Beware Little Old Ladies

February 21, 2008

Tonight was the Sectional Championship game for our girl’s basketball team. I am not the usual announcer, but the usual guy’s wife was about to give birth, so I was the next guy up to fill in.

The Sectional was assigned to our school two months ago. The site is prearranged, though from time to time the home team manages to actually make it. Our team was the 7th seed out of 20 teams. They won a close game against the #2 seed, then the #3 seed.

Tonight, the #1 seed came a-knocking: the Loyola Academy Ramblers. And as any team from the Gold Coast invariably does, they traveled well ….. many fans ….. many student fans.

There is a gal on our team who I have in class: very good student, and a very polite lass …. she’s also a starter on the team. She has been out for most of the last week with the flu, and played in limited action in the semifinals. She was back tonight. She was also a former player for Loyola, leaving after freshman year. During warmups, many Loyola students started a chant of “traitor–traitor”. To the credit of the Loyola personnel, they dragged the ringleader out, and told the rest of the kids to stay positive (which they did).

Now, neutral site or not, as announcer, I am a homer. I am definitely a graduate of the Hawk Harrelson school of announcing. I make sure that is understood. Even during the announcements this evening, we had to announce our girls first (they were the visitors on the scoreboard in their own gym), and made sure to add a little zip to their announcements, more subdued for Loyola. When we scored, it was excitement. When they scored, not so much excitement.

To say the least, it was a great game ….. the lead never got more than 6 for either team, and only in the last minute did our team get a critical basket, and then a jump ball that went our way to seal the win.

After the win, a ilttle old lady came down to see me.

“Did you know that this wasn’t a home game. Your announcing was reprehensible and one sided.”

I didn’t know how to respond. So:


She wasn’t too happy. Her response:

“You idiot!”

I was a bit stunned, but I picked up my pen and moved over a piece of paper:

“Ma’am, are you affiliated with Loyola at all, because I’d like your name.”

She shuffled off quick enough. Ironically, I got a compliment from another Loyola fan.

I guess its true: you can’t please all of the people all of the time, though you can be assured of peeving off someone every time.


Happiness is a Warm Danish

February 18, 2008

In December, 2007, there was a compilation of studies that look at happiness on an international level.  Surprisingly, after 16 years of Clinton and Bush, Jr, the U.S. was ranked fairly low.  Denmark, it turns out, is the happiest place on Earth!

The question is, why Denmark?   Why does this tiny little peninsula hanging off of Germany get off stealing Walt Disney World’s motto?

One of the conclusions of the study can be summed up as:  Danes don’t try to do too much.  Once particular cited issue was explained as such:

American women tended to score, on average, lower than the rest of the world when it came to ranking “loves spending time with their children”.  Follow up questions showed this isn’t because American women love their children less.  Rather, over the last 40 years, more and more women have more and more on their minds …. and thus even when they are playing with their kids, other things are intruding.  Apparently, this is not the case in a large part of the world.

A Danish sociologist, explained it another way:  he said that it was surprising to see Denmark ranked so high, because Danes tend to be more of a “loner” group than southern Europeans.  He says Dane complain all of the time.  He did say, however, that Danes tend to get very excited about the slightest accomplishments.  For example, the study cited a 1992 soccer match which was a major upset of some sort, won by the Danish National Team.  The study cited that the nation has not quite been the same since.

The end product of the study was:  the higher the expectations you set, the less likely you are to be happy.  Danes, as the sociologist admitted, have significantly lower expectations than many other nations.

I don’t know how much of this is true, but if happiness means lower expectations, I can do with a little less happiness.   

Farewell, gram!

February 8, 2008

The last two days have been extremely busy …. First off, even though I was out of the coaching business, I did take on hosting the annual Sectional Seeding meeting.  Of course, it got snowed out on Wednesday, and could not be rescheduled for Thursday (in addition to me not being there, all of the other coaches in the district were competing for our district cup.  The alternative was:  I needed to seed.  Of course, when I did it, I made a mistake ….. I tried to correct it, and found, after the fact, that I had made another mistake.  Not the fan mail I wanted to come home to today.    The wake was …. a wake ……. lots of relatives from the far-flung parts of the country were there …..  even some from closer that I never get to see.   The undertakers did a nice job and gram.  She looked terrible when I saw her Sunday, but she looked very serene and (dare I say) younger.  I spent a lot of time meeting relatives and old family friends as is pretty standard.    This morning, I was a pallbearer, so I was with my brother and sister, and several cousins who were also serving.  My uncle read his eulogy before leaving the funeral home, as the mass only permitted him a short time.  His eulogy was very reminiscent of the past, and recalled his mother’s strength when she had to deal with poverty and with a husband who was not always in control of himself …. mostly it recalled her laughter, her cooking, her love of having a good time.       Aunt Jean broke down a bit as she paid her final respects. The mass was fairly sterile I’m sorry to say.  Surprisingly, at the cemetery, she was quite strong.  I think by that time there was a certain inevitability to the events of the past week.   Lunch was nice ….. got to see the cousins for a bit longer (some I haven’t seen in close to ten years!)    I think the big thing now is to try and get Aunt Jean and dad to get over their loss.  Grams death hit them both the worst.  I am hoping that they can. 

