Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Worst Three Letters in Sports: Surgery +2

Kacie- 2 days post-ACL surgery
Well, now for the hard part.

Kacie tore her ACL on July 23rd in Indianapolis and the five weeks after were spent coming to grips with a season lost, and dealing with all the emotions of that. That was difficult. But a week ago yesterday we got a call from the people at the Cleveland Clinic who told us there was a cancellation in Dr. Rosneck's surgery calendar a week or so earlier than she was originally scheduled, and they asked if we'd like to move up her ACL reconstruction.

Yes, please!

The five weeks prior were rough. Every day was a reminder for her what she was missing. There weren't many tears and break downs after the initial diagnosis was confirmed by the MRI, but there were a few. Tuesday night, coming home from a 2-0 loss at Walsh, was one of them. We talked about the match and the strategy involved and did the entire post-game post-mortem. Two minutes later I noticed she was crying. And as I've said before, she just doesn't do that very often.

"What's wrong", I asked.

"I hate this. I hate not being out there with them on nights like this and in matches like this. It's just really hard".

It's hard for us as parents too. It's heart breaking when you see your kids hurting, either physically or emotionally.

But there are new challenges to face now.

Dr. Rosneck consulted with Lisa and me after the surgery and told us it was a "good" surgery and outcome. He showed us pictures prior to the reconstruction and after it was completed. He showed us pictures of her torn lateral meniscus as well and told us what that meant. He advised that the meniscus couldn't simply be stitched and repaired and that 40% of it had to instead be removed and smoothed out.

He assured us that had absolutely no effect on her recovery, rehab or being a potential factor in re injuring the ACL in the future. He did say the meniscus damage could portend future arthritis in her knee when she reaches the age where muscles and tissues and everything else starts to degenerate. He also said that not being to able to repair the meniscus benefits her in the short term in that if it was repaired, she'd be non-weight bearing for a few weeks while the meniscus repair was given time to heal.

Instead, she'll be in rehab on Tuesday afternoon and has been encouraged to get up now that 24 hours have passed and begin bearing weight on the repaired leg.

Right now Tuesday seems a long way away. The first 48-72 hours after that kind of surgery are brutal. There's pain and soreness. There's her feeling like it will never go away. There's medication to help with the pain and inflammation every four hours. There's medication to combat the effects of the pain meds like Benadryl to control the itching it causes. There's medication to assist with the constipation the pain meds cause. There's medication to combat nausea that all those other medications cause. There's an ice machine that has become Kacie's closest friend, pumping ice cold water to the affected area every minute of every day. There's us cajoling her to get up and move and bear weight on a knee she has no confidence in.

But it's the next step in the process and she, and we, revel in the fact that every day brings her closer to getting healthy and being back where she wants to be.

This is a despicable injury. It happened in a heartbeat and it took only 1 1/2 hours to repair. She could, and was encouraged to, walk every day from the point it happened. But now it's six months of grueling physical and mental rehab to truly "fix" it. Six months from now it will hopefully be a memory. But every day of that six months is difficult, especially emotionally. Progress is measured in degrees and in centimeters, not so much in time. There will be days that she feels like she's progressing and the next day will feel like she took two steps back. There will be days when she'll not want to subject herself to the pain and those centimeters of gain, feeling like it's not worth it at all.

But that's why we're here and that's what her support system is for. To push and encourage and console and motivate and dictate to her that every day is a day closer to being back on the field. And she's got a terrific support system. From the doctors we've dealt with, to close friends and family. From the unbelievable Gilmour soccer family to the college coaches who have reached out to assure her that they welcome players who have sustained injuries such as hers, and that many of those players thrive in their programs and benefit from the support they provide.

Kacie needed to hear that from them. Especially when she's afraid and feels like she'll never play again while she's hurting and recovering. I can't tell you how important it was psychologically for her to hear that.

Which brings to me another point about colleges and opportunities and what the injury may mean for that: I don't care. Kacie may, but I don't.

I'm old enough and have enough perspective to understand what some may not, which is that "breaks" and life altering opportunities are not reserved for college and potential college scholarships, and I think it's a mistake to assume they are. Kacie may well go on to play good soccer at a good school and someone may make it financially easier to do so. But what can't be denied, as she enters her third year at Gilmour, is that her brains, along with her desire and ability to play soccer at a high level, have already presented her with an opportunity that we could not ignore or pass up. Playing at Gilmour, to look at it only athletically, has already presented her with an opportunity to win a state title in soccer as a sophomore who started all 26 matches and who was an integral contributor to that accomplishment.

Being at Gilmour also introduced and led Kacie to a lifelong friendship with Izzy and Annie Greene and an opportunity to play for the Cleveland Cobras and Sean McNamara. That led directly to a national championship in the U-17 age group.

None of that happens without the opportunity that was presented to attend Gilmour.

More importantly, what Gilmour has given Kacie is academic opportunities, social opportunities and a much broader view of the world than we could have hoped for prior to looking into it. In short, opportunities don't come solely after high school in the form of college financial assistance. Your break or opportunity may come prior to that and you better be ready to consider it.

I'm also old enough, have enough perspective and have seen enough of the NCAA D1/2/3 models to tell you that I put absolutely no emphasis, after going through the recruiting and school selection process, on one being better or more prestigious than the other.

Kacie was not likely to play at Penn State, Stanford or North Carolina. Not at 5'2, 110lbs. And I've seen D2 programs that were simply in disarray and an awful environment for for student-athletes. There is no way in hell I'd ever send Kacie to Lake Erie College, a D2 school that offers athletic money to play soccer or volleyball, etc., for example.

Classes? Yes. Sports? No.

Not a chance.

I don't care that it's perceived as a higher level than D3. The athletic program there is a mess. I can personally and painfully attest to that fact.

And the perception that D2 is automatically a higher level of sports than D3 is also laughable. An example: When Jess was going through the volleyball recruiting process she visited Cal U in Pennsylvania, a D2 school. Their coach offered her a spot on the roster and some financial assistance to come play there. She also visited Wittenberg, a D3 school. Wittenberg's first offer, based solely on academics, made Wittenberg less expensive than what Cal U could have done despite Wittenberg's sticker price being twice Cal U's. And the Cal U coach was honest enough to tell us that "If Wittenberg played in our conference, Wittenberg would win our conference more years than not".

Kacie isn't playing for the USWNT after college. Kacie is not playing for the Orlando Pride after college. What Kacie is doing after college is entering the workforce and beginning her adult life. And I want Kacie to attend the school that best prepares her for that. And if you don't think there are D3 schools that can do that for your kid, while being extremely focused on their soccer or volleyball program, you're mistaken. Wittenberg played for a national championship two seasons ago and won one a few years before that.

I'm not worried about this injury to Kacie in terms of what it means for her collegiate career. If she rehabs and if she does so diligently, Kacie will play NCAA soccer. I may also have mentioned that 3% to 6% of high school athletes go on to play NCAA sports. That percentage rises to 25% of high school athletes going to play NCAA sports who have had ACL reconstruction. So why do roughly five times more ACL reconstruction patients go on to play in college? Because they're more driven, they're more motivated, they're more talented and they're more competitive than the general population of athletes who sustain that injury and call it quits.

