I wrote this for the girls I coached this weekend. People seem to like it, so I’m putting it here too. The people involved here are wonderful people. All of them. I thank specifically Gilbert Gutierez, Ana Estrada and Gabby Sanchez. I’m lucky to know you and the girls are lucky to have you.
I want to congratulate the District 9 Big League girls for their third straight trip to the Little League World Series. It is an impressive feat by some good hard-working girls and some excellent coaches.
I also, however, want to congratulate the District 18 girls I had the honor to coach in the Southeast U.S. Regional. These 15 girls are not travel-ballers, not college players and not a 365 day a year team. They are not, like the others, the dozen best selected from a pool of 100.
What they are is what I have heard called “real” Little Leaguers. They love to play softball. When Lehigh Acres Little League and Fort Myers Beach Little League are playing they are on the field. They are good kids and hard workers like their more accomplished (softball-wise) counterparts.
The team Lehigh and The Beach put together to play in the tournament was 10 girls from Lehi and 5 from The Beach. There were no tryouts. Those who wanted to play played. There were no girls sitting at home wishing they could be part of the team. No one was cut.
I have always been proud of the inclusive nature of Beach Little League – my league. We are a teeny tiny league with annually only around 100 players – total – between the ages of 4 and 18.
That puts us in a difficult position when it comes time for Little League’s post-season All Stars. We fielded a 9&10 year-old softball All Star team this season because we luckily had enough girls that age to create a team. They played in the District 18 tournament. They did not win.
I am nonetheless proud of them. I am proud of their hard work and their positive attitudes. I am proud of their coaches, who knew the odds going in. I am proud of the league itself, which invests time and money to get kids on the field and afford them the benefits that team sports provides.
Lehigh Little League, though much larger than The Beach, is the same. It is hard-working volunteers and good kids. It is coaches surrendering huge chunks of work time they can ill afford so that kids who are not their own can have experiences they believe make them better people. It is parents who cart kids to practices and games at the end of long work days, and who surrender huge chunks of their own time. It is board members, district officials and umpires who spend countless hours on the agonizing behind-the-scenes tasks that allow kids and coaches to take the field.
What it is is ‘real’ Little League.
I am rooting for the District 9 girls. They are good kids who work hard and who make consistent sacrifices to be part of something special. And I thank their coaches. They are fine people surrendering huge chunks of their time to make good things happen for kids.
So are ours.
For the record our District 18 girls played four games. They lost them all. That doesn’t make them losers. They are winners. I’m not sure about Lehigh, but I know no other Beach Little League team has ever played in the Southeastern U.S. Regional.
Be proud of them. I am.
I know someone who’s way more Mom than most. In fact I’m married to her.
Way back in time – long enough ago so I don’t remember specifically when – my Debbie started taking care of kids. Lots of kids. Our friends’ kids. Kids from church. Kids from school. Kids from Little League. Kids.
There’s a cadre of kids – not all of them are kids any more – who have been lucky enough to have spent sizeable percentages of their childhoods in the company of my Debbie. She’s changed more diapers than a maternity nurse and wiped more tears than a mortician.
And it’s not just that she loves kids – which she does. If you have a kid and a job and you see my Debbie with kids you want her taking care of yours when you can’t. Many a parent has worked many a full day confident that their kids were in the very best of hands – my Debbie’s. They were at the library or at the park or at the church or at some other wholesome event she’d somehow found somewhere, but they were with Debbie.
We have four of our own, (one of ‘mine’ who’s always been hers too and three of ‘ours’) so our home has always been full. It’s even more so now, with Debbie nanny-ing for two lucky families and our daughter now carrying on Mom’s tradition. I believe either of Debbie’s current families would be thrilled to build a spare room and have her move in. They can’t have her. We need her here. I need her here.
Thank you Debbie for the full house. Thank you from all of ‘your’ kids over all of the years. Thank you from the many parents who could comfortably drop them and dash off to work. Thank you from the kids who really are yours, who like their father forget to appreciate.
