Saturday, September 29, 2012

High School Football: The Way Things Ought To Be

As I have said before one of my extra curricular activities is that I am a High School sports official. And in the Fall of the year the sport I officiate is football. Too often as I officiate contests between teenage athletes be it in baseball,football or wrestling I get to see the bad side of people. I get to see unruly or abusive fans, coaches acting as anything but role models and kids that have no respect. Honestly as officials we are not blameless either  I have witnessed a few officials that think they are bigger than the game as well. Truly it is mostly a positive experience and there are many many more good examples in high school sports than bad but as we all know one bad apple can ruin it for everyone. As an official if I have a memorable experience at a game it is mostly because I remember something bad, that is until my most recent contest.

We were scheduled to officiate a Varsity contest between two small schools. In Iowa where I officiate the smallest of schools play a variation of the traditional game that involves 8 players instead of 11. The field is 80 yards long instead of 100 and it is 10 yards narrower on each side. I won't bore you with the exceptions to the rules but mostly they are the same as the 11 man game. At this particular game the home team had to play their games at a local junior high school field because they did not have a home field of their own. Not only did they not have their own field but since the field was set up for the traditional 11 man game, cones marking the north endzone where located on the 20 yard line of the field. If a team scored in the north endzone and they wanted to kick a point after touchdown we all had to run to the other end of the field for the kick where the goal posts where a correct distance from the endzone. The field being a junior high field was not in very good shape so conditions where not the best for play.

The visiting team was 2-2 on the year however the home team had only won 1 game in its entire history. In fact they had been beaten by so soundly in all there previous contests that it was pretty obvious to the visiting coach and our officiating crew that this was going to be a lopsided game. At the coin toss the usual speech by us officials was given about good sportsmanship, hands were shook and the coin was flipped.

From the opening kickoff I could see this game was going to be different than anything I had officiated in a long time. I mean the play went as expected with  the visiting team scoring every time they touched the ball. The home team on the other hand could not move the ball at all. It looked like a match up between a high school and a junior high team. By the end of the first quarter it was 50-0, halfway through the second the visiting team had not one starter on the field. This was all as expected.

What was not expected was this, the visiting team helping the home team up after every tackle, the visiting team obviously tackling so as to cause the least amount of injury when they had multiple opportunities to lay some vicious yet legal hits on a quarterback that was not very well protected. Both teams encouraging each other and complementing opponents on their game play. The won't quit attitude of a home team that could have laid down and accepted the inevitability of the loss or gotten sullen and pouted about how unfair it all was. They played until the final horn as if they were still in the game. The home town fans did nothing but encourage their team and they cheered as loud as I have ever heard when their team would make the rare first down or when they actually managed to score late in the game against the visiting second team.

When the game ended with a final score of 70-24 the teams did what all high school teams do and shook hands. Then something else happend that I have never seen in 8 years of officiating high school sports. The losing team, every single kid, came over to my officiating crew shook our hands and thanked  us. Meanwhile the winning team as a group went to the sidelines in front of their fans and sang the school fight song. In this day and age who even knows the school fight song? These kids did and I thought I had been transported back 60 years to the days of leather helmets and 3 yards and a cloud of dust. Did I mention during this game my officiating crew heard not one, not one, negative comment from coaches, spectators, or players? I don't think that has ever happened, to me at least.

I will always remember this game, not because of the lopsided score, but because of the almost surreal display of sportsmanship in a day and age when too many high school fans, coaches, and players think this is the NFL and forget that high school sports is supposed to be teaching student athletes positive qualities that will help them in later life.

My hat is off to both teams, well done

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Quad Cities Marathon 2012

This was the third time I have participated in the Quad Cities Marathon races. In 2010 I ran the full marathon and last year I participated in the marathon relay. This year was something new. I am training for a 100 mile ultramarathon coming up in November and was using this year's marathon as a training run. I also paced a friend of mine, Brian, on his first marathon attempt during this years race.

