Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Remembering Bobo

Bobo, our first family dog, finished his life and passed last night. As much as we will miss him, the Bertschi family will have to absorb the majority of grief over his death.
My sister Anne and her family have grown much closer to him than my family ever had the opportunity to.
In an effort to blunt the heart slicing pain of loss, I find it appropriate to share some of my family's joyful recollections of Bobo.
The often misguided hope of finding man's best friend at your local dog pound became reality for us when our daughter Abigial convinced us to adopt four-year old Bobo from the Plumas County Animal Shelter in Portola, California.
My wife, Holly, son Buster, and the aforemntioned Abby say that they looked into his droopy eyes and immediately called me at work to meet them for an adoption.
Holly, who never had a family dog as a child, was actually a little intimidated by his size and low-pitched bark. The thought seems ridiculous now after experiencing his loving and docile personality. They called me for some re-assurance that such a large, scruffy dog would be okay with our four year old and two year old children. I have to admit being a bit surprised by their choice given that he hadn't had a haircut in what I could accurately estimate now to be two years. Bobo, with his rich, liver colored coat, looked like small bear.
The story given to us by the shelter worker was that Bobo was dropped off by a family who was moving into an apartment in the city. That's a nice explanation for those of you who believe in coincidence, I however, like to think that an angel sent her loyal companion to temporarily assist with the manufacture of happiness on earth. Any other explanation is close-minded foolishness.
Holly still reminds me that I quickly signed the adoption paper, paid the fee and ran off to make a tee-time. My niece Hailey Petersen, who even at four years old had extensive large animal herding experience, was visiting us at the time. She helped Holly load Bobo into our car and purchase the appropriate goods to care for a full grown male English Springer Spaniel with a little California Brown Bear somewhere in his bloodlines.
As I played golf I thought about the great family dogs I had as a child, Lucy the fat old mutt that let us kids use her as a pillow, Luke the half German Sheppard half Pit Bull given to us by Hailey Petersen's grandparents, and Pepper who was a Christmas puppy from Aunt Jeanie when I was eight and died my first year of college while in the care of my sister Dawn Marie Petersen. I've just realized that both of my sisters have inherited dogs from me and......well we won't discuss the outcome any further. I don't blame either of you, they both lived to be pretty old dogs.
When I got home from working/golfing (I am one of the few people in the world who can accurately interchange those two words)I was pleased to see my two-year old son Buster harmlessly wrestling on the floor with our new family member Bobo. How Bobo knew to control his degrees of gentleness depending on who was playing with him is also only explained by divine interference, dogs are not that smart.
Nobody ever claimed Bobo was intelligent, but let's be honest, intelligence is overrated in a companion. Blissful ignorance and guileless loyalty are the attributes Bobo possessed in excess.
The next day, I thought I would take Bobo out to the Feather River and evaluate his retrieving skills, he is after all a springer spaniel. Although I didn't discover much talent for swimming or bringing thrown sticks back, some kids said, "is that dog's name Bobo?", "he was our friends dog and he is the best dog ever!!" Then they told me about his crazy obsession for chasing light. Bobo would excitedly bark and optimistically chase a flashlight beam, laser pointer, or even the sun's reflection from his own dog collar endlessly. Maybe they reminded him of his previous heavenly owner.
I've had several dogs in my life but two events specifically endeared Bobo to me.
Summer in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains is perfect for camping with the family. One weekend I took advantage of our locale and found a primitive tent-camping site near Buck's Lake.
I have been camping quite a bit but was a little nervous when each campsite came equipped with bear lockers for your food. All of the bear warning signs convinced Holly and her teenage sister Lindsey to lock themselves in our Jeep for the night leaving myself and my two young children in a tent. Bobo stayed awake all night just outside the tent entrance growling at and even chasing sounds the forest made, always staying close to the tent but never letting his guard down. I know because I slept very little and was easily awakened by movement in the bushes and a couple of low growls from our loyal protection. The next morning other campers confirmed the presence of bears in their camps the previous evening.
Another time at our home, I was awakened by at 3am by wild barking from Bobo who was very interested in getting outside through our sliding glass door. When I opened the door and clicked on the outside porch light I saw two large bears eating our garbage after tearing down the deck railing to get to them. Bobo did not hesitate to chase them back into the woods.
The following night the bears returned and I awakened my family to see them through the window. After these two events our kids dubbed him "Bobo the Bear Killer".
I'm pretty sure that a springer spaniel is no match for any kind of bear, but Bobo was brave and fulfilled his adoptive calling of providing Holly peace of mind.
Not long after these events we moved from our house in the mountains with a yard to a townhome in the desert, no yard and no dogs allowed.
I asked the Bertschi family to take care of our dog for awhile until our living situation was more accommodating and they graciously accepted. Even though he was offered back to us a couple of times, I knew Bobo had found his permanent home. The worn out spot on one end of the family sofa where Bobo sat(something he was never allowed to do in our house)told me so.
Only days ago, our children spent the night with the Bertschi family and again were exposed to the gentle friendship of Bobo Bertschi. When we picked the kids up, Holly expressed her wish that our disobedient, rambunctious, new puppy Buddy will eventually become the companion that Bobo is.
I feel very lucky to have had him in our lives and that the circumstance of traveling at the right time allowed us to sort of say goodbye to him, if you believe in coincidence.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Article Prior To The 2008 MLB Playoffs