This is despite the ‘reporting’ of a no less reputable news source than the venerable Co-ed.com, which identified Fort Myers Beach – my home – as the Ninth Trashiest Spring Break Destination.
Now I could spend a few words addressing the trustworthiness of the source of this information. After all my first attempt to access this first-class reporting on this critical issue was blocked because the site was identified as pornographic, but I thought addressing the claim might be more my style.
You see the fact that people come into my community to misbehave does not make my community trashy. Families live at Fort Myers Beach. Children are raised here. Good people live their lives here.
I know. I have raised three kids here. We have well-attended churches. We have an elementary school. We have a town-owned rec center with wonderful children’s programs. We have things Spring Breakers seldom see.
It is true that people misbehave here. Folks come here to enjoy our year-round sunshine and first-class beaches. There are bars here. There is a strip club. There is a beach-front hotel that encourages the kind of activity Co-ed.com relies on.
But I want to try to explain something to the people at Co-ed.com.
When you walk your dog in your neighbor’s yard and refuse to clean up after him it’s not because your neighbor’s yard is trashy. It’s because you are.
People come into my community and behave in ways they would never consider behaving in their own community. They flock here from college towns all over the east and the Midwest. They drink to excess and they fornicate with relative strangers. They do drugs and act foolish and sometimes they get arrested. I assume this is the behavior Co-ed.com defines as trashy.
That does not make my community trashy. That makes them trashy.
So when a couple hundred drunks gathers on the beach for a booty-shaking contest, when they swill too much booze and grope strangers and they are here from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and whichever college town has turned them loose that week, it doesn’t mean we’re trashy.
It means they are
I get that that group of people – sadly a much too small group – is not the same as We the People of southwest Florida. I get that to win an election you have to know who’s going to vote and target them specifically. The ability to do so – or act like you can – has put real money and political clout in some local pockets.
So vote for the tall one. Vote for the woman. Vote for the short one. Vote for the one with glasses.
Judging by the non-debate I was chump enough to watch on my laptop the other day it doesn’t matter.
You see these candidates – or their ‘people’ – understand the electorate. They know that in a special Republican primary election, held in an off month in an off year, perhaps 50,000 people will actually cast ballots. Maybe. Maybe fewer.
They know that there are four candidates on the ballot, and that all four will get at least a few votes.
So. The person who will be our next representative in Congress could get fewer than 15,000 votes.
Don’t laugh. The next guy’s predecessor Trey Radel won the Republican primary in 2012 with 22,284 votes. A panicked party hierarchy, sensing disaster, did everything it could to keep Radel away from Washington, but a 6-way split in a closed primary spat out the candidate who promised most loudly that he hated the current president more than the rest, that showed himself to be the most intransigent, the most vitriolic. That swore that he would personally slay the Obamacare dragon. In short that he was more the conservative caricature than the rest.
That was in a regularly-scheduled Republican primary. An election with other local seats hanging in the balance. In short an election in which voters could reasonably be expected to participate.
Not so this one. This one is a stand-alone scheduled for April 22.
And let us make no mistake about it. This is southwest Florida. Whoever wins the Republican primary will be our next representative. The last time a non-Republican was elected to a county-wide office in Lee County was 1988. Collier is even more Republican and even more conservative. I have nothing against Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, candidates without party, write-ins or anyone else who wants to make the effort, but here they don’t win.
When Radel inevitably spun in national pundits speaking gleefully about one more Florida political joke loved repeating the fact that Radel won with 62 percent of the vote, implying the people of the district were obvious idiots. Rubes.
In so doing they exposed their complete lack of knowledge of southwest Florida’s political landscape. Radel faced a Democrat and an Independent in November, that’s true, and the Democrat was by far the most qualified candidate.
But he was a Democrat. He was doomed.