The weather was perfect for running, sunny and temp was in the 40-50 degree range. As in years prior the race started with a cannon being set off. The race course itself crosses the Mississippi river twice and runs through the states of both Iowa and Illinois and all four of the Quad Cities plus the Rock Island Army arsenal. After the cannon sounded it took us almost 3 minutes to actually cross the start line. This years race had 5500 runners and is about as big a race as I like to run. Anyway mile 1-3 involved running out of the Moline Ill downtown area then up an on ramp and across the river on I74. They had closed down a lane of the interstate for all the runners to cross on. Once across the river we headed back up hill and then right making a small loop before we headed back down hill. Mile 4-9 or 10 was run along the river on the Iowa side as we ran on the river trail through the towns of Bettendorf and Davenport Iowa. Brian was looking good and we maintained a 10 minute pace slowly gaining and passing other runners along the path. His goal was to finish hopefully in 5 hours and we where well under that pace.

Mile 11-13 we crossed back over the river and headed onto Arsenal Island. Rock Island Arsenal is the closest military post to where I live and is a logistics command. The buildings are over 100 years old and it is a beautiful little post self contained on an island. We ran miles 13-18 here winding our way around the golf course and housing areas. We passed a Confederate Civil War cemetery as well as the national cemetery.  We were still maintaining our same pace although about mile 16 Brian started showing the first signs of fatigue. His pace wasn't as fluid and he mentioned his IT band and knee, both problems he has dealt with before, were starting to act up. But he kept on moving forward.

Anyone that has ever run a marathon knows that the real race starts after mile 18. We exited Arsenal Island approximately mile 19 and headed downhill back to the Ill side of the river. Once we hit Moline again we could hear the finish line to our left but we had a to take a right and head on a 6.2 mile out an back along the river. This is where I earned my money as a pacer and why I was there to support Brian. The wheels were starting to come off as his IT band started to tighten up. During the next 6 miles he struggled against himself as his leg went numb and he started having issues with his toes. I continued to encourage him. I alternated between cajoling and orders to keep his mind off the pain. His pace slowed to between 11-12 minute miles but we were still well under his goal time and he never walked.  I even tried the old " look you can see the finish line" trick. Slowly ticking off the miles we got closer and closer until we actually could see the finish line. Brian's stride got a little more fluid and he finished the last .5 miles strong in front of the cheering crowd. He did a great job and we finished in 4:41:02. He is running the Las vegas marathon in december and I hope he learned some valuable lessons he can apply at that race.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Early Evening at Beverly

Damp.. the waning sun shines through the green wood.
Not quite sure what to do the newly dead start to cover the trail
Shoes chew the dirt, trying to leave no trace

The chill tries to work its way under the sleeves
Met head on by the heat escaping from the machine
Soothing voices to the west compete with the chirping to the east

Roots and dirt, rocks and leaves
Grey squirrels scamper and rabbits run
Deer bound twice and turn to look

Cranky knees beaten into submission by the bend but not break defense of the trail
Falling branches disturb the whispering wind
Mission complete

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Eleven years ago I was sitting in an isolation facility planning a training mission when we got word of the cowardly attack on our nation. The next 48 months I spent most of the time in harms way, in far flung parts of the globe combatting those that would do us harm.

On this day remember those citizens, police, firefighter, and EMS providers that died on 9/11. Also remember those service men and women that have died since then combatting those that would love to come to your local mall and blow it and everyone in it to bits.

On today, all politics aside, kill em all and let God sort them out...truer words

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kilted to Kick Cancer 2012

September is prostate cancer awareness month. The fine group of medics,cops,fireman and gun nuts at Kilted to Kick Cancer are once again asking for your help to combat male specific cancers. Help a brother out by donating to one of the organizations linked to here:  or follow them on Twitter @ hashtag . Like them on Facebook- Kilted to Kick Cancer.

Help if you can but if your Male and over 40 GET CHECKED OUT!!!

De Oppresso Liber

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I was talking to one of our clients the other day and she had a children's book on her coffee table. It was a book I was familiar with so I asked her about it. She said she had loved the book since she was a child and always kept a copy. I told her about my Mother's love for literature and reading. On the drive home I started thinking about my own love of reading and how my tastes had changed over the years.