There was a time when all that mattered to a 13-year-old boy was watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball on television.

Although he couldn’t have even found Illinois with a yet-to-be invented GPS navigational device, he scheduled each of his lonely summer days, after moving to a new town, around WGN’s home-game coverage.

The kid grew up playing several sports with his father and siblings, but they were all suddenly too busy to bother.

Anyone who has spent a summer in the oven of Phoenix or Las Vegas understands that you don’t just go outside during the day. Television programming in the afternoon was primarily soap operas and infomercials.

Before there were professional teams in the desert, the MLB Season Packages on satellite, or 64 ESPN channels, there was WGN.

Even though there were much closer professional baseball teams; Padres, Angels, and Dodgers broadcasts were only available on AM radio at night. Sports websites and text-message updates from ESPN mobile were just a degenerate gambler’s science-fiction dream.

I don’t know which marketing genius inside the Wrigley Gum Network decided to broadcast a local Chicago station with regional professional sports coverage to every basic cable system of the barely inhabited desert southwest, but it worked.

Andre Dawson dingers (as we used to say) over the ivy had this boy jumping off the couch, arms in the air, mimicking the umpire’s round trip signal. Dunston-to-Sandberg-to-Grace double plays inspired a few holes in his bedroom wall when he attempted to “turn two” to an imaginary first baseman.

It even had him learning baseball history and sports writing through comparisons to Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance double plays.

He bought a goofy, red, white, and blue baseball cap with a cartoon bear on it at the mall and wore it everywhere, except to church on Sunday.

He gave each weeks’ allowance to the Fleer, Donruss, Upper Deck, and Tops Corporations. But to him, all the cards were “commons” unless the player was wearing a Cubs uniform.

Sports fandom knows of no more faithful a soldier than a junior-high boy.

Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card?

He’d trade it for a Greg Maddux or Vance Law just to complete a team set.

It was good times for Chicago Cubs fans. Players like “wild thing” Mitch Williams, who once took a line drive off his temple, made headlines and racked up wins. Jerome Walton won Rookie of the Year by stealing bases and pushing up the Jerome-O-Meter.

What he hadn’t heard about, or more probably ignored, was the reputation Chicago had of being “lovable losers” or a silly superstitious curse. There was hope that each game and postseason would be the one where they finally lived up to their potential.

He eventually made some friends when school started, and the next five summers were spent skateboarding and swimming at the lake instead of listening to Harry Carey slobber through the seventh-inning stretch.

