyone just pounds on one another. I wanted to ask him about him handling the dual duties of being the head coach and the offensive coordinator but felt like it wasn't my place to do so. He had been answering questions from media after the game and he was relaxing and I let it pass. Personally, I feel it is too much for any head coach to be doing coordinator duties in this era of college and pro football. See 2005 Redskins; Gibbs, Joe. Gibbs hired an Offensive Coordinator for the 2006 season and it will be interesting to see if Friedgen does the same for next year. I think he will as part of the reason he's doing both jobs as his long time Offensive Coordinator Charlie Taffe retired in the Spring and it was too late to replace him.

It was truly a remarkable and fun experience for me. I was in awe the whole time. I've been a Terps fan all my life and while I was extremely down on them that third game against West Virginia, where they got throughly embarassed on national television, they've made remarkable strides in turning around their season. They have six wins and two losses with games at Clemson, Miami, at Boston College and Wake Forest remaining on the schedule. It is not an easy task ahead of the Terps but nothing is easy when contending in this conference.

Friday, October 27, 2006

One Year Doctor's Appointment and a Haircut

Both Weena and I took the day off from work to take care of preparations for Benjamin's first birthday extravaganza, which is being held this Sunday. We also had to take Benjamin for his one year check up with his pediatrician. Here are his stats:

Height: 31 inches
Weight: 23 pounds

He also got three shots. He was a trooper. He cried about a minute as these were administered back to back to back. He was giggling as we left the doctor's office. Next stop, the Hair Cuttery where one of Weena's friends would cut Benjamin's hair.

He was very good, didn't get too squirmy when seated with Weena and I was able to get a lock of his hair after it was snipped. That goes into a silver container that we have.

I've strayed away from sports and other topics for the time being in celebration of Benjamin's first birthday. The Redskins are a mediocre 2-5 this season after making the playoffs last year. I followed the World Series and am attending the Maryland-Florida State football game tomorrow night in College Park, MD. Our party for Benjamin is from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM Sunday. At 6:00 PM most of the crowd here will be gone so I am going to be watching D.C. United's home playoff match against the hated Red Bull of New York. Put 'em away, don't let 'em recover, no mercy! That's the message to coach Peter Nowak and the team. If they do that, they host the Eastern Conference Final next weekend at RFK.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Year Old!

"I remember your birthday...
your first breath out of the womb...
We were all crying, you were screaming...
It was the most beautiful tune..."

I'm one!

Lot's of people are calling me with birthday wishes!

First day: Cozy, Comfy and Cuddly!

Snoozing-Thanks for the cool hat Daddy!

My first hour

Daddy and Benjamin just after birth

Happy Birthday Benjamin!!!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Picture Day at Daycare

Benjamin had Picture Day a few weeks ago. Of course Mommy and Daddy were wowed by this shot and plan on purchasing several of these.

He also got his Growth Report from daycare. They have three categories for Infants.

Language and Literacy:
Strings together sounds like "ba ba, da da".
Uses toys to make noise.
Stops in response to "no"
Looks at named pictures.

Pulls off his own socks.
Rolls from back to front and back again.
Sits without support.
Pulls himself up using a chair to stand.

The World and Me:
Plays unattended for a short time, then seeks out others to play.
Plays peek-a-boo.
Shows preference for one toy over another.
Holds a bottle by himself.
Becomes upset if a toy or another object is taken away.

He's progressing well. We are working on the sharing part and he's gotten better with that. He'll hand me a block and I will say "Thank you Benjamin, it is nice to share" and he smiles.

I make sure when I pick Benjamin up from daycare to interact with all the kids. We will walk around and say hello and/or bye bye. He waves and can say "bye" on occasion. Then we say goodbye to the teachers. It's the highlight of my day having the two of us interact with the kids. I have a lot of fun doing this and I know I am teaching Benjamin. Hard to believe our little guy will be a year old next week.

Years ago I'd research and break down the teams involved in games versus my favorite teams. For example, the Dallas Cowboys defensive tendencies vs the Redskins or the Capitals penalty killing vs the Islanders would be discussed over beers at The Dancing Crab and Malt Shop. Fast forward and now I'm breaking down daycare reports, researching car seats, scanning the Babies R Us advertisements and monitoring crawling/walking progress. Right now I honestly cannot name two defensive players on the current Cowboy roster.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Milestone for Benjamin

He hasn't taken his first steps alone. He's still working on this. Tonight he crawled his way up an entire flight of stairs. I was behind him to assist if needed. Half way up he paused, smiled at me and then finished the climb. I was humming the theme song to Rocky during this and encouraging him. I gave him an ovation and he clapped too when he reached the top. Big moment in the little guy's life. He knew he made his Dad proud. Here he is talking some smack at me before he heads up.