Mary K. Egan (1917-2008)

February 4, 2008

The earliest memory of grandma is her and grandpa taking me to Comiskey Park for the first time.  Grandpa drove, and I was in the back seat.  She kept telling me to look for the lights, because that would be the first thing you would see as we drove up the Dan Ryan toward 35th Street.  Sure enough, there it was, big as life!

She was a witness to an interesting slice of history.  When she was born, the idea of women voting was wholly new.  She never did miss an election, and often harped on me for not making voting a priority.  When she was of age to go to college, there were far fewer opportunities for women, not that the family cuold have afforded it.  She married young, and started a family, and learned the skills that a lot of women learned: typing and filing.  I have often felt that this was the biggest crime.  She was a very bright woman, and I think would have excelled in a college setting.  While she often said that she had no regrets about her life, I often thought she was born a generation or two too soon.  She never rally acted like an old person.

No one could cook like grandma … except maybe my mom … until I learned that my mom learned a lot of her cooking from grandma.  She made some of the best pancakes and ribs (not at the same time) as I’ve ever tasted (Mrs. Vasilj’s ribs were the only ribs that ever made it close).

I remember visiting grandma at work … Arrowhead School in Palos where she worked for many years as the principal’s secretary.  The school is closed now … a park district property, but she stayed in touch with many of the teachers and the principal there.  I learned a very important lesson:  school secretaries are the single most important people in the building:  bar none.  Custodians are a close second, but the secretaries run the place.  For a future teacher, it is an important lesson.

Of course I am sad that she is gone.    In reality she has been gone for several months.  The last time I communicated with her she undoubtedly had no recollection of who I was, though she acted like it.  That was about three weeks ago.  On Saturday, I was contacted by mom, and told that the nursing staff had given her very little time.  I saw her yesterday.  She was comatose and feverish, breathing in gasps from the diaphragm.  The body continued, but undoubtedly anything that really made her grandma was long gone.  I could not help but think of the irony:  her husband, my grandfather was on his way to work, took a drink of coffee, and never stopped falling backwards as he died from a massive heart attack.  Grandma’s death was the opposite:  prolonged and slow.  Grandpa got the better end of that bargain.

My worry now is for my Aunt who has never really lived apart from her, and my father, both of whom have been dealing with this rather roughly.

Several years ago, she started cleaning things out and giving things away to people whom she felt would appreciate the gifts.  There were two such gifts that I got.  One was a baseball autographed by Bill Veeck.  It had been one of my grandfather’s prized posessions, and if I may sound conceited, there is no one she could have given that ball to for safer keeping, as it is the pride of my small collection.  The other was a book “Dirty Harry” ….. which she would read to me countless times as a kid (this is the story about a dog who constantly gets dirty, not a San Francisco cop toting a 44-magnum).  She signed it to me with love, from grandma.  I will soon be passing that on to Scott and Patti to read to their little Madleine Maeve, though I think in the coming days I will sit down and read it one more time.

I will be taking the day of the funeral off, but will work through the day of the wake.  I asked my parents if there was a need to have me down there so early, and they agreed that there was really no reason.

As always, I appreciate the kind words of support


February 3, 2008

I am stopping at school (computer in ths shop ….AGAIN!) to check a few things and get som paperwork in order … busy week up and coming.

I am going to visit grandma for the last time.  The nurse, on Saturday, reported that she likely had 24-48 hours.  She has a fever now as infection has set in.  She is no longer on any medication except pain killers, and has been in (at least) a comatose like state for the last few days.  My dad’s brother (Uncle Moose for those who know) is flying in today, and is renting a car, which tells me that he will not be leaving until after a funeral.