As years went on and as the Baby Bears baseball team continuously stumbled each September and October, so did their self-declared biggest fan’s interest.

Sure, he would check a box score whenever he happened across a sports page in McDonald’s, but he could hardly call himself a fan.

Other sports and sporty girls were better at keeping his attention. All those years of hopeful build-up, soon followed by heart-breaking frustration and letdown, too closely mirrored his experiences with the opposite sex to be positively formative.

Years later, there was a renewed interest in a Dominican home-run hitter chasing history, until...well we won’t re-hash all that...too painful.

A few more years down the road found him spending a nostalgic day sorting out those baseball-card albums, painfully deciding what put into his parents’ dumpster and what would just end up gathering more dust in the garage of his first home.

Still later, the Cubs, and unfortunately Major League Baseball, lost him as a fan forever when even Boston won a World Series.

That boy now has four kids of his own and hasn’t watched an entire baseball game in years. Although he has made his living by working in various sports industries, baseball has never been one of them.

He signs his kids up for soccer and golf every spring instead of little-league baseball. He couldn’t even find his old ball glove when the chef at his work signed him up for the company softball team.

He decided, years ago, that like a drug addict, Chicago needed every single one of their co-dependent fans to withdraw all love and support in order to allow the franchise to finally hit rock-bottom.

Ideally, for the Cubs team, they might finally accept reality and maybe Mark Cuban or someone who actually wants to win will give the franchise a fresh start. Just like an intervention, without the finality of this profoundly depressing notion, nothing would really be done to turn around the organization.

Then, about a month ago, he accidentally DVR’d Baseball Tonight instead of a college football game. The segment opened with a story about Alfonso Soriano and a Japanese right fielder, also with an unpronounceable name. It went on to talk about a recent no-hitter by the Cubs' ace starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

Before he could stop and delete this mistake, a long-ago and deeply ingrained memory response flashed across the nostalgia lobe of his brain. He couldn’t immediately care though, due to an even stronger defense mechanism, constructed of scar tissue to avoid more pain, which halted that foolish instinct.

He didn't choose this life or this team. He really had no chance; WGN was his only option.

Now, kids can not only choose from way too many televised games, but they also can follow any game or team online. It is encouraging to know that through technology, this terrible cycle of fan abuse can end.

You could call him a fair-weather fan of the Cubs, but that would be like calling Tina Turner a fair-weather wife of Ike.

Just like that perpetually abused spouse, he will be back for the playoffs just this one more time, with the hope that things really have changed.

This time around, there is much more at stake.

This time he will be watching it with his seven-year-old son.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Changes To The 2008 PGA Tour Schedule

The 2009 PGA Tour season will have a few sponsorship changes after a financial market meltdown effectively blamed on rampant capitalist freedom. Other changes are a result of the inevitable new-era of socialism implemented by a Barack Obama administration.

As we all know, The Chosen One prefers street basketball to the golf links.

No longer will the historically privately funded and horribly aristocratic game of golf be above recognizing the social ills affecting the world. Cigar smoking Republicans in country club lounges all over the nation will soon be indicted for either tax evasion, corporate fraud, or crimes against fashion pertaining to decades of wearing plaid pants and white wingtips.

In a Kyoto agreement mandated effort to “Go Green” the Mercedes-Benz Championship will now become the Toyota Prius Hybrid Championship. Four courtesy cars will be needed per participant; one for the player, one for his wife, one for his caddy, and one for his golf bag. They also fit nicely on cart paths.

The Sony Open in Hawaii will be changed to the Barack Obama Childhood Homeland Commemorative Invitational. Michelle Wie will be granted a 10 stroke lead prior to the tournament as reparations for all the white American tourists invading and destroying native Hawaiians’ pristine paradise.

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will no longer exist due to new environmental regulations prohibiting golf within 500 yards of any coastline. As we learned from Cosmo Kramer, golf balls can plug a whale’s blowhole. This minor inconvenience is certainly worth insuring the survival of an entire species by protecting migrating whale pods off the coast of California.

