Turns out The World Cup wasn’t a fluke


I’m starting to think that I doth protest too much when it comes to sports. Either that, or I’m developing a higher tolerance for boredom with each passing year. After all, I turned 50 back in April.

A case in point – after rolling out of bed and stumbling into the family room earlier this week, I flipped on the TV fully intending to catch up on the news. Instead, I settled on live coverage of early round play at the British Open golf tournament.

When I was younger, I would have used The Open to lull myself back to sleep. But now I’m INTERESTED … in golf, of all things.

It doesn’t stop there. These days, I find myself seeking out the drama of any game.

For example, over the Fourth of July holiday, I made my wife and kids stand around with me at a Washington Nationals game. And when I say stand around, I mean it. The only tickets available were standing-room only.

If that’s not enough to make you question whether I’m a few shots over par, consider this: when I’m not shifting my weight from foot to foot for hours at a Nats game or can’t find a game on television, I can often be found spending my free time watching TV simulcasts of sports-talk radio shows like Dan Patrick’s.

Let that sink in. I’m actually WATCHING sports-talk radio shows. I used to merely listen to them so I could seem knowledgeable about games and the people who play them when the subject of sports came up in casual conversation.

A guy’s got to protect his street cred, but watching a radio show is probably carrying it too far.

Maybe lightning from one of this summer’s storms has scrambled my brain. Or maybe I’m simply suffering from some sort of soccer hangover.

Whatever the reason, after following soccer’s World Cup as closely as our dog Rodney follows my wife around the house, my usual standbys – Pawn Stars, Top Gear and Tattoo Nightmares – just don’t seem to satisfy as much as they used to. Even Star Trek seems to be taking a back seat to sports.

It’s inexplicable.

But I see now that I was kidding myself the last time I professed an indifference to sports. I wrote a column on the subject a couple of weeks ago, basically claiming my obsession with this summer’s World Cup was a fluke, that our family room was once again safe for Rodney and our cat, Skitty, because I was no longer loudly celebrating the thrill of victory or bemoaning the agony of defeat during U.S. World Cup games.

Actually, I’ve written more than one column on the subject, all of them coming down to the same general theme, that I don’t usually pay much attention to sports.

I suspect that’s one of the reasons why my wife has stuck around so long. My lack of commitment to being a fanboy up to now means she hasn’t had to put up with a sports-obsessed husband throwing bricks at the TV.

Now, I fear I’m just giving her another reason to regret marrying me.

Why my pets would rather I NOT watch the World Cup


Now that Team USA has been eliminated from the World Cup in Brazil, things are getting back to normal around our house when it comes to television. I’m back to my usual diet of Pawn Stars, Top Gear, Tattoo Nightmares and streaming old Star Trek shows.

In other words, I’ve reverted to my customary indifference to sports, much to the relief of everyone who lives with me, including our big dog Rodney and ornery cat Skitty,

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy watching other people sweat it out on the field of play. I’m known to take in Washington Nationals games, and I even like to head up to Hagerstown now and then to watch the Suns play. But generally speaking, I’m only interested in the big events – the World Series, The Stanley Cup playoffs, The Super Bowl and the big golf and tennis tournaments. Even then, though, I don’t normally get too worked up about them. However, I surprised myself during this year’s World Cup.

I became obsessed by Team USA’s progress. So much so, that I soaked up every minute of television coverage, even replays of games I had watched just hours earlier. That’s probably why I found myself alone in front of the TV on the Sunday the U.S. played Portugal.

I admit I might have been getting uncharacteristically loud. But who wasn’t jumping out of their chair and dancing a joyful jig when Clint Dempsey scored WITH. HIS. STOMACH!

My enthusiasm for Dempsey’s heroics prompted my wife to seek refuge in the bedroom where she told her Facebook friends that her “generally calm husband was screaming “GOAL and WHOOO HOOO” at the top of his lungs from the family room” while our daughter was yelling “stop screaming, you’re scaring the cat,” from her room.

My joy didn’t last long, though. I was silenced when Portugal answered Dempsey’s goal at what seemed like the last possible moment, to tie the match at 2-2.

Afterwards, I picked up my jaw where it had come to rest under the coffee table, looked around and noticed for the first time that I had been abandoned.

I then sprawled in my favorite chair trying to figure out a) who thought it would be a good idea to allow a game to end in a tie, and b) why I was alone when our dog Rodney reappeared from wherever he’d been hiding. He took some tentative steps toward me, his tail between his legs and his ears flattened. The question in his eyes was unmistakable. He wanted to know if it was safe to come out.

