What they don’t tell you about sports

Sports are good for you! They keep you healthy and active!

I have heard and adhered to that mantra my entire life. I don’t remember learning to swim. I started ice skating at five and skiing at eight. When I was 24, I started officiating sports and called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games, an avocation I practiced for 40 years. When I was 30, I got my first health club membership and I’ve had one ever since. I’ve lifted weights, utilized aerobics equipment, practiced yoga, and been a regular lap swimmer for 35 years. I’m a scuba diver.

I will admit here, I have always been rather smug about working out, mentally tut-tutting those who eschewed exercise. But it seems they have had the last laugh.

You see, I turned 65 last year, right about the time the pandemic hit. Then, my health club shut down, after which I physically fell apart. One day my legs started to hurt for no apparent reason, so I limped off to the doctor.

“See here?” he said, pointing at myriad splotches on my MRI. “Your hamstrings look like old, twisted celery.”

“See here?” The doctor said pointing at an MRI of my damaged hamstrings. But to me it looked like a Rorschach test.

While I did look, all I could see was something resembling a Rorschach test. Still, I took his word for it, which is how I happened to be face down on an examination table with my pants at my knees.

“Um…should I take off my underwear?” I knew where they needed to stick those big needles that were now filled with my very own platelets that had been spun from the blood they’d just sucked out of my arm.

“Well…I think we can work around it,” an assistant said. At which point he bunched up my underwear and gave me a wedgie.

“I’m so sorry,” the doctor said.

I wondered what he meant. Was he sorry I might be embarrassed that my mostly bare bottom was exposed to them or was he sorry to be gazing at a 65-year-old bum? “We’re all professionals here,” I muttered.

The platelets would have to be injected into the spot where my hamstrings were attached. I felt the cold needle tickle my butt. Then, I screamed. All thoughts of me as a tough girl vanished in an instant. The call for fentanyl did nothing. I yelped again as the assistant wiggled the needle about. Someone shoved a squishy football into my hand. I wanted to hit her in the head with it.

“Almost done,” the doctor chirped pleasantly.

“OW…OW…OW!”

“Okay! We’re finished”

I  relaxed despite the burning in my butt.

“Now…let’s do the other one.”

As I continued to scream, I was struck by a thought. If I was a captured a spy, I would have told them anything they wanted to know. State secrets? No problem. The names of my spy friends? Fine. Where to find my children? Probably.

When it was over, I was helped from the table. I felt like two softballs had been lodged in my bottom. I was deposited in a chair, where I squirmed so much the doctor called for more fentanyl.

“The pain will get worse before it gets better,” he said in a cheery tone. “It may take several weeks to feel better.”

I wished I had some James Bondish-type weapon on hand to stick him in the eye.

Again, I couldn’t tell what the doctor was looking at, but when he said I needed rotator cuff surgery again, I thought I might cry.

A short time later, I faced another MRI in a different office. The doctor pointed at the image of my shoulder. “See here?”

I did not, but I let it slide.

“Your rotator cuff is torn.”

“No, wait! I had rotator cuff surgery six years ago on that shoulder. Shouldn’t I have a life-time warranty?” I remembered the operation and the miserable, eight-months rehab and wanted to weep.

Next week, the surgeon will be plying his trade inside my shoulder. And let’s not forget my knees that are annually pumped full of a strange Jello-like substance so I can walk and my arthritic spine that boasts an old fracture and two bulging disks. Is it any wonder that my physical therapist recently discussed putting my name on a parking space at the rehab clinic?

The point, of course, is that most of my medical issues have been caused by sports. Falls on the ice. Twenty-plus years of crouching behind home plate as an umpire where errant foul balls made me feel like a piñata. Repetitive-motion injuries from lap swimming. Four decades of football officiating where players periodically ran me over on their way to the endzone.

Sports are good for me? Apparently, I’ve been misled. And yet, given a second chance, I would do it all again.

That said, I’ll now work on getting better acquainted with my couch.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Kissing: A Brief History

With Valentine’s Day approaching, many of us are filled with thoughts a of romantic love. Kissing is the natural next step, which had me wondering recently where the meeting of lips as a form of romantic expression began.

Some believe that kissing evolved from mothers chewing their food and feeding their babies from their lips, much as birds do. Um…that is if birds had lips.

Many believe the origination of kissing developed from a wholly unromantic source. It seems that in many ancient cultures, mothers, by necessity, chewed their food and then transferred the mashed bits directly into their babies mouths, much as mother birds do today. Historically, Mommy as food processor was a necessity, as one couldn’t just hop down to the local supermarket to pick up a case of baby peas and carrots.

The leap however to romantic kissing remains a tad vague. Originally, folks went around kissing hands and cheeks in a show of respect or fealty. The Romans, especially, were big kissers, though they had rules on how and when you kissed certain people.