But first things first. She needs to shower. She needs to stand up and lock her left leg. She needs to limp to the mailbox to grab the mail and consider that a victory. Then she needs to throw herself into rehab like she threw herself into the tackle against a girl twice her size that got us to this point.

Every day is a day further away from the moment she was lying on a field in Indianapolis and a day closer to her getting back on one.

*Anyone who knows me understands that I deal with things by writing about them. It's how I work through my own trash. In other words, this is more for me and mine than for anything or anyone else.

As I sit here today, my plan is to keep a kind of running diary in regard to Kacie's injury and to update it as I need to and want to. I've long thought about a blog or book or something regarding amateur athletics. From the club scene to the recruiting scene and any and all things in between. The injury piece is, unfortunately, a part of that. And if someone reads it who's been there and can add to or educate me about this injury I welcome it. If someone less inclined to talk about it sees it and finds a comrade in arms (or knees) then that's great too.

If you have experience with the injury and/or the rehab you can reach me at

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Worst Three Letters in Sports- Nine Days Out

One could spend a day people watching at the Cleveland Clinic Sports Medicine facility in Garfield Heights. I wouldn't recommend it in lieu of, you know, working or anything, but we did see the Indians' Josh Tomlin at the facility this morning while Kacie waited for her MRI.That made Danielle, Kacie's oldest sister and biggest Tomlin fan, a tad jealous. Her text was a thinly veiled threat that she was going to break her arm and run up to join us.

Anyway, in a macabre sort of way, we've been looking forward to this day for a week. When you get bad news, the best way to put it behind you is to look forward to what's next. In a very real sense, every day that passes is day closer to getting back to normal, and back on the field. There's also always a very slim chance for a miracle. That two examinations were wrong and that the images will show something less severe.

No such luck today.

The MRIs confirmed a full and complete tear of Kacie's left ACL. It also showed relatively minor damage to the MCL, damage that will not require surgical repair. Lastly, it did show meniscus damage, the extent of which likely won't be known until Dr. Rosneck gets in there and fixes what's messed up.

In short, it could have been worse, not that any of it is ideal.

What the pictures also showed was a lot of bruising to the bones that collided when the ACL tore. Without the ACL in place to prevent it, the femur slams down on the tibia as if you just quickly pulled the middle book out of a stack of three books. That bruising, and the related inflammation to soft tissues around the injury, will require a couple weeks of waiting before the surgery itself can be performed. Those bones collide with enough force that there is actually a small indentation in the femoral bone. Picture the end of a typical dog bone with a tiny melon-ball sized scoop removed

The surgery will consist of Dr. Rosneck removing the middle third of Kacie's patella tendon (from the same damaged knee) and using that to replace the blown up ACL. It's a "biomedical rope", as Dr. Rosneck explained.

That "rope" will be anchored to the femur and the tibia through "canals" put into each of those bones. The patella tendon will be placed into the canals and then secured with some sort of hardware (screws, if I understood correctly). Any meniscus issues will be cleaned up or repaired at that time as well.

Dr. Rosneck's preference to wait a couple weeks while the bruising heals also gives Kacie time to work on some exercises that will benefit her immensely after the surgery.

Kacie had a ton of questions that she had written down and Dr. Rosneck dutifully and patiently answered them all. The surgery takes anywhere from 45-90 minutes depending on what else they need to do in addition to the ACL repair, and rehab begins only a few days later.

The doctor explained the nature of rehab and how it's almost always a "one step forward, half step back" proposition. It will be too slow for her at times and it will be painful at times. But his obligation is to the graft site and he'll seek to protect it and have it heal without her damaging it in its infancy. The graft doesn't actually fully heal for 2-3 years from the time of the surgery. There's just not a great deal of blood flow to promote healing, but the rehab, functional strengthening, and dedication to both allows for athletes to return to the field well before that.

He, and others, have cautioned us to not put a specific time frame on that return. Beating the number by a month is far less meaningful it if means a greater likelihood that the graft fails or that she reinjures herself.

He did not say, and we forgot to ask, whether a brace would be required. It may be required during the rehab, as a friend pointed out, to lock and prohibit  the leg from full extension and to limit the exertion she can put on the knee. Sadly, as another friend noted,  there are doctors who caution against the brace once one returns to play for an all together pathetic reason: the brace makes the wearer a target for kids who will go after that knee.

But all of that is down the road. Along with the uncertainty of how the knee will respond to inadvertent contact or the cuts required in a game situation. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, and there's a long stretch of road before that's a big worry.

Right now it's knee bends and flexion exercises, along with letting the bruising heal. All of that waiting is the hardest part of this right now. Time keeps ticking and the knee is still in a state of derangement. I wasn't blessed with a great deal of patience, so I want one hurdle cleared as quickly as as possible and the next one in our sights. I simply prefer action over planning ;-) From a more practical standpoint, three weeks from now Kacie is back in school. Missing classes at Gilmour is not an ideal approach toward academic advancement and excellence at Gilmour.

Which brings us to the next issue: we have nearly no control over any of this. We're good with the doctor and his plan, but Kacie isn't his only patient and her body isn't ready for surgery yet. There are also grafts that fail and a myriad of other complications that drive me crazy, but I'm not in position to fix them. Nor can I hold her hand and drag her to rehab. I don't think I'll have to, given her determination to let this recovery and return define her, as opposed to letting this injury define her.

But tomorrow is another day closer to clearing this immediate hurdle. This injury devastates thousands of kids in Kacie's age range every year. But that also means it's common and that Dr. Rosneck does close to a hundred of these surgeries annually. I'd almost venture to call it routine if it wasn't my daughter whose knee was in disrepair.

Tomorrow is also the second day of two a days at Gilmour. Kacie is hoping to watch some freshman vomit during a run and maybe go see the trainer for some exercises and ice. She had her concussion testing yesterday like every other junior, and she'll be at the team picnic Saturday after a week of attending practice.

I asked her today if she'd exchange a healthy knee for the National Cup title they won last weekend and the state championship they won last November. She looked at me like I had three heads and said, emphatically, "Not a chance".

Me neither. Not today. But I reserve the right to ask that question of myself again, as often as I want to, over the next six months.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Worst Three Letters in Sports- Part One

At approximately 11:15am this past Monday, the final whistle blew in a 3-2 win for the Cleveland Cobras over Lone Star SA from Texas. That whistle, and that final score, earned the Cobras a national championship in the U17 Premier division of US Club Soccer's National Cup.

Throughout the match I stood where I stand for all matches in which my youngest daughter, Kacie, plays: away from everyone else and off by myself.

I'm not completely anti-social, though my tendencies run that way. It's just that I can't stand most soccer parents. I can't take the sideline coaching or the screams for fouls by parents of opposing players, whining about a Cobra shoulder while their precious and innocent daughter has a clump of Cobra hair in her hand.

I enjoyed the match, the win and the national championship. I was engaged throughout, urging this group of young ladies on. When it was over I shared hugs and fist bumps with the parents who I've grown to love. I thought about how unreal a national championship was, coming just eight months after Kacie and the Gilmour ladies won the school's first state championship at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus.

