Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Tribute To My Friend




Some people you meet early in life and the connection lasts forever. You may grow apart or go in completely different directions, but your common roots are a tie that binds. These are your life long friends. Others that you meet along the way will come and go. Your relationship with these folks will only endure if a) you maintain some sort of common ground, or b) you have a genuine affection for one another. I first met Howard Rappaport 7 years ago and while he started out in the former category, he quickly moved into the latter. Our initial common ground was little league baseball. I was coaching my son’s team (Howard’s older son was also on my team) and Howard was coaching his younger son’s team. He had heard a rumor about me firing my team mom (true story) and just had to meet me. We met for the first time over a beer and became fast friends. I don’t think making friends came all that easily to Howard. I liken him to a high end blue cheese. Not for everyone, but for those who appreciated him he was a real treat. Howard was never shy to speak his mind, he was frequently (and hilariously) inappropriate, and above all else he had a heart of gold. In other words, he had layers. I’ve never met anyone as passionate about little league baseball as Howard, and his passion was infectious. I regularly signed up to umpire his games because a) it was highly entertaining, and b) I truly enjoyed watching him interact with the boys. He may have used foul language and crude analogies to get his points across, but I guarantee every player he ever coached will always remember Coach Howard fondly. He cared deeply about each of his players (which was evident) and figured out creative ways to get the most out of them. He may not have even known it at the time, but the lessons he taught those boys transcended baseball. He wasn’t just making them better baseball players, he was making them better people.

As I got to know Howard better I appreciated him even more. We took a few ski trips together along with our boys. Howard was easily the best skier I’ve ever been on a mountain with and his favorite destination was Mammoth. Truth be told we did very little skiing together. We would ride up the chair lift together and then I wouldn’t see him again until I reached the bottom. He probably spent more time on those trips waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain than he did actually skiing :). That dude was a bullet on the slopes. And the way he charged down the mountain was also the way he approached life. Howard was deceivingly intelligent and also a very accomplished business man. He was a proud USC alumni and an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. What he was most proud of however were his 3 children: Ben, Sam, and Audrey. He would always light up when he spoke about his kids. Howard and I had many a great conversation, usually over cocktails. We would talk about baseball of course, financial matters, and things we both hoped to accomplish in the future. We also shared a love for writing. And Howard was a big quote guy. What follows is a list of life advice he recently wrote to his sons in a letter. His younger son, Sam, read this list at the service. As he read through the note I could hear Howard’s voice in my head saying the words. Lots of good “Howardisms” in this list:

1. Always be a gentleman. Open doors for ladies, let them out of the elevator first, chivalry is not dead and will go a long way.

2. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. You will never offend anyone by overdressing. Clothes make the man in business.

3. Don’t buy cheap shoes, OR a cheap watch… they can ruin a $2000 suit.

4. Men only need a few close friends in life, not a giant circle. These are your “ride or die homies” and will be with you forever. But you will be able to depend on them for anything and vice-versa, like my guys who showed up when I was in the hospital.

5. Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life. Memories and family are much more important than stuff.

6. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Absorb the bumps in the ocean and learn how to navigate the difficulties life may throw at you.

7. A lion will never lose sleep over the opinion of sheep. You are a lion, who gives a fuck what anybody else thinks, do your own thing and wear your mistakes as a badge of honor.

8. Always accelerate at the apex!!! Live your life going hard into the corners and push the envelope.

9. PISS EXCELLENCE!!

10. Try to marry a girl like your mom. There is no better person on the planet than her. If you can find someone smart, funny and caring you will be a happy man. I fucked that one up, don’t make the same mistake.

11. Great Minds Discuss Ideas, Average Minds Discuss Events, Small Minds Discuss People. Stay in yo lane and don’t worry about what other people think, say or do.

12. When possible… PAY IT FORWARD. You have been afforded many blessings, share with those less fortunate.

13. Do whatever you want in life, but be the fucking best at it. Find your passion and make it your life’s work.

14. 97% of the people who quit too soon… are employed by the 3% who NEVER GAVE UP.

15. Lastly… DON’T LET SOMEONE WHO HAS DONE NOTHING, TELL YOU HOW TO DO ANYTHING.

As you can probably tell from the list Howard was one of a kind. He unexpectedly passed away on October 26, 2017. He was just 50 years old. Sometimes the lights that shine brightest burn out too soon. RIP my friend. You will be missed…

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Los Angeles Chargers? Just wrong…



I always like to give myself a few days to process bad news. It helps give me clarity before lashing out at the masses. The Chargers officially announced their relocation to Los Angeles on January 12 (6 days ago). I’ve now been through the various stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, disbelief, sadness, apathy… and I think I’ve finally turned the corner. It was a good 56 year run in San Diego. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And with that the Chargers are back in LA where it all started (albeit for just 1 year). I understand that the NFL is a business, I really do. But the Chargers were literally part of the fabric of this community, not to mention the historical value of their presence in San Diego over the past 6 decades. They’ve been an admittedly shitty franchise, but at least they were OUR shitty franchise. So how did things go so wrong to where we ended up here? It’s easy to point blame at the owners. And trust me, I’ll be the first one to say that Dean Spanos is a greedy piece of shit. But in reality there’s plenty of blame to go around. The City of San Diego clearly over-played their hand. Having an NFL franchise is a privilege, not a right, and they clearly lost sight of this somewhere along the line. And how about the NFL and the other 31 owners who let this happen? Two teams in a market with no teams for the past 20+ years. How does that even begin to make sense?

As an OG Charger fan from way back in the Air Coryell days, I’ve had a bunch of people text and call asking about my thoughts on the Chargers move to LA. Will I simply write them off and say the NFL is now dead to me? Burn all of my Chargers gear and turn the page? Unfortunately, it’s not that cut and dry. In a strange way the Chargers are a part of me. I grew up in the 70’s watching games with my Dad. Those were special times (both on and off the field). As we go through the various stages of adolescence, we sometimes struggle to find common ground with our parents. But through thick and thin, my Dad and I always had the Chargers. Now my teenage son and I go to games together and it’s all come full circle. My emotional ties to this team run deep, no matter where they call home. So yes, the Chargers are still my team (but w/ a few caveats). I won’t wear any gear that says Los Angeles or buy anything that has that shitty new logo on it. I will pretty much refuse to acknowledge any association with LA whatsoever. But I will still go to games in my Seau & LT jerseys, and cheer on my team win or lose. Philip Rivers is still under center after all. And he’ll still be throwing touchdown passes to Antonio Gates & Keenan Allen. And we’ll still have one of the best, young up-and-coming defenses in football w/ players like Jason Verrett, Casey Heyward, and Joey Bosa. And the ultimate silver lining? The games at the StubHub Center are going to be awesome. Only 30K seats and the stands are right on top of the field. It will be a unique, intimate football watching experience like not other. Look, I can’t not be excited for Sundays. It’s all I know, all I’ve ever known. And if I have to make a small contribution to the Dean Spanos asshole foundation to do it? So be it.

And here’s my ultimate prediction, which is as much a hope as it is a prediction. The Chargers will get little to no fan support in Los Angeles. LA doesn’t want the Chargers any more than San Diego wanted to give them up. After they fail in LA (and we all know they will), Spanos will be forced to sell the team to a real owner who will then bring them back to San Diego where they belong. It happened with the Rams, so why not the Chargers? Until then go ___ ________ Chargers! Did I mention I refuse to acknowledge the temporary address change? Orange County is now home for me. The only real change is having to drive an hour north for the games instead of an hour south. That’s a zero sum game in my book. Glass half full…