A couple random play pics. Yes, we are getting his hair cut as soon as he passes one year old next week.

Monday, October 16, 2006

D.C. United Awards Reception

Last night I attended the Third Annual D.C. United Awards Reception. It was held at the Galleria at Lafayette Centre in Washington, D.C. There was a reception before the main event where fans in attendance could mingle with players, coaches and staff. I caught up with a couple friends in the front office and chatted with Mark Simpson, former goalkeeper and now assistant coach. I've played in D.C. United's charity golf outing a couple times with Mark, who is a scratch golfer. We were trying to set up a time after the season to get a round in. We're both rookie Dad's as he and his wife welcomed their daughter back in May.

D.C. United's 2006 team award winners were as follows:

Bobby Boswell - Humanitarian of the Year and Defender of the Year.
Facundo Erpen - Goal of the Year
Josh Gros - Coach's Award (Most Improved Player)
Christian Gomez - Golden Boot as the leading scorer, Fan's Choice Award and the team's Most Valuable Player

Here's hoping these guys aren't done collecting awards this season. A fifth MLS Cup would be a welcome addition to their trophy case:

The evening came to a close when Coach Peter Nowak spoke to the audience. He is disappointed at how the season ended (three straight losses after United sealed up the best record in MLS) and promises things will be different when the playoffs start Saturday. He praised the team and said they are champions and now they just have to earn it on the field.

Here is a recap of Nowak's comments:

Some of us will be back, some of us maybe not, but in the next four weeks we will do everything in our power to bring you trophy, to bring the passion back....Soccer is a game you can win, you can tie, you can lose. The choice is ours. But you guys deserve more than anything to be in Dallas and to raise the trophy again....I can assure you is going to be completely different team Saturday in New York, and we're going to go there, and we're going to beat them at home again!!!

He was passionate on the field when he played and you could feel the passion in his voice last night as he spoke. They'll be ready Saturday.

Your's truly with Christian Gomez. He was being interviewed and posing for pics so I handed a professional photographer with all this cool photography equipment my little Nikon point and shoot digital camera and he fired off this shot. I guess it's sort of like asking John Grisham to write a short story on a piece of scratch paper.

D.C. United begins the quest for their fifth title this Saturday in New York vs the Red Bull. Game time is 2:00 PM. The return leg of the first round home and home series is Sunday October 29th. Vamos United!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What Am I Listening To Now?

I've been enjoying this CD this week. With a 60 mile round trip daily commute, I rely on XM Radio and my CD collection to get me to and from work ok.

Eric Clapton: Orchestra Night
Live at The Royal Albert Hall
London, England February 10, 1990

Bell Bottom Blues
Lay Down Sally
Holy Mother
I Shot The Sheriff
Hard Times
Can’t Find My Way Home
Edge Of Darkness
Old Love
Wonderful Tonight
White Room
Concerto For Electric Guitar 1st Movement
Concerto For Electric Guitar 2nd Movement/Band Introduction
Sunshine Of Your Love

To briefly sum it up it's Clapton performing his hits backed by a full orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. He would perform there a lot in the early '90's and released a CD called 24 Nights in 1991. I have another CD from this venue called A Blues Evening, which was recorded on February 3rd and 7th, 1990. Both are outstanding listens.

Clapton's been an incredible musical talent for decades. I first started to listen to him after I saw him perform in the 1978 movie The Last Waltz. I've been hooked since.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Update on George Mason Hoops

Remember March Madness and the amazing run to the Final Four by George Mason? Click to the month of March here in the archives to relive that run. Various publications caught up with George Mason head coach Jim Larranaga this week as Midnight Madness is just around the corner. Click on the links below to catch up.