You’d think I had just turned off the vacuum cleaner.

Team USA made it out of the Group Stage and into the Round of 16, before being knocked out of the tournament by the talented Belgians. So in the short-term at least, Rodney and our cat, Skitty, don’t have to worry about me going ballistic in the family room.

Just don’t tell them the World Cup finals are this weekend.

Because if I’ve somehow turned a corner when it comes to sports, they’ll figure it out soon enough.

Candy Crush Flatulence


I posed a simple question on Facebook last night and based on my expert analysis of the replies, I have concluded that playing Candy Crush Saga on FB must be a lot like passing gas – few seem to want to admit to stinking up the room.

But I can’t stop thinking that those who secretly play the game are giggling into their hands every time I receive an invitation to join them.

If it seems like I’m trying to avoid you …


thermostatLeaving the house lately has been a lot like being faced with the “Walk of Shame.” In fact, showing my face anywhere right now fills me with trepidation. All I want to do is put on a hat, slip on some shades, duck my head and get through it without talking to anyone.

But I can’t.

Because everyone knows I caved. At least, all my Facebook friends know. And now, if you read further, you’ll know, too. And then you’ll want to ask questions I’m ashamed to answer.

My first mistake was making public my campaign to not be the first in our house to turn on the air conditioner. But posting about it on Facebook was a small blunder compared to the most fatal, grievous, calamitous and downright crushing mistake I made.

I eventually implied in my Facebook posts that I was in a battle of wills with my ultra-competitive wife.

She just didn’t know it.

Not at first, at least.

She eventually found out last week when I informed my FB friends that it was so hot and humid inside our house that my wife appeared “close to breaking,” and that I thought I would soon “claim victory for lasting the longest without turning on the AC.”

When a mutual friend tagged her in a comment that post became my downfall. She turned to me and said, “I didn’t know we were competing.” Then she calmly told me that “if this is a contest, you know you’re going to lose.”

Actually, I’m sort of surprised she hadn’t busted me sooner. The post that ignited her competitive side was just one in a series I had been writing on Facebook.

It started innocently enough with a non-confrontational status update wondering “how long I could resist the siren call of the air conditioner.”

A few days later, I followed it up with another fairly innocuous post expressing relief that cooler temperatures were in the forecast.

A friend of mine then posted a picture of a box fan set up inside a window to encourage a cool breeze.

It went back and forth like that until I finally crossed the line. Last week, I mentioned my wife for the first time when I said I thought we were playing “a sick game of who can last the longest without turning on the AC.”

If I had just left it there, I wouldn’t be going incognito in public right now. But I had to follow it with posts and replies suggesting my wife and I were engaged in a supreme struggle that would scare even our soon-to-be teenage daughter, who is no stranger to conflict.

And then my wife discovered the “close to breaking post” and made it clear that she was anything but.

I spent the next few days gently suggesting that we put aside our contest, that if our tongues hung out of our mouths any further we might be mistaken for our thoroughly miserable dog, Rodney.

But she had a “you started it, I’m finishing it” attitude.

Even our kids were no help. Our daughter took my wife’s side and even wanted a cost analysis between running the air conditioning and all the fans I had running full blast throughout the house. Our teenage son, meanwhile, was oblivious to the whole thing. He spends most of his time at home in our comfortably cool basement pretending he doesn’t live with us.

Eventually, I caved and now I’m suffering the ignominy of having flipped the switch at a moment of craven weakness.

You might be wondering, if I’m so ashamed, why am I admitting to all this?

It’s for husbands who have ultra-competitive wives like mine.

Never let them know you’re competing with them if you want temperatures to cool down at your house.

A Memorial Day Misadventure


Usually, all my wife and I ever get out of our 16-year-old son are short, unintelligible grunts in response to questions about his day. He also grunts complaints that we don’t keep enough snacks around the house and when we require him to be seen in public with us.

Which was why I was surprised this past Memorial Day when he emerged from his basement lair and said in a clear voice, “I really should have gone with you guys.”

My wife and I had just returned from what we had billed as a holiday hike. We had planned to use Memorial Day to stretch our legs, discover more about our region’s Civil War history and, in the process, embarrass our kids by making them come along.

A few nights before the holiday, I announced our intention to scale, as a family, the Maryland Heights Trail, high above Harpers Ferry.

The news was met by our son’s customary grunt.