But while the celebration continued, and while the Cobras lined up for a post game jog toward their jubilant parents on the sideline opposite the Cobra bench, I slowly walked across the pitch and found my daughter to give her a hug. She was easy to find, what with the crutches and the wrapped left knee.

The night before, in an ultimately meaningless match against that same Texas team, Kacie's tournament, and potentially many future tournaments, ended in a collision and in a heap on one of the pristine fields at Grand Park Soccer Complex.

I was sitting off by myself when she went in to challenge a loose ball and attempt a tackle near the 18 line. I HEARD the collision that I assumed was shinguard to shinguard. And then she went down as she often does against girls that are six inches taller and routinely 40 pounds heavier than she is.

And even though she's probably 0-65 in those collisions, she always gets up. She always has, every time but once before when she was tackled from behind and sprained her MCL.

But this was different. This collision came with a fully extended left leg reaching for a piece of the ball, leg locked, left foot now planted. Then there was a a twist off the bigger girl's body to the left with that leg still extended, with that foot still planted in the grass.

This time she stayed down. This time she clutched her left knee and didn't get up despite me silently screaming for her to do so. This time, a trainer sitting 30 yards away sprinted over as I stood up and started walking toward where she was. When he called me over and walked me five yards away I already knew what he was going to tell me after he had examined her knee.

He said, "This is a ligament injury and it's not the one you'd hope it would be if you got to choose." Kacie's ears weren't damaged in the collision and those five yards weren't enough space for her not to hear our conversation.

That's when she started crying.

I've seen my youngest daughter cry maybe five or six times since she escaped the crib. Two of those times were Sunday night in Indianapolis and then again Tuesday when a Cleveland Clinic orthopedist confirmed that she had torn her left ACL and would require surgery.

On Tuesday Kacie will have an MRI to determine if there is damage in addition to the ACL. That same medial collateral ligament or the meniscus may have also been damaged, so we'll find out Tuesday after the MRI and another consult with the surgeon that same day.

This is a brutal injury. Not only for the fact that it requires surgery and then a fitful rehabilitation that will be slow, painful, depressing and everything else, but because it doesn't necessarily come with the same symptoms as other injuries. There isn't a horrible amount of pain or swelling. There's no cast and no brace. The use of crutches is optional, with doctors preferring the patient walk as much as they can in order to preserve muscle tone and strength. These doctors perform the surgery hundreds of times per year, so the knee will be fixed and, with good surgery and diligent rehab, there is a very good chance it returns to full functionality.

But it's as psychologically damaging as it is physically debilitating, and maybe more so.

Kacie is an odd sort. She loves the club soccer scene and the competitive matches, where the best players from multiple cities across the area team up and play other such talented teams. And while the quality of play is unquestionably better in club soccer, Kacie loves playing for her school and with her high school teammates as much as she does playing for her club team.

All she saw and heard Sunday night and Tuesday afternoon was that being taken away.

You only get four such seasons to play for your school and that goes so fast. Some of the girls Kacie has played with for years now are entering their senior season. She wanted desperately to be there with them, as Gilmour moves up to Division II, to continue what they did last season. She wanted to be there for the meaningful matches against Akron Hoban to kick off the season, followed immediately by matches against Walsh-Jesuit and Summit Country Day. And she will be there. But not in as meaningful a way as she had planned.

So that's the "Woe is Me" part of the story. What began almost as quickly as the self-pity was the reading and the learning and the questions. Because after a week of feeling rotten, the focus shifts to what comes next.

Do we replace the ACL with a patella tendon graft from the same, damaged knee or do they believe a hamstring graft is the best way to go? What are the benefits and drawbacks to each choice? If there's additional damage, does it change the prognosis for getting back on the field or do those other damaged ligaments and cartilage heal in the time it takes to rehab the ACL? Is there "prehab" required, in which surgery is delayed to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings and quads prior to going in and fixing the damages or is her current physical condition, ironically the very best it's ever been, optimal for doing the surgery now, without further delays?

What's the requirement for getting back on the field? What does the rehab consist of and what can she expect in that regard? What is the likelihood of another injury given the repairs being made, or does the other knee have a better chance of being damaged? Is there a program we can implement to potentially lessen the likelihood of this happening again down the road?

That doesn't even scratch the surface of what to do regarding colleges who might be interested in this piece of medical history.

For her part, Kacie is already looking ahead and is slowly coming to grips with the challenges she faces. The day after getting the diagnosis confirmed at the Clinic, she was at Gilmour's open field, sitting with the coaches and laughing with them on the bench. That's her place and it's where she's happiest. It's also where she feels an obligation to continue to set standards of commitment for that program.

This is not a "Maybe it's a blessing in disguise" thing. That is complete and utter bullshit. It sucks, and it's hard to watch your kid's passion and knee blown up and not be able to fix a damn thing.

But there can be benefits. If you believe in the axiom that, "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." then you can begin to move forward. Kacie can set a standard of commitment that exceeds what may have previously existed. She can become a better friend, teammate, student and, yes, player as a result of this forced time off the field. She can see formations without having to dribble through them, watch where players prefer to receive the ball without having to get it there and she can see the game from a perspective she'd obviously rather not right now.

What also gives me some solace is the fact her game is not based on ridiculous physical skills. She's fast enough, strong enough and skilled enough, yes. But her game has always been her vision, anticipation and instincts. She scores more often in the box than anyone that size has a right to. In the game preceding the one in which she was injured, against a big, physical team from New Jersey, the game that clinched a spot in the championship match, she scored the opener inside the six by working herself free of the bigger bodies and hammering a one-time shot from the box. Ten minutes later she got to the end line and cut back a beautiful ball after drawing multiple defenders. She found a wide open teammate to give the Cobras a 2-0 lead in a game they would win 3-0.

All I can hope for physically is that her knee returns to the point where it can keep up with her head and her eyes. That those instincts and that creativity aren't done in by a knee that is just late to the party.

But that's on her. Multiple medical/training experts, and I've spoken to probably a dozen in the week since this occurred, have assured me her youth, strength and dedication to rehab will put her right back to where she was.

And that's all anyone can ask right now. A six month, all-in focus on getting back to where she was a week ago. That's a crummy hand to be dealt, especially when she was playing the best soccer of her life. But one way or the other, you have to play that hand.

*Anyone who knows me understands that I deal with things by writing about them. It's how I work through my own trash. In other words, this is more for me and mine than for anything or anyone else.

As I sit here today, my plan is to keep a kind of running diary in regard to Kacie's injury and to update it as I need to and want to. I've long thought about a blog or book or something regarding amateur athletics. From the club scene to the recruiting scene and any and all things in between. The injury piece is, unfortunately, a part of that. And if someone reads it who's been there and can add to or educate me about this injury I welcome it. If someone less inclined to talk about it sees it and finds a comrade in arms (or knees) then that's great too.