Somewhere around the second century, the Kama Sutra was complied. The Indian text, that was the precursor to the best-selling, 1969 book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, has an entire chapter—that would be Chapter 3, if you’re interested—on kissing. And it’s illustrated, just in case the verbiage confuses you.

Romeo and Juliet were rather fond of kissing, though things didn’t work out so well for them.

Romantic kissing had been around for a while when, near the end of the 16th century, Shakespeare penned what is arguable the greatest love story of all time, the tale of the doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet. “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand. To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss,” said poor Romeo. We all know how that turned out, though the demise of the young lovers didn’t seem to dissuade others from smooching their hearts out.

While romance novels can be traced back to ancient Greece, the genre as we know it today appeared in the 18th and 19th centuries, and anyone who has ever cracked the spine on one of those babies knows that kissing is a big deal. In fact, it’s an actual plot point: the steamier the buildup to the event the better.

Perhaps it would be safer if we got our kissing from romance novels.

It might surprise you to know that there are cultures around the world that completely eschew kissing, mainly pointing out how dirty our mouths are, since they contain between 500 to 1,000 different types of bacteria. Still, for most of us, the pleasurable aspects of kissing override the inherent ewww factor.

Today, kissing is under assault. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic courtesy of Covid-19, so we are tasked with holding others at arm’s length. Social distancing is keeping our lips seriously separated, and we can’t work up much kissing action from six feet away.

Perhaps, when the virus has run its course, we can return to the lip locks of yore. In the meantime, can anyone recommend a good romance novel?

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A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

The Ken Doll and the Helicopter

I’ve been a rock collector all my life, which sometimes gets me into predicaments.

As I’ve often mentioned, I’m a rock collector. Have been my entire life. Somewhere there is a picture of me as a toddler putting rocks in a cup, so perhaps my predilection is genetic. I mention this now, because sometimes rock-collecting trips go astray, as anyone who has ever ventured outside the confines of civilization knows.  One trip I took with my friend Alice went a bit off target.

Alice, who was in her mid 8os at the time, had us driving off-road trying to locate a mine. Arizona is awash in abandoned mine sites, with some estimates hitting one-hundred thousand, and neither Alice nor I could imagine anything more enticing than mucking about in old tailings piles in search of rock treasures. I will admit here that often we didn’t locate the sites we were looking for, but that’s part of rocking. Sometimes you find rocks, sometimes you don’t.

Alice and I were scanning the desert looking for our target when the truck stopped abruptly. I gunned the engine, but we went nowhere, except deeper into what had been an invisible sand trap. We’d broken through the rocky top layer of the desert floor and were now stuck.

We looked at one another, then got out to survey the situation. After trying several options and not succeeding, Alice squinted at the truck. “I don’t think we’re going anywhere,” she said.

I bet some of you are thinking, “Well, gosh, just grab your trusty cellphone,” but like many wilderness areas, there was no signal when Alice gave the obvious a try.

“Maybe, I can get a signal if I hike out to the road,” I suggested.

Alice handed me her phone and then retrieved one of the folding chairs from the back of the pickup. She placed it in the meager shad of a scraggly mesquite tree and nibbled on some trail mix, as I shoved off to find some bars.

Alice was my best rocking friend. We headed out into the desert whenever we could to search for pretty specimens. I miss her everyday.

I traveled on a faint trail, glad it was not the season when the desert is blistering hot, when the sun will melt the skin from your body, not to mention kill you in a frighteningly short amount of time. The walk was easy, so I wasn’t concerned.

Finally, I got a signal. I briefly considered summoning AAA, but from experience I knew their tow trucks would not venture off a paved road, so I called the sheriff’s office.

“What is your emergency?” the operator asked.

“Oh, no emergency,” I explained. “We got stuck in a sand trap.”

“And who is with you?”

“My friend is back with the truck. I hiked out to the road to get a cellphone signal.” Then, for no apparent reason, I mentioned Alice was 85.

“Where are you?”

I backtracked over our course and did my best to explain.

“Stay by the road.”

I assured her I would.

As I waited, I wondered around checking the ground, because one never knows when a nice rock might appear. Let me mention here that I wasn’t the least bit worried about Alice. She was one of the toughest people I’ve ever known. She could take care of herself.

So, imagine my surprise when a helicopter came into view. I could see it was looking for something. The aircraft seemed to be flying on a grid. And it kept getting closer. I couldn’t have been more stunned than when it touched down about fifty yards away in a great whipped-up cloud of dust.

I had the sudden urge to flee, quickly realizing that there’d been a bit of an overreaction. Then, out of that swirl of dust, a man appeared. A living, breathing Ken doll clad in the cutest flyboy jumpsuit I’d ever seen.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my first thought was my hair, which was sweatily squashed beneath my ball cap. He strode toward me, all pretty purpose and determination. He looked concerned. I wanted to hide.

“Where is the elderly woman?” he asked surveying the area.