For those unfamiliar with the language of a teenage boy, it’s hard to tell one grunt from another. But that one was easy. I interpreted it as an expression of displeasure.

At least he didn’t actively try to avoid the hike. He left that to his way more talkative 12-year-old sister, whose desire never to be seen with her parents rivals his in its intensity. The only difference is that while he grunts his objections, she starts talking faster.

“But dad,” she complained like a locomotive belching steam and picking up speed. She went on to quickly explain that she had planned to spend Memorial Day at a friend’s house. They were working on a school project together and it was due later that week.

She kept talking until I acquiesced.

When Memorial Day dawned, it occurred to me that since our daughter wasn’t going, it might be nice to hike Maryland Heights with just my wife for company. With my schedule, we rarely have the opportunity to be by ourselves. I work nights and weekends, the kids are around most of the time, and our needy dog Rodney demands attention at every turn. So when I woke up our son, it was to tell him that we were leaving and would be gone most of the day.

He roused himself just long enough to offer a grunt in reply. I took it to mean he was relieved.

After dropping our daughter off at her friend’s house, my wife and I made our way to the trailhead, across the river from Harpers Ferry. That’s when we discovered that hiking a popular trail on a holiday was not such a good idea.

The small parking area along the narrow road hard at the base of the mountain was frustratingly full. So frustrating that after making several passes in hopes that someone would leave, I simply gave up and suggested we go over to Shepherdstown in search of parking and a far less strenuous stroll along the C&O towpath. But no one wanted to give up their parking space there, either.

All told, we spent about three hours failing to find a place to get out of the car to take a long walk. In that time, I could have commuted to my job in Washington, D.C. and returned home.

To make matters worse, I told my son the truth after he expressed remorse for not going. In hindsight, I should have let him feel guilty.

Because now, I’ve only hardened his conviction about how lame his parents really are.

Lesson learned while at the DMV


I showed up at the DMV today on an empty stomach.

Bad idea.

I started fantasizing about food.

 

Why I avoid The Civil War at my house


IMG_0243 (2)I should have known better than to pile my wife and kids in the car and drag them on a three-hour road trip just to watch grown men dressed as Civil War soldiers stage an elaborate battle reenactment that only one of us (me) would appreciate.

Actually, I did know better, at least when it came to our kids. They’d rather stick a fork in their eye and twist it than go anywhere or do anything with their parents these days.

What I should have been looking out for was my wife’s reaction. I could have saved myself some trouble if only I had thought things through to their predictable conclusion.

I’ve never been accused me of thinking ahead, though.

If I had, I would have remembered my wife’s wide eyes when I came home one day about 16 years ago and announced that my great, great-grandfather was a Civil War soldier from Shepherdstown who marched in the Stonewall Brigade, one of the most storied military units from any war in American history.

I had been looking into family lore because we were knee-deep in baby wipes and diapers. I wanted to be able to tell our kids where they came from.

When I got home that day I was excited and pleased to have discovered a Snyder in my direct line who had actually participated in well-known historical events rather than shrugging his shoulders and heading back to the bar.

My wife, however, was not impressed. It would be more accurate to say that she was, well, shocked.

“You mean, I married a Confederate?” she asked before shrieking an answer to her own question.IMG_0245 (2)

“Oh my God! I married a Confederate!”

I tried to explain that no, she was not married to a Confederate, that I merely descend from one, but she was inconsolable, horrified by the thought she had somehow offended her northern family.

To this day, I’m not sure if she was more mad at me or herself for not calling in the NSA to do a thorough background check on my family history before our wedding day.

But I do know this: I should have thought twice before taking her to this month’s 150th anniversary of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. That’s because after I came home with my Stonewall news, my wife started checking into her family background and discovered her own Civil War grandfather. And, as it turns out, hers and mine were on opposite sides during the campaign that included Spotsylvania.

IMG_0368 (2)

I wanted to go to the Spotsylvania reenactment because the battle fought there in 1864 was the battle in which my grandfather was mortally wounded. Records from the period suggest he suffered a ghastly injury. I hesitate to pinpoint where in a family newspaper, but let’s just say I’m fortunate he had kids before he marched off to war.

Since my wife’s great, great grandfather was also there, it’s occurred to both of us that it’s a remote possibility that he could have pulled the trigger – a point my wife didn’t fail to bring up over and over again while we were at the reenactment.

The fact is, she delights in mentioning the possibility whenever the conversation at our house turns to the Civil War. Rather than debate her, I usually keep my mouth shut.

The reason is simple.

I don’t want history repeating itself.

wounded