If you have experience with the injury and/or the rehab you can reach me at

Saturday, February 18, 2017

NBA Finals Diary- 7th Heaven

It was Sunday night, about 6pm.
The entire weekend had been swallowed up by my 18 year-old daughter’s graduation party. Friday I took off work to prepare. Picking up tables and chairs, getting the lawn and house ready, and all that other energy-sucking stuff. Saturday morning saw an early wake-up to put up tents and set up the food tables, and then the party came and went with me running around making sure everything was in order. Refilling coolers, making sure kids were drinking what they were allowed to drink, running to get more ice and another 18-pack of Corona because my friends are the greatest drunks God put on earth, etc.
Sunday was the aftermath. The cleanup combined with a visit from some out of town family who came back to visit. It was also Father’s Day so I got to sleep in before cleaning up and entertaining.
But everyone knew that 6pm was my time. It was my time to decompress and get myself ready for Game 7. And all went according to plan. Everyone was gone, everything was cleaned up, and I was completely dead from the weekend but ready to end it in my house, with no one else, watching the biggest game in Cleveland sports history since at least 1997.
To be honest, I was resigned to how it would likely end. Probably for obvious reasons, but I was resigned that, despite an unreal effort to get back into the series and forcing this Game 7, that the Cavs were underdogs and likely destined to come up heroic but short again. And you couldn’t blame them for it.
But there I was, exhausted and looking forward to just chilling out and watching it my way.
Then came the knock on the door from Kacie, my 15 year-old daughter. Who came to talk to me willingly and on her own (Oh shit).
Me- Yeah?
K- Hey dad…
Me- What’s up?
K- Umm… just wondering what you might think of going downtown to watch the game.
Me- No way.
K- Ok. I know you like watching it here so you can do something else if it’s not going so well…
Me- Yeah. It’s just crazy down there and a pain to get there, park, deal with people…
K- Would you be upset if I went? Bunch of my friends are watching at a restaurant that a friend’s dad owns. There will be adults, you know, who will be with us.
Me- That’s cool. I’m fine with that. How ya getting there?
K- Umm…(Head goes down, eyes back up, kicks imaginary rocks on carpeting)....
Me- SHIT!!
Me- Kacie, we live in Madison. By the time you’re ready to go it’ll be 630pm. It’ll take an hour to get there with traffic. It’ll take me longer to get home than that. I’ll miss the first half at the least…
K- Ok. I know. I was just asking…
Me- Besides, I’ve done this before. It’s brutal with thousands of drunken idiots down there and it’s more brutal when those drunken idiots leave disappointed. And sometimes brutal turns violent and ugly and even with you being with adults I don’t want you to have to deal with that.
K- How do you know I’ll have to?  Might be pretty cool to be down there when they win.
Me- …..
Me- …..
Me- ….
She didn’t have a clue. She had no idea just how badly the odds were stacked against her seeing something wonderful happen. She had no idea about the decades of misery that were standing against the door and wouldn’t let amazing through.
Not because she’s ignorant to sports. She watches everything, like Danielle, her 21 year-old sister, who knows more baseball than 95% of the people at the game or in the bar. She knows the game. My kids all do, though Jessica, the 18 year-old, doesn’t wear the results like her dad and sisters do.
But as I stood there ready to finish the conversation and tell her we’d watch it here, I just stopped. I stopped and realized that she doesn’t wear the layers of losing that I do and she shouldn’t ever have to. She has far fewer reasons to be beaten down by defeat and disappointment and yet I was treating her like she’d already been dragged to the bottom of Lake Despair by the anchor around MY neck.
That anchor wasn’t hers. She didn’t want it, need it or feel any of it. She saw a team down 3-1 fight and claw their way back. She saw a team down 3-1 completely shut down the 2-time MVP to even the series. She saw hope, optimism and the opportunity for a life experience that I never even considered, despite the fact that I’d die to give her, her sisters and her mom all of that.
I was protecting her from getting punched in the face by the same history that hit me. I was protecting her from being hurt when she saw only an opportunity to be really happy.
Me- Get ready and be in that car in 15 minutes.
So I took her.
I dropped her at Coastal Taco with the parents who would keep her with them and with whom she’d spend the night. I made my way from the Flats back up to West 3rd after dropping her off and I was stunned. I was stunned by the masses of people who were either downtown or heading that way. I was more stunned by the actual, tangible feeling of anticipation.
Not despair or dread. Not even hope. It was anticipation of something great and historic about to happen and I felt it. I could actually feel it down there as people made parking garages their bars and made downtown a giant living room. It was vibrant, it was positive and it was an energy I can’t remember ever feeling at such a huge moment in my lifetime of attending games.

It was expectant. It was electric.
It was fucking lit.
I gave half a second’s thought to pulling in somewhere and parking, staying down there to see what happened.
But I couldn’t do it. Still too much fear in my heart. Still scars I bare and still the fact that I’m not 15 and blissfully unburdened by so much of what’s gone down in the last 40 years.
But what I saw downtown lifted me, man. It validated what I was feeling. It WAS different. I felt it Friday and Saturday. But I certainly didn’t express it. But the people downtown did. If you were down there you know what I’m talking about.
There was no self-pity. There was no resignation. It was different.
So getting Kacie down there and set up and getting back through all of the people heading to East 4th like it was Basketball Mecca meant I didn’t get back until the first quarter was done and gone.
It didn’t matter, because it was different.
The Cavs weren’t getting run out of Oracle that night. Nor were they running the Warriors out. They were just playing good ball, like the two best teams in the world finally showed up at the same time because this was the only game that was ever going to matter.
Did you see it? Did you feel it then?
Even with a seven point halftime deficit, I was strangely calm.
Did you see J.R. Smith erase that deficit in about a minute of play?
Did you see the Cavs looking like the more poised and polished team?
Did you see Ty Lue continually push the right buttons that night and push his guys where they needed to be, while Steve Kerr droned on in his huddles about trust, trust, trust and then he took guys out because he couldn’t trust them?
Did you feel it when the Cavs took a lead of their own and ultimately went into the 4th quarter down just a point?
I’ll tell you exactly when I knew it was truly different and that it was happening. When the collars got tight around the necks of everyone over the last four minutes, the game and the freaking championship of the world just sitting there in the balance, tied at 89-89. That’s when I knew. That’s when I was convinced.
Because up until then I just knew Steph and Klay were going to wake up and have THAT game or THAT moment. I just knew Harrison Barnes couldn’t go the entire series missing so badly that he was in danger of not hitting the floor if he dropped the basketball. I just knew the biggest a-hole on the floor, Draymond Green, was going to play the Elway role. I just knew it.
And then off a Cavaliers miss there it went. Andre Iguodala running the center of the floor on a two-on-one break with Steph Curry on his left.
Against J.R.Effing Smith.
J.R. Smith! A guy no one wanted last season and a guy no one truly trusts even today. A guy just as likely to flagrantly foul Iguodala or Curry as the bucket drops and then the Warriors get the points, the ball and the Larry O'Brien Trophy. So it’s last year’s Finals MVP running a clean two-on-one with the two-time reigning league MVP on his wing against J.R. Effing Smith.
And then it happened.
Iguodala gives the ball to Curry and then gets it back as J.R reacts, leaps and somehow manages not to foul, maim or kill Iguodala. What he does beautifully do is force just a little hesitation and a double pump from Iggy. Which was precisely enough time for a gassed and desperate LeBron James to flash into the picture on the TV and elevate toward the backboard as Iguodala released his layup.
Out of nowhere James is LEVITATING at the rim, head as high as the goal itself, right hand blocking the shot, pinning the ball to the backboard, then rolling the ball off the right side of the backboard to a waiting and somewhat stunned J.R.
LeBron seemed to appear at the rim like he was edited into the picture. And then he hovered there, right hand going toward the ball, left hand actually protecting the left side of the rim in case Iguodala tried to reverse that layup. James covered an ungodly amount of court in almost no time, making up 30 feet from the time he started chasing the play down.
That’s when I knew.
Six full games. 46 minutes and 20 seconds of a seventh. 334 minutes and 20 seconds of Finals basketball.