My Mother encouraged us to read from an early age. One of my earliest memories is reading in my bed. I was reading Dick and Jane books my Mother had brought home from the elementary school she taught at. I would mouth the words about Dick, Jane, Spot and Puff. RUN DICK RUN. I would read through the book and then read it again by the light of my bedside lamp while I was listening to radio programs on my AM transistor radio. I think I was about 4 or 5.

By the third grade I was devouring anything in print I could lay my hands on. I remember our teacher had a reading contest where we had to turn in the number of pages we read each month and we would get a little prize if we won. My type A personality started to assert it self here. I was determined no one else would win the entire year. I was reading 1500-2000 pages a month. The second place student wasn't even close. I was really into biographies during this time and one of my favorites was the one about the life of George Washington Carver. The story of what he did with the peanut was extremely fascinating to me.

By the time I was in junior high school my tastes had changed to science fiction. I was reading Phillip K Dick, Spider Robinson, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. It was in junior high that I discovered one of the major influences of my life. Reading Starship Troopers, the book not the crappy movie made much later, was one of the aha moments of my life. The way Robert Heinlein described his version of military life and the fact that only veteran's could become citizens in the society he created really grabbed my imagination. This book combined with the movie "The Green Berets" with John Wayne eventually would launch me on a 22 year career in the Army and 14 years in Special Forces. I still have my original paperback copy.

When I was in high school I was reading a much more eclectic collection of literature. I still enjoyed science fiction but I particularly read everything I could get my hands on by Isaac Asimov. I branched out and started reading his serious science articles about sub atomic particles and chenistry. Although I was way in over my head it fascinated me. I was also starting to become more and more interested in my athletic prowess. I was reading books about running. working out, and sports. One of my favorites was the biography of Arnold Schwarzenegger, written during his time as a body builder and this was also when Dan Gable was solidifying his legacy as a wrestling legend. Being a high school wrestler and from Iowa Dan Gable entered my personal pantheon of heroes.

During my time in the military, I read thousands of books of all kinds. Mostly paperbacks that I could carry in a rucksack. One in particular that stands out not necessarily for its context but for the location I read it in. In 1984 i was stationed for 45 days on a remote island in the middle of the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea. I was on an observation post on top of a mountain. We lived and worked in two little mobile trailers and the only way on and off the island for us was by helicopter. Reading material was limited but I read every magazine or book I could find. In a locker buried under some other books was a biography of Johnny Cash. I layed out in the middle eastern sun on a sandbag wall and read all about the Man in Black.

It was also during my time in the military where I started one of my nerdy little habits. Barry Sadler was a Vietnam War Special Forces veteran who was most famous for writing and singing the "Ballad of the Green Berets" back in the 1960's. This song became the unofficial theme song for Special Forces. However Sadler also was also a fiction writer. He wrote several books about "Phu Nahm" the lone sniper in Vietnam, but he also wrote the series about Casca the Eternal Mercenary. Casca was the soldier that pierced the side of Christ on the cross and because of this was doomed to never die and wander the earth as a soldier until Christ returned. This was pulp fiction at its best but I collected and read everyone of the stories written by Sadler himself before his death in 1989. I have 22 Casca books, many of them that are out of print.Other authors continued the series since Sadler's death, I believe there are 39 total books at this time. I only collect the original Sadler stories however. A nerd has to have standards.

Since my retirement from the military 8 years ago I have continued to read. My tastes these days run to mostly non fiction. I enjoy reading about religion,politics,history,shooting,self defense and adventure sports. In the last few years I migrated to the Kindle app on my iphone and tablet. The convenience of these electronic devices has allowed me to read in places I never could before. Bored at the bank? Whip out the phone and start reading. Waiting for your car to be serviced, turn on the tablet and read away. Very convenient and cheaper than buying physical books.