“She’s back at the truck,” I said, tugging at my dirty shirt. The guy could have been a GQ model.

He nodded, displaying a jawbone that could cut diamonds. “Okay, ma’am—”

I now felt my age and realized no amount of makeup would have made the least bit of difference. I quickly explained that I was sure Alice was fine, still he seemed incredulous.

Then a truck appeared from the direction in which I’d come. Two hunters waved us over and explained that they had happened on my stuck truck and pulled it to safety. I smiled and thanked them.

“And how is the elderly woman?” the Ken doll asked.

I’m glad Alice wasn’t around the hear his question. The hunters answered that she was fine and was sitting in a folding chair awaiting my return. I thanked them and waved as they drove off.

The pilot turned to me. “Is there anything else I can do for you, ma’am?”

I thought of several options, but kept them to myself. Then, I smiled and thanked him for dropping from the sky on my behalf. I watched as he walked back to the helicopter, admiring the view. As he lifted off, I wondered briefly if I would be getting a bill from the county, quickly calculating the cost of mustering the man and his aircraft.

Then, I walked back to retrieve Alice, where the word elderly was never mentioned.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A biker at Burgdorf’s

I knew better, still I clad myself in biker-chick attire.

I spent twenty years teaching in a high school in Phoenix’s inner city. During that time, my students and I had constant battles concerning the dress code. I did understand their frustration. We all, myself included, want to wear what we like and what’s comfortable. But the point of the dress code, I explained, was to prepare students for the fact that in the real world they would often be asked to wear certain clothing to work.

Choruses of, “That’s not fair!” and “I’ll wear what I want!” often drowned me out.

“Look,” I would say. “When I was in television, every time I moved to a new TV station, I was immediately sent to a consultant, where my clothing, hair, makeup, and jewelry were scrutinized. I’d then be informed that my “look” would need to be updated.”

“You could’ve said no,” some child would share.

“And then what do you think might have happen?”

“You be fired?” someone would say.

“Exactly! So, when they asked me to change my look, I did. I never argued or complained.”

However, on one occasion I did protest in a not-so-subtle way. It was when I first got to ESPN in 1990. I’d been hired to anchor SportsCenter, a venue predominately peopled by men, most of whom had no idea what a woman should wear on camera.

ESPN, like all the stations I worked for, insisted that I change my look, so I was off to Burgdorf’s to meet with a consultant.

“You need to go into New York. Your appointment’s at noon tomorrow,” my boss informed me. “You’ll be meeting with some people at Burgdorf’s.”

My ears perked up at the mention of the fabled Fifth Avenue department store known for its high fashion and even higher prices.

The next morning, I surveyed my closet. I knew exactly what to expect at Burgdorf’s. Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, when snooty sales people refused to wait on her and intimated that she should leave because she was not their type of client.

Despite knowing better, I pulled out a pair of black jeans, a black turtleneck and a black leather jacket. Keeping with the theme, I donned a pair of soft black boots. While I did put on black-and-silver earrings, the overall look was that of, well, a biker chick.

Why I did I do this? ESPN was the fourth TV station to hire me as a sportscaster, so perhaps I was just tired of all the fuss. Or maybe it was the memory of the station that insisted I perm my hair. I battled those Shirley Temple-esque corkscrews for months. Or maybe I was just obstinate.

I felt fine on my Amtrak trip into the city and as I walked up Fifth Avenue past all the pretty store windows. But, when I stood before Bergdorf’s, I stopped and considered my appearance.  There was no doubt my sartorial choices were not in Bergdorf’s ballpark. Still, I took a deep breath and entered those hallowed halls. Chandeliers sparkled from above, lighting goods arrayed like artwork in a museum. A hush descended, as if I’d entered a church. Pretty saleswomen spoke softly as they hovered around well-dressed customers.

I stood for a while, unsure of where to go. I thought someone might offer to help me, but no one did. In fact, they didn’t even look at me. Eventually, I located the right floor and approached a saleswoman. “I’m here for an appointment.” The woman scanned me from head to toe, but I don’t recall her speaking.

“I’m from ESPN. I have an appointment.”

“Just a moment.” She walked away, her face blank.

I busied myself looking through a rack of jackets and gasped at the prices.

“You are Anne Montgomery?” A voice behind me sounded incredulous.

“Yes, I am.” I beamed her a smile.

The saleswomen at Bergdorf’s hovered around me like I was Cinderella headed for the ball.

What followed was hours of putting things on and taking things off. The number of saleswomen multiplied over the course of the afternoon. Then, a serious-looking lady approached. “We’ve had a call from ESPN.” (Yes, this was before most people had cellphones.) “There might be a story you have to cover and they want you available for a live shot.”

I felt queasy. My hair was pulled back in a ponytail. I had no makeup with me. And, of course, there was my biker-chick attire.