That’s when it hit me.
49 years and 6 months to the day. On Father’s Day. That’s when I knew that this was going to happen. That all that energy downtown wasn’t lying. That there wasn’t going to be a moment like I felt on the sideline of The Drive game. Never been so high as from the time Brian Brennan scored on a 49-yard TD pass against the Broncos and then the Broncos muffed the ensuing kick and faced 98 yards of “No Way in Hell”.
This wasn’t like that. It was just different.
1:40 left and instead of disaster or at least a Warriors lead, still tied. Now it was the Warriors fans feeling all the angst. Watching a 3-1 lead dissipate. Watching their glorified, mollified, deified jump shooters choke away shot after shot, many of them open looks.
Then Kyrie made that shot over Curry for a three point lead with 53 seconds left.
Did you feel it then?
Kyrie owned Curry the entire series. Everyone owned Curry the entire series or seemed to at least have a 7 game lease with an option to buy. LeBron figured it out: get Curry matched up on himself or Kyrie and grind that little prince into the ground. And they did. And Curry had no answer. He had more frustrated, bewildered head shakes than field goals in the series, as many fouls as assists.
He got owned. Never more importantly than on Kyrie’s jab step jumper over his fingertips that gave the Cavs their lead.
But it was about to get even worse for Ayesha’s husband.
He had a chance to tie the game, maybe send it to overtime, with 30 seconds left. And the Warriors gave him the chance with a high pick and roll that resulted in Kevin Love switching onto Curry. That’s a Cavaliers nightmare in the making.
But not Sunday night.
Love shut off Steph’s water. He was closer to Curry than a straight man should be. And Curry had to give up the ball. Because of the defensive pressure of Kevin Love.
When he got it back with a dying shot clock, Love was in his pocket again.
Steph-  crossover…
Love- nope…
Steph- ball-fake…
Love- nope…
Steph- crossover, dribble left, ball fake, ball fake, step-back three…
Not this time. Not this year. Not this team.
James finished it out with a free throw and the Warriors failed to score over the final 4:40 of the game.  The vaunted and unstoppable Golden State Warriors...Splash Brothers… Draymond facilitating….Barnes just sniping.... 2-time MVP.. Up 3-1 in the series and talking shit....the 73-9 Warriors...beaten twice in their building where they couldn’t lose.
00:00 on the clock.
I can hear Lisa, my wife, screaming on the deck. Just shrieking and screaming for joy. I hear another scream and shriek from across the pond answering Lisa's. My phone is blowing up...texts...calls...can’t do it. Can’t answer.
I’m standing in front of the television, 49 years, 6 months old, on Father’s Day, watching the Cavs celebrate the first Cleveland championship of my lifetime, and the next thing I know I’m on the floor, on my knees, crying like a baby.
And just writing those words and remembering those minutes right after it all ended, has me on the verge of that yet again.
I did a couple phone shots with friends later that night. Took one out on the deck to toast my old man who would have probably died watching that game if he hadn’t died already. I watched every interview I could, on every channel that was covering it. I watched J.R. cry at the podium knowing that every single word he said was heartfelt and real.
I fell asleep about 2am and woke up at 6am like I was shot out of a cannon. Adrenaline and a cosmic boost from what this meant to all of us carrying me through the day. I watched J.R., shirtless, pour champagne all over a young hostess at XS in Las Vegas, and then hours later watched him de-plane in Cleveland, still unable to find a shirt.
Then, from work, I watched the longest GD parade in the history of parades take place on Wednesday. I watched this city show up and show out like no other city I have ever seen show up and show out. And they did so in a far more peaceful a manner than anyone here or across the country expected them to do.
And J.R. was still shirtless. And I still can’t wipe the smile from my face, the happiness from my heart or the tears from my eyes.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Don't Stop Now: Recruiting Your Student-Athlete's College

When I thought of college recruiting before actually getting involved in the process, my mind immediately went to Robbie Benson in "One on One" or to Nick Nolte in "Blue Chips". Benson's character has college recruiters knocking down his door and he gets a job on campus turning on and off the automatic sprinkler systems to put some money in his pocket. Nolte plays loose with all the rules to compete for all the prime college hoops talent across the country and then deals with all the character issues and ramifications that recruiting elite players might bring.

Either way, a good athlete is picking and choosing between which school they want to attend for nothing.

That's not quite how it works with 5'2" volleyball-playing liberos.

But wait, there's more.

Unless your kid is one of that very small percentage of elite-type recruits (and the likelihood, statistically, is next to nil that that's the case despite a parents' advocacy and thoughts) then you're going to be doing a lot of work and spending a lot of time (and you've probably already spent a decent amount of money) DOING the recruiting of your kid's potential college or university yourself.

I consider myself to be fortunate. I have a daughter, Jess, who will be a senior next year. She's that 5'2" libero. She will likely end up playing relatively high level volleyball after high school and likely end up getting a helpful amount of her education paid for. She's not going to play for Stanford, Texas, Penn State or Arizona. She never was. She's smart and she's articulate enough, but she comes by her athletic ability honestly. She's not an elite, athletic freak, just like her parents weren't.

And, to be honest, that's where you need to start. You need to understand that despite your kid being gifted and special and one of a kind, when it comes down solely to athletic scholarships, chances are your kid isn't gifted or special or one of a kind. But they can still benefit greatly.

If your kid truly is in that elite minority, no need to read further. The Stanfords, Arizonas, Penn States and Texases will find you. And they'll do so early enough in the process that your time will be spent decreasing the pool of prospective schools, instead of trying to create a pool of interested schools. You'll know quickly if 'elite' is in the cards.

But if you haven't heard from those schools or many D1 schools in general by the time your athlete is a freshman (or a sophomore at the very latest), you better get busy.

Parents spend a ton of money on club sports. There's a washout rate there as well as a percentage of parents that will experience a declining return on investment as the kids get older. Just like not every good player is a D1 player, not every club kid is destined for scholarship money either. Again, realism needs to be a part of the experience. If you're paying club prices and expecting a huge payoff when high school ends, you better be relatively sure that's what's going to happen or adjust the expectations and let the athlete experience playing for the fun of playing ( a novel idea in many circles).

Jess McPeek
I can tell you from my own experiences that the entire club process and the environments can be frustrating and even toxic. My 5'2" volleyball player can play. Jess can play at a high level (which I define as beyond high school and at a school where volleyball is very competitive) and she's received all conference and district honors and all that stuff that makes parents proud. What she could NEVER seem to do was get noticed UNTIL she played. 5'2" walking into a tryout in a crowded gym of 100 kids wasn't where she showed out. 5'2" at a tournament showcase wasn't going to be any different.