Books and reading have always been a huge influence on my life and will continue to be so.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We Run 5k and New Bo Fest Half Marathon


My first race of this two race weekend was the We Run 5K to benefit a charity called soles4soles which you can read about here... . WeRun is an awesome running store owned by some friends of mine who are totally committed to the the running lifestyle and helping others get fit. You can check out their store here... . I run with their weekly group runs as often as I can and it is a great bunch of folks. This was their first sponsored race and they did it right, Tshirts, age group medals, Overall winners trophys, chip timing, they even had a bagel lady aka my Mom.

The course was flat and fast, all the turns were well marked with signs of encouragement and volunteers. Very well organized and I think this race will only get better.

There were just over 100 runners entered in the race and at the word "go" we all tried to squeeze across the timing mat which caused a slight delay. I knew I wanted to try and run a quick race and my goal was to beat 22 minutes. I made the first right turn and then the next however and I just wasn't feeling very fluid. I hit the straightaway to the first mile marker and I was really feeling the large amount of pizza I had eaten the previous evening and the lack of sleep I had gotten by staying up until 0100 after officiating a high school football game. Anyway even though I was feeling crappy I ran that first mile in about 6:40. I thought to myself " Is this a day for a PR?" I started feeling a little better as we made a circuit around a small pond and I continued to catch up with and pass some other runners. I could see my friend Ross who was leading the race way up ahead being paced by the golf cart ( He ended up winning the race with a time in the 15 minute range). I hit the two mile mark in about 13:16 but I was starting to slow. All the sprinting on the football field and the lack of sleep started to catch up with me. The last 1.1 mile I lost some ground I had previously gained. About .5 miles from the finish a running group friend of mine Eric caught up with me and we ran together, crossing the finish line at the same time. Due to the vagaries of chip timing event though we had the exact same time of 21:37 he came in 2nd in our age group and I came in 3rd. I missed a PR by 60 seconds but no worries though as I got a nice little medal for my efforts and was 9th overall, making a race top ten for the 3rd time this summer.

Studio eM Photography: 5K


My second race for the weekend was the New Bo Fest Half Marathon. This was the third year for the race. I had run its inaugural event in 2010 but had missed it in 2011 so I was happy to see they had improved some things. The t shirt was better and they actually gave out finishers medals that were hand painted and ceramic, definitely cool. Another plus was this race is about 5 minutes form my house. So I got up about an hour before race time and headed to the start. I had picked up my race packet the evening prior so I had nothing to do before the start except run a few blocks to warm up. I was pretty stiff after the previous days effort but I saw a flock of geese eating grass by a church, which you don't see often.

At the designated start time we all lined up and this was a significantly bigger crowd than the day before. The gun went off and I started out with no particular pace in mind. As with the day prior it took me about a mile to warm up the old joints. I reminded myself why I have started to avoid road running and tried to stick to trails.. The course took us up a slight hill then down and dumped out on a road that paralleled the Cedar River before heading into a small neighborhood. This was all fairly flat until we hit a steep hill at mile 3. I started a pattern of passing people on hills and then letting them catch up with me on the flats. I settled into my groove and tried to hang with a nice steady pace. Mile 4-7 was pretty flat as we went out a paved country road and we passed a few water stops.

 At mile 7 we doubled back running the next 3 on the Squaw Creek trail which was nice and flat. It was on this trail I started passing people however there was a guy that kept dogging me staying right off my left shoulder for the entire way. I could hear him breathing over my head phones. At mile 10 we popped back onto the hard pack and back up and over the other side of the steep hill. I lost my little shadow as the route took us back through the neighborhood and we retraced the route along the river back to the finish. When I hit the last mile marker and headed up the last hill I saw I had a chance for a PR. This surprised me as the hills on this course kicked my butt. I really started pushing however and crossed the finish line in 1:44:16 which was a PR by about 40 seconds. Post race atmosphere was cool with an 80's cover band. Kolaches, and a lot of people I knew from the group run and Daily Mile. Once I got done talking to everyone I meandered on home and went to a minor league ball game with my kids. The next day I ran 31 miles on the trails behind my house. It was a good weekend of running.