So when the tall guy, the woman, the short one and the guy with the glasses take turns saying how much they hate Barack Obama and how quickly they will gut the Affordable Care Act, when they preach to the choir against the evils of entitlements and government overreach while railing against medical marijuana and supporting continuing federal flood insurance subsidies (huh?) it comes as no surprise.
They know what plays. They know what those people who are involved enough, excited enough, motivated enough to go to the polls in a closed Republican primary in a weird month in an off year – the electorate, remember? – want to hear. They know that with the vote split four ways they only need to convince 15,000 or so.
It worked for Trey Radel.
Note: Yes, I do know the names of all four of the candidates. I know a heck of a lot more than that about some of them. Most of it I don’t like.
The man national news outlets are calling Florida’s Cocaine Congressman bought an 8-ball (3.5 grams) of cocaine from an undercover cop outside a Washington, D.C. restaurant on October 29. He entered a plea agreement to a misdemeanor possession charge Nov. 20.
Radel has entered rehab in Naples, and has said he intends to keep his seat. His party in the two counties his District 19 represents and at the state level want him gone.
In a statement Terry Miller, chairman of the GOP executive committee in Radel’s home Lee County, said his prayers and best wishes are with Radel and his family.
Miller said the decision rests with Radel, but urged him to resign immediately and said if he does choose to stay in office and seek another term the party will not back him.
“His actions clearly disqualify the pursuit of another term and if he should run for re-election he would not enjoy our support.”
Radel has not answered questions about the frequency of his cocaine use, though official reports say he had bought the drug “several times” from a dealer turned informant. Local prosecutors said he was “routinely using and buying cocaine.”
Radel also told authorities he sometimes shared cocaine with friends, and could have been charged with distribution.
Calls for Radel’s resignation have come from all corners. So far he appears to be digging in, having hired a crisis management public relations firm. He even attended a pricey fundraiser is Naples two days after he was charged.
The southwest Florida Republican hierarchy did not want Trey Radel to be a congressman, fearing the former right-wing radio talk-jock would be an embarrassment in Washington D.C.
I guess they were right.
The southwest Florida campaign trail was a strange place in 2012. I ran for a Lee County commission seat and lost. Radel ran for the District 19 Congressional seat and won. District 19 is most of Lee County and coastal Collier County, so Radel and I were at many of the same events. It was strange time for me because I walked the trail as a candidate, not as a reporter as I had so many times before.
But that wasn’t the only reason.
Radel was one of six Republicans looking to replace Connie Mack, who was moving on to run against Sen. Bill Nelson. Dark horse Joe Davidow was on the ballot, and Naples banker Byron Donalds had his supporters, but the party faithful schooled mostly around former State Representatives Gary Aubuchon and Paige Kreegel and Chauncey Goss, the son of former Congressman and CIA chief Porter Goss.
The wild card was Radel, and he scared the establishment Republicans to death. He had some name recognition, based first on his stint as a reader of TV news and then on his time on local talk radio.
Radel polled consistently at around 30 percent before the election.
Party leaders were afraid that the presence of three mainstream candidates on the primary ballot would split what was expected to be a paltry turnout, leaving Radel to ride the Tea Party vote into the General Election.
Each of the three mainstream candidates, any of whom was far more palatable to the party leadership than Radel, got a visit. Each of them, Aubuchon, Goss and Kreegel, was asked to step aside.
None would blink.
I haven’t gone back to the people who told me the three were approached. I heard the story a lot, and from solid sources. When you’ve spent most of three decades as a reporter people tell you things. I am a registered Republican myself, though I ran without party.
The way they explained it was the Radel voters would be Radel voters regardless. Their belief was Radel couldn’t beat any of the other three face to face, and if any of the three dropped out his supporters would go to one of the other two. The fear was Radel’s Tea Party faithful could carry him through a fractured Primary.