Northern Trust Open—A bank sponsorship with the word “trust” right in the name, I think we all know how this ends. Replaced by the new wealthiest entity in America, public education endowments.

The Honda Classic remains the same. Honda’s scooter and emergency generator divisions are doing quite well.

The Zurich Classic of New Orleans can’t find a new sponsor after the Bank of Zurich figures out that dropping $5 million on a golf tournament annually for an employee open bar at the corporate courtesy tent is not exactly wise use of investor funds. F.E.M.A. funds are tapped to bail out the event in an already depressed tourism based economy.

Investigations later find that people claiming to be PGA Tour players cashed their winnings checks in Vegas on Friday night the week of the event.

The Players Championship—Now the Playa’s Championship, site moved to Hotlanta

The U.S. Open is changed to the U.N. Open. All American players are accused of abusing fans and are banned from the course. None of the other international participants can finish their round or post a score and the entire tournament is declared a golfocide.

British Open Championship officials mock the trouble the U.S. PGA Tour is having, then immediately follow suit with the exact same issues.

The Canadian Open becomes the largest player and fan attended event of the season. 92% of those people happen to be Americans who all defect in an effort to live in the least socialist economy in North America.

The PGA Championship finally steps down as a major championship and is replaced by a game of horse between Barack Obama and Tiger Woods in the White House Gym, the highest ratings ever for this event.

The Tour Championship is held on an offshore oil rig so the players can avoid paying Obama’s higher taxes on the rich for their Fed Ex cup bonus winnings.

The Shell Houston Open goes on as scheduled due to Texas immediately seceding from the United States and finally building an immigration fence, only it is on the northern border of Texas to protect the Bush family from prosecution at the direction of the newest Obama Supreme Court appointees.

In an effort to get back at southern whites, The Masters is renamed The Slaves. In this tournament the players are the ones who must wear white caddy bibs and carry their own golf bags while their respective caddies have a scotch on the clubhouse porch. It’s also okay for caddies to verbally and physically abuse any player who misses a putt inside four feet.

The Wachovia Championship assures all involved that it will be held as scheduled. When the players arrive their scorecards are already filled out for them and signed. Few protest due to very low scores across the board.

Tournament officials explain that rules are meant to be bent and that actually playing golf is a silly formality since they are sure each player could have shot those scores or even better if given the opportunity. Winning checks bounce and the Golf Channel blames deregulation.

Monday, October 13, 2008

No Tiger Woods At British Open: Suggestions To Make It Watchable

With the Open Championship Royal Birkdale Golf Club, minus Tiger Woods, beginning in less than eight hours, I have been thinking of ways to prepare for a less than riveting, but must see nonetheless (all the majors are), television event.

Not unlike Wimbledon is to the public park tennis player, the British Open is very unfamiliar territory for the occasional hacker. We will certainly not get a Nadal/Federer type final round showdown without Tiger in the field, but maybe Daly/Van de Velde. That would be fantastic, wouldn't it?

Both events are played on unusual surfaces. Links style golf courses are a little more interesting visually, but grass tennis courts are bonkers aren't they?

Many of the competitors are unheard of, which is okay since their names are unpronounceable anyway. Pray with me for a pairing of Jean-Baptist Gonnet, Prayad Marksaeng, Yoshinobu Tsukada, and Soren Kjeldsen will you? I think I just broke the spell checker.

Both events have enough potential film footage to replace a year's worth of infomercials on the Golf Channel. All right, I got a little carried away with that one. How many hours is 23 x 7 x 365 anyway?

Speaking of the Golf Channel, it still is the only non-pay per view, one sport channel in existence. Shocking considering how difficult it is to remain interested in a full event.

Television broadcasting of golf has many 10 percent fans. They watch golf 10 percent of the time, only if Tiger Woods is in contention on Sunday. The other 90 percent of the time they only tune-in for the soothing voice of Peter Aliss during an afternoon nap.