In an instant, those women were on me. I felt like Cinderella preparing for the ball, only with a host of fairy godmothers. They’d dress me in one outfit, shake their heads, and pick another. Then another, all while I continually checked the clock. No one said when the live shot might be.

Then someone tut-tutted at my hair and a stylist appeared. My silver earrings weren’t right and someone arrived with a handful of jewelry. I recall my nails were atrocious–a constant state with me–but there was no time for a manicure. “If you can hide your hands, do.” Someone suggested.

When they finally spun me around for a look in the mirror, I might have laughed, had a live shot not been looming. I was still brand new to ESPN and I didn’t even know what the story was about. The thought of going live on camera under the circumstances was making me ill.

“Ms. Montgomery.” I turned from the mirror. “Your news director just called. Your live shot has been cancelled.”

I let out a long breath and noticed that all the women looked a bit deflated that their handiwork would not be on broadcast display. As I changed back into my biker gear, they bagged up my purchases. The women all smiled sweetly as a left.

The price tag for my afternoon at Bergdorf’s came to just over five thousand dollars, which today is almost ten grand.

It’s funny, don’t you think, that no one seemed to mind my attire on my way out the door.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

A Star Trek lesson we need to heed

Fifty-five years ago, the original Star Trek TV series was launched. The show survived just three seasons, still that does nothing to diminish the impact the program had. If you don’t believe me, take a look at your cellphone. Then, glance at Captain James T. Kirk as he flips open his communicator. Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise traveled the galaxy in the hope of doing good.

Kirk and his crew were tasked with exploring the universe. The opening voiceover still gives me chills. Space: the final frontier; These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before!

While I was just a kid at the time the series came out, I was enthralled by the situations the Enterprise crew endured. I know what you’re thinking. The show today looks cheesy, with sometimes silly special effects and actors routinely chewing scenery. But back in the mid-1960s it was mesmerizing. And often the stories had deep sociological meaning.

While there are several episodes dealing with planetary pandemics, I will skip those since I, at least, need some rest from that particular subject. Instead, the one that sticks in my head is “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” The story centers around the planet Cheron whose people have been fighting a civil war for 50,000 years. Kirk and his crew attempt to negotiate a peace with two ambassadors who are so embittered by their hatred toward one another that no one on the Enterprise can get through to them.

Commander Spock and Captain Kirk struggled with the prejudice of the people on Cheron who’d been entangled in a race war for 50,000 years.

The ambassadors insist that their people are too different to get along. Finally, Spock—Kirk’s Vulcan second-in-command—points out, “The obvious visual evidence, Commissioner, is that he is of the same breed as yourself.” What Spock is alluding to is the fact that all the people of Cheron are black on one side and white on the other.

I was 14 when this episode aired in 1969. Race riots had plagued the US for several years, including those in Newark, New Jersey, not far from where I lived. The TV images of the anger and destruction were frightening. Though I will admit here that I was raised in a predominately white suburb, I camped every summer with girls of all kinds—black, white, brown. We spent our days together, slept in the same tents every night, and never gave it a second thought. So, the violence I watched on the news was confusing.

Kirk has no idea why the ambassadors of Cheron hate one another. Finally, in exasperation, he looks at them and says, “You’re black on one side and white on the other.”

One man puffs up his chest. “I am black on the right side.”

When I heard that line, something clicked in my brain. I now understood the idiocy of racism. And—don’t laugh—I truly believed that soon everyone would realize the stupidity of demeaning others because of what they looked like. In my misguided innocence, I thought that very soon racism would be relegated to the past and that we would all get along. Cue “Kumbaya”.

Of course, that didn’t happen. Today, at 65, I wonder what went wrong? How did so many people of my generation not get the message?

I’d like to think we can still repair the damage we’ve done to one another, but maybe we can’t. Perhaps, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up like the people of Cheron, who annihilated themselves and destroyed their planet because of their hate. My 14-year-old self found it hard to feel sorry for them. After all, they were the instrument of their own destruction.

We might be too.

Here’s hoping we come to our senses in time.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Children do not have the right to play school sports

A recent vote by the AIA to cancel winter sports had parents and athletes in an uproar.

Recently, the high school sports governing body here in Arizona—the Arizona Interscholastic Association—voted to cancel the winter sports season, a cautionary measure taken due to the alarming prevalence of Covid-19 cases in the state.

The hue and cry were immediate. AIA board members were harassed and threatened, while athletes marched outside the association’s headquarters protesting the decision. Parents pushed back, demanding that their children be allowed to play, saying that the kids had the right to participate in sports.

But that’s not true. As a high school teacher of twenty years, I often had to correct my students in this regard. Sports— as well as all extracurricular activities— are a privilege not a right.

School sports are a privilege not a right.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, understand that I spent forty years of my working life in sports, both as a journalist and an official, where I called football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. (As a disclaimer, note that I worked baseball and football for the AIA.) That said, I agree wholeheartedly that children glean important life skills from participating in sports, like being part of a team, understanding the need to win and lose graciously, and learning how to get up and try again after they’ve been knocked down. I always encouraged my students to participate in sports.

However, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has killed close to 380,000 people in the U.S. alone and almost two million worldwide. Over 90 million people have had the disease, some of whom may have debilitating side effects for the rest of their lives. And the virus shows no hint of waning.

Arizona is currently the worst hot spot in the country. So, when a host of doctors proclaimed that it would be dangerous for school sports to continue at this time, the AIA board made its decision.

“Unfortunately, it is expected that the state will see a continued rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations for some time,” Dr. Kristina Wilson, the chairwoman of the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, said in a recent article in the Arizona Republic. “As medical professionals we cannot in good conscience recommend that students engage in a winter season under the current conditions.”

It was not surprising then that the board members decided against having winter sports, though the 5-4 vote shocked me. With our hospitals verging on full occupancy and infection rates ravaging the populace, I would have expected a 9-0 vote.

Kids are tougher than you think. Disappointment is part of life and, despite what parents are saying, it’s not generally a tragedy.

But what really stunned me was that, following hysterical online bashing and wailing about the terrible damage this decision would do to kids, the board backtracked. A second vote was taken and the winter season was reinstated.

The parents of these athletes should be ashamed, especially those claiming that their children’s mental health is at stake. Kids are tougher than you think. Yes, there will be disappointment, but that’s part of life and dealing with it is a lesson that can’t come too soon. And let’s not forget patience, perseverance, and perspective.

This reminds me of the lyrics to that old Rolling Stones song. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need.” It’s time we imparted that message to our kids, not the one that says you should bully people into submission to get your way.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Officials in the booth? Really, it was all my idea

A long time ago, back when I hoped to earn a paycheck in front of a TV camera, I had what I thought was a moment of brilliance. Why, I opined, wouldn’t TV networks want to hire sports officials and put them in the broadcast booth? The idea seemed like a win-win.

Of course, I was a tad biased. I had taken five years and learned to officiate five sports: football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball. All with the hope that my new-found on-field expertise might wrangle me a job as a sportscaster. While blowing whistles and calling balls and strikes did eventually help me get my foot in the sports journalism world, I never in 15 years as a reporter met any other broadcasters from the officiating ranks.

When I was a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, I suggested it might be a good idea to put former officials in the broadcast booth. My colleagues thought I was crazy.

Fast forward to today, where former officials are now miced up and sharing their thoughts on calls with the viewing public. That makes me want to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and confront my old colleagues at ESPN.

“It would be great,” I explained in the newsroom back in 1990. “You could put officials in the booth and they could explain why certain calls were made.”

Crickets.

“You know, clear up confusion for the viewers.”

My remarks, as I recall, were met by head shakes indicating that I was certainly out of my mind. Who would ever want to listen to sports officials speak? They intimated.

Fast forward thirty years and there they are, with the NFL leading the way. Former officials and now rules analysts Mike Pereira, Dean Blandino, and Terry McAulay, among others. Then there’s Gene Steratore, who along with his 15-year NFL career spent 20 years calling college basketball games and is now an analyst for both sports.

The question is, what took the networks so long? Sports rules are complicated. Don’t believe me? Ask someone to explain what constitutes a catch is in football. Or the reasoning behind and execution of an infield fly in baseball. Or the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Or when icing is waved off in hockey. Or how to tell a charge from a block in basketball. Or what constitutes traveling. Oh, wait. No one calls that anymore.

While fans might better understand their favorite sports by listening to former officials in the booth, maybe they’re happier just arguing about the rules.

Anyway, if you don’t believe me, pick up a rule book. Just read one page. I dare you. Rules and their corresponding diagrams can sometimes look like hieroglyphics with descriptions written by folks from MENSA. So why not hire people who study those books for a living? Then they can dumb down the rules to make them more digestible to the viewing public.

Then again, many fans thrive on controversy and arguing about calls is high on their list of entertaining things to do. Maybe if they actually understood the rules, some of the fun might be drained out of sports fandom.

As a purist, I think it’s better to truly understand the rules, but since I spent four decades as an amateur official, I’m clearly more than a little biased.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Doggy Drama and Kitty Stress

Our obligation to our pet friends is to be there when they need us.

As pet parents, we enjoy the lovely pleasures our four-legged friends bestow upon us. But, of course, it is then our duty to take care of them, which I don’t oppose. However, sometimes, those trips to the vet can be daunting.

One such time involved my blue-eyed cattle dog Bella. A frantic call had me hustling home from school to find my dog with a severely injured leg. When the vet took a look, she shook her head. “I’m sorry. Bella appears to have either ruptured her Achilles tendon or broken her leg.”

Though I hated to ask–lest I seem like a bad mom–I inquired as to the expenses.

“With X-rays and treatment, somewhere between two and three thousand dollars.” The vet appeared apologetic.