The Primary played out precisely as the party leaders had feared. Only 30-some percent of the district’s GOP voters went to the polls. Radel’s passionate 30 percent came through, as he got 32 percent of the vote. The other 68 percent of District 19 Republicans chose someone else.
If any one of the other major candidates had backed down southwest Florida might have been spared Trey Radel.
What happened next was sad, but predictable. Radel stood against Democrat Jim Roach, a Vietnam vet and retired GM researcher. Roach is intelligent and well-spoken, but not Republican. No non-Republican has won a partisan southwest Florida election since the 1980’s.
The party hierarchy held its collective nose, ignored the pornographic domain names Radel’s company had registered and the phony sites he’d set up to lampoon his opponents and circled the wagons around ‘their’ candidate. Reliably Republican Lee County and even more reliably Republican Collier simply searched out the ‘R’ on the ballot and made their mark. They sent Radel to Washington.
First of all a confession.
I was reading something in USA Today this morning.
No – I didn’t buy the Gannett flyover news. I bought the local rag. A couple months back the local daily added a USA Today section to the paper and doubled the size of its sports section by inserting national coverage from you-know-who. It’s part of the continuing dumbing-down of American newspapers.
But my opinions on USA Today and the current state of local coverage and the news business in general are no secret. I offered them in a commentary (OK diatribe) on “McNews” when the local rag boosted the sheer bulk of its ‘content’ by adding more flyovers – these from USA Today.
But to mangle Shakespeare I am here not to bury the local rag but to praise it.
As bad as flyovers are for coverage of ‘real’ news, they are perfect for sports. In the artificial worlds of the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball (and I assume in other sports I don’t pay much attention to) simply printing box scores and tossing in a few comments about highlights is, in fact, perfect. Context, history, balance, detail, nuance…none of these matter much in sports coverage.
I don’t watch the NBA. I grew up in Kentucky, and basketballs bounce in my brain. I played in high school and in college. I played league and pick-up ball until it became obvious even to me it was time to hang it up. I will spare you all my curmudgeonly reasons for not watching the NBA.
But the other day I was going through the box scores in the USA Today sports section of the local rag. Yes, I’m still a hoops geek. Can’t help myself.
Anyway I was looking at the box for the Toronto Raptors. I noticed right away that there were lots of shots taken by guards and damn few by forwards and centers. And the ‘bigs’ (the taller guys that play closer to the basket, for the uninitiated) made a much higher percentage of their shots.
This is typical for the generation – actually two generations in basketball terms – that learned to play by watching SportsCenter.
But I stray from my point. My point is that flyover coverage is perfect for sports.
So I checked a few Raptor box scores, purely as an academic exercise. I do recognize a name or two on that roster, but not most. What I noticed was a trend: guards shooting 4 for 15 on a regular basis and big men shooting 6 for 8.
This again is not uncommon. A player with the ball in his hands is far more likely to shoot it than one without. The guards bring the ball up and therefore have the ball in their hands far more often than the bigs.
And when the 3 was added the percentages of the game changed. A bad percentage shooter can convince himself he’s a contributor just by making one occasionally.
Again I wander from my point.
I once again was perusing the USA Today sports section in the local rag this morning, and came across a list of weekly NBA power ratings voted on by Gannett’s own panel of NBA geeks.
The Raptors weighed in at 17th among the league’s 30 teams. The comment was “The key bigs shoot better than 50 percent. The key guards shoot under 42 percent. Guess who’s shooting more?”
So reading the flyover coverage had told me all I needed to know about the Toronto Raptors. Flyover coverage is perfect for sports.
But I do not vote for who runs the Toronto Raptors. If their players or coaches perform poorly, or don’t understand their jobs, or are oblivious to empirical evidence that challenges their own prejudices and preconceived notions, even if they benefit themselves personally and their associates by doing things that are against the best interests of their organization – if for example the guards never figure out they should be striving for better shots, not more shots – it doesn’t impact my life in the slightest.
That is not true of ‘real’ news.
And that, at long last, is my point.