Where did she show out? In camps. In camps with college coaches who actually watched the kids in smaller groups and who then moved those kids up to higher level groups and watched some more. At camps sponsored by her club team and conducted by collegiate coaches that resulted in Jess going to that college coach's camp later in the summer. There she was placed (as a rising high school junior) on the court with the school's incoming freshmen who were camping, and with some of the upperclassmen who were helping run the camp. That, not coincidentally, is the court where the head coach spends most of her time and watches the action.

That experience she had with the collegiate coach, at the JO camp and the university summer camp, again not coincidentally, leads me to believe that that coach and that program are the leader in the clubhouse in terms of where my 5'2" libero might end up. The coach got to see for herself that Jess is a human bruise. She's on the floor almost as much as the logos that are glued to it. That shows up in games and against competition. Not in a JO tryout gym.

The point being, if your daughter is 6'0 tall or bigger then she might stand out in that crowded room. You can't teach height. Big hitters, big middles and even big setters are coveted. They stand out. The fidgets do not and your money and time and effort is probably better spent in smaller group environments where coaches and camp leaders can see what separates your kid from the pack. If your kid's advantage over other players is exhibited clearly in one environment and not at all in another, put them in the best spot to show it.

Start them young, if you can, and make sure you do your homework on the particular club. Go visit it. Talk to the director. Research what high schools or colleges the coaches work for or with. And starting young gives your kid a chance to overcome the tryout stigma that some face. If the kid can play, it'll be apparent. They may get placed on a Regional or Regional Elite team initially, but their talent and ability will allow them the chance to move to American or National if they're that good. But starting them young and researching the club gives them the time and ability to make those gains and make those moves. If you're constantly changing clubs with a player like Jess, she's constantly walking into that tryout with strangers and internal politics in place at 5'2" tall and she's constantly being overlooked and misplaced skill-wise.

Are there politics in play? Hell yes. Even at the better clubs? Hell yes.  You need to take advantage of it. I bitched about it for a few years. I hate the JO tryout process. Very good players get passed over all the time in the process. But you can mitigate those damages and make that process work for you if you're willing to understand there is no Xanadu in the club world. The grass isn't always greener and the grass isn't EVER perfect. You can benefit from the same thing you hated initially.

Jess was placed on a team that wasn't at the level we had hoped for when she got to her current club. Again. But she got a lot out of the training and she turned some heads. She played with the American team when they needed a player due to injury and ultimately signed an early offer to play with them again this season. It worked out. When tryouts came SHE was the legacy and already guaranteed a spot. Hypocritical of me to enjoy that? Yep. But I did enjoy it because she earned it. But the bigger point is that last season was a struggle to get through during tournaments. It was tough to watch. But it was also a season where the training made her better and where the opportunities provided by the club (the training as well as the camp run by the college coach) were worth every dime of the dues despite the tournament play being closer to depressing than inspiring.

But if you take anything away from the above, it's that there are no perfect clubs or situations. Find one where you like the philosophy, the facility and the coaches and stay there. That can be hard because you might have to look just as intently at yourself and your kid's ability as you do at the program. My 5'2" daughter isn't playing middle blocker no matter what she wants or what I think. Not every kid is a setter or a libero just like not every kid on the soccer field is a forward or destined to score goals for the national team.

Much like you need to know your role on a team and in a club, you need to figure out the best ways to proceed in the recruiting arena as well. Don't follow the cookie cutter approach. You have to identify, or have someone trusted identify (and Jess is ridiculously fortunate in terms of the interest and assistance her high school coach at Madison, Norm Potter, provides), what attributes and strengths your player has and then to play to them. Don't be sucked into the recruiting companies and the promises of them delivering your kid's tapes and highlights to thousands of schools. That's no different than sending your 5'2" kid to the cattle call tryouts. There are firms and services that are out there and that are valuable and effective. But you need to look as closely at those as you do at the schools themselves. If you go that route, research them.

One of the things that endeared me to one of the coaches in this process was her telling me to call her with any questions and to NOT go with one of the recruiting services. I was leery of that at first, but continued conversations with her and questions asked of her told me she was being anything other than selfish and that she honestly was happy to be asked. Lean on people you trust when researching schools and coaches. It's worked out thus far but the servies can be effective if you find the one that fits your needs.

Along those lines, go with a rifled approach as opposed to shotgun approach but begin it early. Identify some schools that your athlete is interested in. Start with however many they want and wherever they want. Get some tape that can be turned into a highlight film of sorts. Volleyball, especially, plays to that. You can set up your digital camera on video easily and inexpensively, throw in a 32mb SD card and tape a days worth of matches. Edit that down at the end of the season or seek assistance.

A highlight tape of the player as well as a video of a full match (coaches will want this- life ain't a highlight tape and they know your kid has weaknesses and holes in their game and will want to see those too) can be put up on youtube. Create your own youtube channel and you now have your own video library that services would charge a boatload for. It's not Scorsese-quality but it doesn't have to be. Now copy and paste the address of that youtube channel into your email drafts, because you're about to need it a lot.

 I sent a lot of personalized emails to coaches and assistant coaches initially.

That was stupid.

I mean, you'll want to make sure you send it to the coach or coaches of the school you're directing it to, but you can easily get away with a standard letter where only the school name and the coach's name(s) is personalized. I figured that out late in the process, and I also sent out one to a particular coach and forgot to change the name of the previous school I had mailed.

Don't do that. It's embarrassing and probably counter productive to making a good first impression.

But a basic introductory shell might look something like this:

Hi Coaches,

My daughter Jessica is a junior at Madison High School here in NE Ohio. She's played JO for the last two seasons with Vertical Elite (Now Vertical Force Volleyball). Last year she was coached by Katie Powell and this year she will play for Ricky Sanders in a program that's directed by Colleen Nero and Mark Royer.

Jess is about 5'3" tall and is an excellent all-around player for Norm Potter at Madison High School.

She's an OH and plays all around for both Madison and in JO but her future is clearly as a libero after high school. I've been advised by multiple camp coaches and opposing coaches that Jess can absolutely play at the D1 level as a libero and that she's one of the better defensive players in the area. She was quickly placed on Court 1 at a recent camp in _____ with their incoming freshmen. Jess has added 4" to her vertical from the time she started at the Michael Johnson Performance Center at Spire in Geneva, OH.

I'm corresponding because schools like _________ fit where Jess is looking to go academically and athletically after high school. Jessica is an excellent student, enrolled in multiple honors classes, and she's extremely serious about volleyball. Coach Potter has put together a brief highlight package which I linked below for your review. There are also match tapes for your review. I'd also love for you to see her workout or play, as you need to do so to appreciate her abilities, so a JO schedule is attached.

Jess is a 4-year varsity player at Madison, will be a three year starter and was been named a captain as a junior. Her style of play is appealing to watch and coach.

It would be appreciated if you could take a look at the youtube videos and I'd be happy to discuss any opportunities that might exist for her to continue her education and volleyball career at __________.

I can be reached at 440 525 4573 if you'd like more information, to confirm schedules or for an in-person look.