I wanted to ask if it might be easier—and cheaper— to amputate Bella’s leg, but I didn’t want the woman to think I was a barbarian. So, I would have to put my dog down, because despite my love for her I had to have a modicum of fiscal responsibility. I started to cry.

Blue-eyed Bella was labeled a drama queen by the vet.

“Let’s take a look.” The vet whisked Bella away while I blubbered.

A short time later, the doctor returned with a strange look on her face. “Well…it appears…”

I braced myself.

“…there is nothing wrong with Bella.”

“What?” I squinted at my dog who appeared to be smiling at me.

“I’d say she’s just a drama queen.”

Then I got the bill, which came in at $603. Drama queen, indeed.

More recently, my cat Morgan began acting strangely on a Sunday afternoon. Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that, more often than not, they get sick on the weekend, when the majority of veterinary clinics are closed. So, the only option is to take one’s sweet beast to the emergency vet, where upon entry one must fork over their first-born child and the proceeds from a 401K.

 Still, pet owners are obligated to stem their pet’s suffering, so off to the emergency clinic we went. Morgan—and I see no way to put this delicately—couldn’t pee, a life-threatening situation.

Morgan, on the left, suffered from kitty stress which sent us to the emergency vet on a Sunday afternoon.

The vet estimated that after treatment and recovery I’d owe two thousand dollars. I blanched. My son looked into my eyes. “I’ll pay half, Mom.”

“Do we have any options?” I asked, trying to figure out how to tell my boy his cat would soon be dispatched to the Rainbow Bridge.

“Well, we could treat Morgan and you could take him home and keep an eye on him. That would be $646.”

I let out a breath. “Done!” I handed over my Mastercard.

When Morgan was safely ensconced in his carrier for the trip home, I asked what had happened. She gave me several possibilities before hitting on the main culprit. “He may have suffered from kitty stress.”

Kitty stress? I mulled that over and eyed the cat. “What, do you have a mortgage payment due? Are you worried about buying groceries? Problems at work?” Morgan stared at me with big gold eyes.

We finally determined that the night a neighbor’s cat bolted in the front door for a brief visit might have been when said kitty stress occurred.

I signed the credit card receipt.

My son smiled. 

The cat, still high on pain meds, purred softly on his fluffy blanket.

My job now is to limit kitty stress. I’m open for suggestions.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb

Requiem for an Umpire

John Lawrence Higgins–1955-2020–has died of Covid-19.

Forty years ago, I made plans to attend umpire school in St. Petersburg, Florida, a strange journey that had me calling balls and strikes alongside 104 men, a time that would change my life in more ways than I could imagine. I went to camp because I wanted to become a better baseball umpire so that I could improve my knowledge of the game and ultimately convince some forward-thinking news director to hire me as a sportscaster. While that is what happened, something else occurred on those dusty fields. I met the man I would marry, though that event occurred seven years later.

Higgs and I married in 1988 seven years after I met him at umpire school.

I mention this now because John Higgins—an irreverent, funny, big-hearted man—has succumbed to Covid-19 at the age of 65. Higgs would insist here that I also point out he could be a royal pain in the ass, still he never failed to help others who needed a hand. He was a lover of animals which always had our home filled with stray dogs and cats that became part of the family and a teller of stories that often had people doubling over in laughter.

Higgs and I married in 1988, despite the fact that his baseball supervisor insisted our union was not a good idea. Higgs, who was a minor league umpire for 12 years and still hoped for a shot at the big leagues, laughed when he was told that baseball didn’t like its people involved with the media. I was a sportscaster in Phoenix at that point. I told him we could put off the wedding, but he refused. Shortly after we married, he received a letter in the mail. He’d been fired. Higgs struggled for a time—baseball was his first love—but then launched himself into a career as a chef, since he loved cooking almost as much as baseball.

It was while working in various restaurants that Higgs found young people to take under his wing. One, a teenager from a home awash in drug addiction, had committed an armed robbery. Still, Higgs brought him home and instead of prison the judge agreed to let him live with us. That boy grew into a chef who is now married to a teacher and is the father of three children. When I later became a foster mom, I realized that Higgs might have started me on that journey.

Despite being fired from baseball following our marriage, Higgs did make it to the big leagues for one game in 1991, when there was an umpire strike. He worked the plate opening day in Toronto.

Higgs and I divorced in 2000. He moved to Mexico, then Florida, so I hadn’t seen him in years, though we communicated regularly through e-mails. We remained friends. And, had he arrived on my doorstep, we would have certainly hugged and celebrated the good times.

While I don’t know what happens when we die, perhaps for Higgs there’s a baseball diamond under a blue sky. Maybe, his old friend John McSherry—the formable Major League umpire who died behind home plate in Cincinnati on opening day in 1996—is there with him. And they’re telling stories. Anyone who had the pleasure of being around the two of them when they were on a roll can attest that they could have been a stand-up comedy team.