USA Today: Mason Hoping For Another Run

The Washington Post: After Mason's Magical Ride, Larranaga Nails the Landing

The Washington Times: Everyone Is All Ears For Larranaga

The Washington Examiner: Larranaga, George Mason Aim to Prolong Dream

Coach L Gets Set For Another Year of Mason Madness

I'm excited that basketball season is around the corner. I hope to get to a couple Maryland hoops games this season as they try to get back into the NCAA Tournament after a two year absence. I've got my calendar circled for the BB&T Classic on December 3rd at Verizon Center. Three games: George Mason vs Bucknell, George Washington vs Virginia Tech and Maryland vs Notre Dame.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Benjamin the Battler

Rough couple weeks for our little guy. First, Benjamin caught a cold. Then his lungs got congested. With that came antibiotics. The congestion (and teething) led to high temperatures Thursday and Friday, which led to a left ear infection. This past Friday we kept him home and Weena and I split the day taking care of him. At 2:00 PM Benjamin's temperature got to 103.1 so we took Benjamin to his pediatrician. He has another week's worth of antibiotics to battle the ear infection.

He slept a lot this weekend and is fine. His temperature is now normal. The congestion is breaking up as we can hear in his coughs and I assume the ear infection is going away.

Fun stuff. He still loves his play time and doesn't miss a beat there. In a little over two weeks he will be a year old.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Talkin' Baseball

It’s baseball playoff time again and I’ll give you my predictions as I wrote over at
Dave's forum. Note: I wrote this before today’s results. Please feel free to pile on when I bungle a prediction, which I always manage to do.

AL: Yankees vs Tigers and Twins vs A's
NL: Padres vs Cardinals and Dodgers vs Mets

The Yankees will whip up on the Motor City Kitties. The Tigers have to be reeling from gagging the division that they had lead all year to the Twins. The Yanks dodged a bullet there as the Twins are the team no one wants to play in the playoffs. I hope the Twins pound the A's. So my prediction is the Twins and Yankees will meet in the ALCS and I'm going with the Twins here to represent the AL in the World Series.

In the NL, I hope the Padres whip up on the Cards. I'm sick of reading and hearing about how much of a genius Tony LaRussa is. To be fair, as much as I love Earl Weaver managing the Orioles, his record compares with LaRussa’s. Weaver always got the Orioles into the playoffs and his teams came up short a lot. Weaver and LaRussa are both 1-3 in World Series. Each led their teams to three consecutive World Series appearances and both came away with one title (Weaver ’69, ’70 & ’71 Orioles & LaRussa ’88, ’89 & ’90 A’s).

I never really root for the Dodgers but in this case they are playing the Mets, who I despise. My prediction is the Padres and Dodgers meet in the NLCS and I'm going with the Padres to represent the NL.

Drum roll please..... Bill-DC’s World Series prediction: Twins over the Padres in six games.

Some more baseball thoughts:
The Yankees have an expensive and talented roster as always but I can’t see them getting into the World Series this year. Maybe it's the Mussina factor that still has me steamed about the Yanks. He left the Orioles in 2000 and signed with the Yankees. I really should get over it. Sometimes I hold a grudge too long.

I did like watching those Yankees teams from 1996-2000. They just went out, played ball and got the job done. True professionals and Joe Torre did a fantastic job as manager. He truly is a first ballot Hall of Famer. The Orioles have been out of it for so long but I have the memories of the two World Series (’79, ’83) I have attended and you can't take those away. Some people I know have never seen their teams take home the hardware and I feel fortunate to have seen the O's do it once.

I do love this round of divisional playoffs. I can actually follow a lot of the action as there are games in the afternoon that I can listen to both at work and driving home.

Once the LCS and World Series start, I’m good until 10:00 PM when Casa Benjamin shuts down. That's usually the beginning of the 4th inning. Sometimes I can push it to 11:00 PM. Maybe I should invest in a TIVO machine and just fast forward through the action.

Have fun watching these games all! This piece by Dave is an excellent read.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rookie Dad: Month 12

Well, here is month twelve of my rookie Dad year. Right now Benjamin is working on trying to figure out how to walk. After crawling on the floor, he likes to pull himself up using a couch or chair and move sideways using his legs and feet, keeping his hands on the furniture as a guide. By the end of this month, I'm betting he'll be walking on his own. He weighs a little under 23 pounds. If you click the photo album on the left and click browse, you will see how he's grown. He used to be so little, now he's becoming a toddler. This year sure has flown by. Here is our little guy outside on our deck after church. He's a very happy boy and I'm proud to be his Dad.