Thanks you for your time,


Sell your kid. Not literally, regardless of how appealing it might sound, but in terms of why a coach needs to take the next step and see them play or ask about them. If they're a hair over 5'2" they're 5'3" tall,  if you like watching them play, they're "exciting to watch".

But be an advocate. That takes practice and refining the message and additional emails to coaches can be more personalized and specific.

Don't lie. A shade over 5'2" doesn't make them 5'5" tall. But sell it. There are no perfect players out there and there a  lot of schools and a lot of potential dollars in aid. If the coach is engaged, as Norm is at Madison, they can also utilize their contacts built over years in the game to be an advocate for the player. Norm has sent numerous emails and highlights to college coaches on behalf of Jess.

Sadly, Norm is probably the exception as opposed to the rule in regard to a coach's advocacy. But there are a lot of opportunities that are available to young athletes by way of their club coaches as well. My youngest, Kacie, plays club soccer. The training and the instruction she has gotten at both of the clubs she has played for have provided her with skills and opportunities. And while she's yet to reach high school age, those opportunities can still be in the form of educational AND athletic opportunities.

If a club coach wants your kid to go look at schools outside of your local school system, take the opportunity to visit and have the kid shadow at those schools. They are ridiculously expensive. A school like Hawken, Gilmour, University, Hathaway-Brown or Laurel come with a sticker price approaching $30k per year. That's more than my entire four year total at BGSU was back in the day. For one year of high school. But they may work with you, depending on how much emphasis they put on a given athletic program. And the educational opportunities are incredible. In fact, you don't visit those schools for the athletics at all, even though in many cases the athletic programs are also better. You look at those schools because of education and because of the opportunities that superior education might provide your kid.

But it doesn't hurt to take a look and see if the school will work to make that educational opportunity affordable to the point it's a consideration. Even if they do, it's still about the fit, socially, academically and in many other ways.

When you pay to have your athlete play JO or club sports you 're making an investment in the kid and an investment toward the future. That future may come before college. That investment may also come with the understanding that you'll have to invest even more in terms of time, effort and attention toward creating an interest from schools that may be unaware of the student-athlete until you make them aware.

Schools will not magically line up just because you made that monetary investment. You need to line them up and direct them toward the player they should be looking at. It can be a daunting and time consuming endeavor. It can be frustrating and it can result in you hearing, "No thanks, but best of luck" far more often than you hear, "Tell me more". But it has already been costly in terms of money and time. To not follow up and take that next step makes it all even more costly.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

We'll Always Have Paris

I guess I’m what you’d consider an agnostic.  Probably a visceral agnostic would be a more accurate description.

I mention the agnostic part without pride or shame (I have no excuse for the visceral issue, I think that's just hard-wired in), but faith in a higher being is just something I have trouble mustering. Not when I look around at the current state of global affairs, and the suffering, and everything else that would seem to belie the idea that there is a peaceful and merciful God watching over those He created in His image.

Weeks like this past one certainly don’t help.

Like others I was caught up in the non-stop coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and in the ultimate deaths of nearly 20 people when all was (nearly) said and done. When a few terrorists, in the name of God, brutally and coldly, and with calculation and no remorse, turned a magazine office into the final resting place for cartoonists, office workers and police officers and turned a Jewish grocery store into the final resting place for four innocent, unlucky shoppers.

But wait, there’s more…

I’ll never wash from my mind the images of the terrorists coldly shooting an unarmed police officer to death while he begged for his life. Some images stay with you. Unfortunately that’s one of those. I’ll also have a hard time washing away the memory of one terrorist being shot dead on camera as he attempted to escape the kosher grocery store where he had taken hostages, but only after killing those four when he arrived.

His death is less a tragedy to me. But that’s the visceral agnostic in me poking through.

I have a hard time understanding the radical Islamic culture. That’s probably because I’m not a radical Muslim and I’ve never walked a day in their shoes. I’ve never been overtly or significantly oppressed, discriminated against or felt ostracized in my own country. Those are all valid issues but they are also issues that other cultures have dealt with, addressed and overcome without targeting innocent people for death and doing so in the name of religion. If this were a legitimate article instead of a rambling attempt to corral my own thoughts and feelings (the visceral thing), this is where I’d reference the Jews, Italians, Irish and the African Americans and give illustrations of their sufferings, persecutions and the methodologies they used to extract themselves from those situations (to one extent or another).

And this isn’t to say there isn’t validity to the Muslim claims of persecution in various places around the world. There is. This isn’t to say that the other groups referenced above have been warmly embraced or have an easy time rising above their own real struggles and the prejudices and hatred they faced. They have not.

What it is is a realization that appeasement and negotiation and rational discussion simply do not work with a culture that condones, embraces and promotes violence and death on all people who do not agree with their belief system or religion.

Don’t misunderstand. The people who condone, embrace and promote death and violence in the name of Muhammad or Allah are not representative of the vast, overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims who live in relative harmony with those around them. This is not a condemnation of their religion or them as a people.
But there is a huge radical, fundamental Islamic problem all over the world today and it should be clear to all who have their eyes open that it needs to be addressed and it needs to be destroyed. 

Destruction probably isn’t very godly.  But those who revel in violence and bask in chaos and who will kill without concern or remorse have no place in society. Not our society, not French society and not Arab society. This isn’t a new phenomenon. I’ve been alive for 48 years and yet Munich, Beirut, the Luxor Massacre, 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombings and now Paris are deadly and violent bookmarks to each decade I’ve been old enough to remember. And the frequency of attacks is accelerating.

And each of those incidents drew gasps and condemnation and indignation from around the world. And in nearly all those attacks there was a response but those usually came from governments and were directed against governments who were thought to harbor terrorists, if not sanction terrorism.

It’s different now. While we may live in some dark times, we don’t live in those relative dark ages any more. Terrorism has adapted. Terrorists have embraced technology as well as a new way of doing business. Their leadership is more organized, more effective and is funded with billions of oil dollars.

On the ground their “soldiers” are better organized, more efficient, media-savvy (if not attention craving), as willing to kill as ever, and they are everywhere. The terrorist organizations are simply better than they were 30 or 40 years ago, there are more terrorists and they are more committed to the cause.

We the people, and our governments, are literally losing ground. And confidence. And freedoms. And lives. We can definitely outspend terrorists and we still have a decided edge in technology and equipment.

What we’re lacking is conviction. And maybe some nastiness.

The terrorists have literally taken this to the streets and we’re still playing by Marquess of Queensbury rules, figuratively getting punched in the face, watching our cops literally get knifed at landmarks and butchered on the sidewalks of major cities. The radicals have declared war a hundred times over and we seemingly greet each act of war with some tisk-tisking and hand wringing. And the hand-wringing is while wearing kids gloves. Then we hope it goes away and never comes back.

Instead we’re hopeful of appealing to the sensibilities of people who would rather kill us than reason with us and praying/wishing/thinking that, despite 2,500 years of savagery, hatred, intolerance and brutality in the name of God, that they’ll suddenly wake up one day and embrace the fact that there are societies out there that want to live differently than they do.

I’d say that’s highly unlikely.

So, as you would do with a cancer, you need to start eradicating the tumor. For those who speak only PC: the soldiers of this evil cult need to be removed from the battlefield. And no, I don't think it's 'playing God' to consider it. I'd prefer we not kill. I'd prefer we not have to incarcerate. But that preference is outweighed heavily by my preference for not being killed for publishing this post or upsetting these radicals on Facebook. And our current approach is lacking in the all important results category. 

So what most of us would prefer not to do appears to be the only way to go. Sometimes you have to out-brutal the brutal and outslug the sluggers if that’s all they understand. You always extend an olive branch and keep lines of communication open, but you do your negotiating from a solid position of strength. That means it needs to be done on a macro and micro level. No holds barred. You overwhelm the nations that foster and harbor these people through military operations and with all tools at your disposal. You use your intelligence networks and your military and your elite forces on that macro level. You ultimately tear down regimes that spread fear and hatred and allow nations to rebuild with people who value peace and getting along.

The infrastructure for that macro approach is already in place. It’s the micro-level where it gets dicey and where the biggest challenges exist. There’s simply not much at all, if anything, standing between some radicalized asshole with an automatic weapon walking into a McDonald’s or a school or a crowded stadium and destroying himself and countless others if he’s hell-bent on doing so. You’re not going to stop it.

But we need to make it tougher. We need to stop more of these lone wolves and small cells before they get that chance. And that requires a paradigm shift in how we relate to these people and how local citizens and law enforcement approach the issue.

Local law enforcement needs to be trained in counter-terrorism techniques and intelligence, if they’re not already. Maybe do it on a county level in less populated areas, but there needs to be a better understanding of terrorist techniques, communications, organizations, etc. on that micro level. Local LEO need to develop and cultivate and maintain their own relationships and networks so that chatter and activities may enable them to cut off the terrorists before they can act. There needs to be a task force at local levels that share this information and pass it upward as necessary. Correction officers and sheriff’s deputies need to be trained what to listen for and watch for in correctional facilities. There are a lot of terrorist connections made in prison and there is a lot of information passed between those bars. LEO needs to hear, understand and disseminate more of it, even when it’s not at the federal level.

While I understand the aversion to certain interrogation techniques, I don’t give a shit what kind of methods are used on terrorists. I have zero concern about their human rights. Not because I have no decency, scruples or morals, but BECAUSE I have decency, scruples and morals. It’s easy to not watch the ISIS beheading videos and to not watch Daniel Pearl’s head fall from his neck. It’s easy to turn the channels or not click the link to see a Paris police officer executed while pleading for his life on the sidewalk. It’s easy to say that these videos and these torture techniques (and let’s not call them something else) are barbaric and offensive, because they are. But keep ignoring that growing tumor. Keep ignoring the fact that the world’s greatest and safest cities are no longer safe. Keep telling yourself it’s just an isolated incident or that the Repubs or Dems and their failed policies are at fault. If you want to catch and kill a snake you’re going to get dirty. If it goes against your religious beliefs to get that dirty, take a few minutes to understand the bastardized religious beliefs of the people who would prefer you dead.

You can’t kill these people with kindness. You can’t negotiate with people who will not compromise at all on their demands. You can’t appease these people with concessions and capitulation. They will gladly accept your offers such as No Go Zones and censorship of cartoonists and journalists. And then a couple disgruntled kids from the No Go Zone will shoot a defenseless cop in the head. A lot is not enough for the people who want all of it.

But there needs to be nation building too. You can’t claim an open and free nation and keep down the minorities who come to live freely. It doesn’t work here, in France or anywhere else. You can’t have a line of demarcation within your “free country” and no opportunities for people inside that line to assimilate into mainstream society. That fosters hatred and contempt and feelings of persecution. You’re all-in or you’re not. That “Give me your tired, your poor… the wretched refuse of your teeming shore” thing is just a bunch of bullshit if those people flee their teeming shores only to be treated like second class citizens in that “free” country. Those found guilty of hate crimes, abuse of power (LEO or politicians) or discrimination via the justice system should suffer harsh consequences too. They're a big part of the problem

And the “moderate” Muslims? Those “moderate” imams and caliphates? Why not walk with a rabbi or a priest to their synagogue or church and stand with them? Those “moderate” priests and rabbis? Why not extend a hand and visit a mosque? Why not walk that walk while you talk that talk? How about some inter-faith gestures of goodwill in big cities and smaller towns?

So for those who can’t keep back their love of humanity and their godly nature, you can work on that part of the equation.

And no more censorship from the media either. Show the cartoons. Show the bodies. Show the mayhem and the murderous results. Show it all and do it for a couple reasons.

Show it first and foremost because people need to see it. They need to see it whether they want to see it or not, because they’re not understanding how prevalent or awful it is right now. If half the 24-hour news cycle consists of what looks like the beach scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan’, then so be it. Hit people in the face with it. And plaster it across the newspapers as well. Put it out there everywhere in all its ugly and horrific reality and maybe people will soon understand that there are serious issues and that you can't ignore it anymore than you escape it. Not to mention it’s not up to the media to hide these things from us or determine what’s appropriate for me or mine to see. The initial media narrative was all about the execution of expression and freedom and yet they blur out the ugliness? Hypocrites.

And do it secondly so it does lose its shock value. That’s what these fundamentalists want. They want the ‘wow’ factor. They want the fear the event produces. You take that away and you illustrate the breadth of their violent ways by showing all the details of more of these attacks. Don’t spare us from a damn thing. In fact, if you want to get a jump on things, every newspaper and television show SHOULD show those stupid, antagonistic and insensitive cartoons. The whole point of freedom speech and expression is so that exactly those types of things are permitted to be published. Should those that publish such insensitive images or articles face repercussions? Hell yes. Don’t read them. Admonish them publicly for their insensitivity. Have a discourse about how it portrays a class of people or a religion. STOP BUYING IT, subscribing to it and supporting it and the market will take of the rest.

And before I forget, call this what it is even if our President and presidents before him won’t. Our Fourth Estate is supposed to ours. A journalist, a newspaper or a TV News entity should not be a goddamn channel-based, agenda-based propaganda machine for the administration.

Barack Obama wouldn’t call the Paris attacks a terrorist act. I have no idea why (though I have a guess). Any idiot who stumbled onto the coverage knew exactly what it was in 30 seconds. But it’s not just an Obama thing. You remember the Beltway Sniper incident in 2002? John Allen Mohammed and Lee Boyd Malvo traveled the DC area and killed ten people out of their truck. Bush2 and the media didn’t call that a terrorist attack either, despite a ridiculous amount of information that showed that’s precisely what it was.

Why? Appeasing Islamic leaders here in the states (which is what my guess as to Obama’s reluctance would be). That's a problem.

Call it what it is and show us all of it. Bring all of it to light. Acknowledge the issue. Start working on it now from the top down and from the grassroots up. World leaders and you and me. We'll meet in the middle.

These killers and these extremists long for the ways things were 2,000 years ago. They’d like to take us all back there with them and they won’t stop killing until they’ve succeeded or been exterminated. If we don’t wake up and get hit in the face with the reality of the situation, if we don’t soon see the light and change the way we treat those who would do us harm as well as change the way we treat each other, then the radicals may be closer to their goals than anyone realizes.