Two years ago, I wrote a story about how Higgs and I met. I am posting it again here.

Farewell, my friend.

Play Ball!

UMPIRE SCHOOL: A TWISTED LOVE STORY

I attended Bill Kinnamon’s Umpire School in 1981. Major League Umpire John McSherry–who would die while working home plate in Cincinnati on opening day in 1996–sits in the front row, third from the left. His partner in crime, minor leaguer John Higgins, sits behind him to the right. I’m in the picture, too. See if you can find me.

I entered a tiny office in St. Petersburg, Florida, signed the legal forms, and was escorted to a single-story cottage across the road that fronted the facility. Unlike all but a handful of the 105 students registered for Bill Kinnamon’s Umpire School Class of 1981, I would have my own room, since putting me in the dorm with the guys was obviously out of the question.

I plumped the thin pillow, leaned back on the cot, and scanned the schedule that would direct my life for the next five weeks. Baseball rules classes, on-field clinics, and scrimmages in which students would participate as both umpires and players. My stomach twisted at the thought of anyone seeing me in the field. I’d never played baseball or softball. I could already hear the “She throws like a girl” jeering and wondered if there was any way I could actually avoid having to throw a baseball.

The next morning, we campers lined up in rows. “He’s out!” I called, straightening to my full height, bringing my left arm horizontally across my chest and my right up and bent at the elbow. Both hands were clenched in tight fists. Out calls from scores of wannabe umpires echoed across the dusty field.

“Jee…sus Christ! That was pathetic!” Senior instructor Joe Brinkman grabbed the bill of his cap and slapped it against his leg. “Sound like you mean it!”

Furtively eyeing one another, we campers bent over again, hands splayed just above our knees. We stared at imaginary bases, pretending the runner and throw were arriving almost simultaneously. “He’s out!” I joined the others; glad I didn’t have a high voice. I might have been able to blend in, had it not been for the long, auburn ponytail. Cutting my hair short might have been prudent.

Major League Umpire John McSherry, 375 pounds, walked unsteadily through the lines of aspiring umpires, saying nothing, looking decidedly uncomfortable: the result, we would learn, of some especially painful dental work and a night of bubbly self-medication.

“He’s out! He’s out! He’s out!” We screamed over and over, working on our posture and intonation. McSherry wiped a hand across his face: the February Florida heat causing spots of perspiration on his red cheeks. As I bent down in preparation for another out call, he passed by without even a glance.

It was not until later that night, when my name was announced during dinner, that McSherry sat up and stared. “Anne? Anne? There’s a girl here? You’re kidding me?” He turned to the Minor League instructor who stood by his side. John Higgins pointed me out. McSherry looked over and waved his hand in the air as if the whole idea was simply too ridiculous to consider.

The days were grueling: long and hot, on the field and in the classroom. One of the tenants of umpire school was that all campers should have an equal opportunity to be treated badly. The logic being that umpires will, by nature, be victims of disdain when working games, and if you can’t handle the abuse in school, you will never survive on the field. With this in mind, campers were sometimes picked to perform certain special tasks. My big moment came one beautiful sunny day.

“Butler!” McSherry called out, making sure my fellow fledgling umpires heard. “Bring the balls up to field two for this afternoon’s drills.”

“Yes, sir!” I said, chin up in my best imitation of an Army recruit.

I’d watched him berate campers, throwing his hat, tramping around the dusty diamond like a bull with hemorrhoids. He’d go nose to nose with these grown men and they would shrivel. In fact, 12 campers would simply grab their gear and quit, walking away rather than endure the punishment.

Fifteen minutes prior to the afternoon drill session, I arrived at the door where the equipment was stored. Higgins, who everyone called Higgs and who seemed to be McSherry’s Sancho Panza, smiled as he leaned up against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

“I’m here to get the balls for field two,” I said. Higgs was cute with bright blue eyes.

“Don’t worry about it.” He smiled. “They’re already on the field.”

“Really? But John insisted that I bring them up.”

“Nope. You’re good.”

I was one of the first people at the field, so I waited and watched as the group assembled, the last few stragglers running full speed up the dirt road, because being late was never, ever acceptable.

“OK, we’ll be doing first base drills,” McSherry said. “It’s about listening to the ball hit the glove and seeing the foot on the bag. Listen and look. That’s what you’re going to do. Got it?”

“Yes, sir!” the group called out as one.

Then McSherry paused rather dramatically. “Who’s got the balls?” Silence.
“Who’s got the balls?” he yelled louder. “Who was supposed to … Butler! Where are the balls?”


“I … I went to get them and Higgs …”

“Where are the fucking balls?”

I stared at Higgs. He avoided my gaze.

McSherry squinted at me. “Get ‘em, Butler! And while you’re gone, your friends here will run laps around the field.”

My eyes grew wide.

“Start now, gentlemen! Run! Run!

I bolted across the field and down the hill faster than I’d ever moved in my life. But I didn’t get away quickly enough to avoid hearing the curses that were being hurled my way by my fellow campers.

When umpire school finally came to an end after five long weeks, it was strangely hard to leave. It was as if we all suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, where we had learned to love our captors and wished to emulate them.

Like most of the other campers, I flirted with those professional baseball dreams, even though a job would have meant life in the low minors, shuffling from tiny town to tiny town, little pay, low budget motels, and the built-in cruelties umpires endure daily.

When it came to picking the campers who would be recommended for that life, most of the school staff members decided it would not be a good idea to send a woman up the line. It was 1981, after all. It’s interesting, and came as a bit of a surprise, that I had a friend in John McSherry. I would find out years later that he was the only one who rated me in the top 15. But with most of the other staffers positioning me much lower on the list, my eventual ranking was 32. The top 30 candidates were certified for duty in Minor League instructional camps. I was told that McSherry thought I had good officiating instincts.

Did I deserve a job? Probably not. About ten days into camp, I injured a hamstring, which limited my mobility. And, in all honesty, I have always been a horrible runner, which just about anyone who’s ever officiated with me can attest. Apparently, one day my awkward stride caused McSherry to growl. “Jesus Christ, Higgs! She runs worse than I do!”

How do I know this? Five years after I attended umpire school, I ran into John Higgins. Then, I married him and John McSherry was there at our wedding to celebrate.

Look out Covid–books to the rescue!

The world remains in the grip of a pandemic and we need a way back to life as we knew it.

Those of us on planet Earth are trying to negotiate our way through a world-wide pandemic. The novel corona virus Covid-19 has us all is various states of lockdown with no idea when we might get back to some semblance of normalcy.

Our current situation made me think of my mother who at 95 has been mostly stuck in her independent-living apartment in Colorado for nine months, with no access to the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren she moved there to spend time with.

Note here that my mom is different than many women of her generation. She left home at 18 to work for the war effort at Maryland Drydock where, she is quick to point out, she did a man’s job, but never earned the same pay. She has a college degree from Penn State University that she earned in 1948. Just under five percent of women had completed a four-year degree back then, so it was no surprise that my mom was a bit of a freak. Before she married and had three kids, she was a radio reporter in Washington, Pennsylvania, this despite the fact that she was initially told “girls shouldn’t cover the news.” Later, she was a reporter at the Grand Rapids Herald in Michigan and she wrote a series of historical fiction novels. In fact, she was the only woman in our neighborhood who held a job when I was a kid, a situation that had other women staring at her with suspicion.

I first realized my mom was rather atypical the day she marched into our local bank with her paycheck in hand. “I’d like to open a checking account,” she told the teller.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, you need your husband’s permission to have a bank account.”

Um…when the dust settled, my mother had her bank account and my father’s signature was nowhere on the application.

During World War II, people pulled together and supported the war effort, many growing their own food in victory gardens.

While our current situation is difficult, my mother is quick to point out that she’s lived through a lot of tough times, including the Depression and World War II, which made me consider her thoughts on global crises.

“I have to say that people did try,” she said of the civilian populace during World War II. “There were drives for tin for the war effort. Everything was rationed: gas, meat, sugar, flour, tires. You were careful with whatever you had, [because] companies…just switched from making personal products to products for the war effort. We had a victory garden in the back yard. Everybody did it. It was patriotic to do these things.”

While World War II was a terrible time, my mom thinks our current pandemic is more difficult to deal with.

“The virus is everywhere. We can’t see it,” she said. “The virus is indiscriminate. I honestly think this is worse. The psychology is worse, because we’re losing communication with other people.”

My mom is trying to do better about connecting. The grandchildren just bought her an iPad so she can facetime with the great-grandchildren. And while she rarely leaves her apartment and struggles with the sameness of every day, she is managing.

My mom moved to Colorado to be near her great grandchildren, but Covid has shut down their visits.

“I have thought through every crisis I’ve had to live to with,” she said. “It all depends on your ability to not fall into depression.”

Which requires finding meaningful things to do.

“Every morning I read the paper and I watch the news,” she said. “I always read books and that’s been a tremendous help. The only thing you can do is get out of yourself. Books help you do that.”

I don’t know when I’ll see my mother again. Plans for her 95th birthday were scuttled over the summer. Though mom is a pragmatic sort, not the least bit sentimental.

“I’ve lived my life,” she said when I asked if she’s nervous about getting the new vaccine. “What in the hell am I saving myself for?”

Knowing the battles my mother has waged, I think the Covid virus might have quite a fight with her. I doubt the little bug is willing to take the chance.

A WOMAN FLEES AN ABUSIVE HUSBAND

AND FINDS HOPE IN THE WILDS OF THE ARIZONA DESERT.

Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint

Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.

Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.

Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?

Order your copy here: http://mybook.to/wildhorsespb