My first suggestion for watching the Open Championship is to record it. You can skip all commercials, insignificant interviews, un-interesting player introduction pieces, meaningless first tee shots, tap-ins for par, basically the entire tournament.

DVR has incredibly made watching this type of broadcast possible. If you don't have it, make a tee-time at the local municipal course and pretend you're Tom Watson.

The fact that the first group of players tee-off at 1:30am EST Thursday morning will help convince you to set your TiVo, otherwise during commercials you will be channel surfing between Making Millions in Real Estate Investing, Extenze, and Girls Gone Wild Infomercials.

I on the other hand, will be watching it live, but only because I am such a die-hard golf aficionado.

My second suggestion for enjoying the Open Championship is to get into character. Pick up a tweed Hogan cap, plaid pants, an argyle sweater, some bratwurst and a case of Guinness.

You should also remove all of your dental work and replace your usual profanities with the word "bloody." It helps if you ask your wife to only address you as "the honorable old chap from Mustyberger On Gouda" for the remainder of the weekend. For really serious fans, rent a wind machine, sit in the backyard with the sprinklers on, and watch through window.

Finally, (this is the serious part) try to learn something from the players' golf swings. DVR is great for slow motion.

Choose a player with a similar build as you are, women should pick Colin Montgomerie, and watch closely. Then compare to your own swing in a mirror.

You will notice that when the wind starts blowin' the swings start slowin'. You will also be able to recognize which player is confident and relaxed and which player can't stand still or stop the nervous chatter to his caddy while waiting to hit a shot.

As has been said 2,849,876,238 times before, golf is a mental game, but ABC has no "brain cam" yet. So to really enjoy this year's Open Championship I will be turning off the sound from the commentators on my television and turning on a good polka.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Olympic Preview from

Imagine if you were a sports writer.

No, I mean one that gets paid for assignments and has actual press credentials for the Beijing Olympics.

Now, imagine that horse's rectum of a boss you have at the local paper is asking you to cover ping pong. So, you get some shots from Dr. Jellyfinger for your passport and fly to China. At the hotel desk, you tell some "new, local friends" that you are covering ping pong.

Tomorrow you wake up to a concrete floor on your back, leather straps around your limbs, and repeated drops of water falling directly between your eyes.

"What went wrong," you think to yourself, fighting off the inevitable madness promulgated by three years of Chinese water torture in a turn of the century prison?

What went wrong, ding dong, was that you mocked the rich history and tradition of the Republic of China by referring to table tennis as ping pong.

Journalists from Pennsyltucky could be imprisoned right now?

This exact scenario might not actually happen. But why risk it? Call the sport by its proper name.

Table tennis has come a long way since its introduction as an overweight aristocrat's non-sweating alternative to lawn tennis in 1890s England. Yes, I said England, not China.

I saw Forrest Gump too, and for years made the same assumption. It is, after all, commonly referred to in America as ping pong.

Today, players compete for big money on par with UFC fighters. But, I would prefer getting punched in the face for a living, given the choice.

They wield specially developed rubber-coated wooden and carbon-fibre rackets that are as expensive as Taylor Made Drivers. Various rubber compounds and glues are applied on the rackets to impart greater spin or speed.

Table tennis has become the world's largest participation sport, with 40 million competitive players worldwide and countless millions playing recreationally.

Still, not one of these participants has ever seen a woman naked. I guess that's about when I gave up the game yesterday.

Originally it began with cigar-box lids for rackets and a carved champagne cork for a ball. It was beer-pong before beer.

The team to watch, however, is China. They are led by the legendary Guoliang Liu.

In his birth town of Xinxiang, from the early age of six, the young Guoliang managed his first forehand drive. He very quickly adopted the Chinese playing style known as “penhold” and rapidly mastered the basics of table tennis. In 1991, aged 15, his efforts began to pay off—he was selected for the Chinese national team. The rest, as they say, is boring, too.

So, in the great, mentally-challenged tradition of Jeffy from The Ringer: