A certain symmetry between Doc and Tom and the child in all of us

November 10, 2017

Little Joe - I have a younger cousin, Joe Kelly, who is a New Jersey Freeholder and plays the drums in a rock band. He was in my wedding back in 1969. Inside the family, the 6-foot-4 hulking Harley rider with a beard and little hair is known as Little Joe. His dad was Big Joe. Little Joe is 65 years old, but my brother, Big Tom, recently referred to Joe as a nice kid. Little Joe was inspired to ride Harleys his entire life because of a journey cousin David took him on through the hills of Parkland, Pa., hanging onto the back of a motor scooter – a ride that put the wind in his hair and ears.The placid and laid-back Little Joe liked the feeling of freedom in his face like a dog hanging out the truck window. As for me, not so much. My son Tom, who died Oct. 9 in a truck accident at the age of 40, was a troubled person as an adult, but an unrelentingly nice kid with an immense talent for tolerating others, no matter what their foibles or limitations. He was a Phillies fan through life’s abbreviated journey. A month after Tom left the ballpark, Roy “Doc” Halladay crashed his airplane in the Gulf of Mexico and died. Doc was just 40 years old and an unrelenting nice kid, the personification of control and poise under pressure. But Halladay evidently flew like a falcon inside that plane. Doc had every intention of being home with his family later that afternoon. Searching for an unrelated photo, I discovered one of Tom and his nephew Magic Mikey Fred from 2007. Tom is wearing a Phillies cap and Mikey is sitting on his lap and there is a lacrosse stick on the ground. An idyllic family moment captured. Sports and community. It could be a painting. Tom and Doc are connected by age, athleticism and early exit. The only spiritual explanation is: “The journey begins where it ends.”

Falcons gone wild - Perennial field hockey powers and state championship programs Cape and Severna Park played each other five consecutive times from 2012 through 2016. All were great games, and the final record was 2-2-1. The Falcons are a program with fun embedded. During halftime of varsity games, the JV girls do a skit for the varsity, which is hilarious. I found them to be a program that won with class and could put a loss in perspective. Their last trip to Cape was on a Saturday in 2016. It was the same game where I cracked my head open reaching into my 4Runner and was glued back together by doctors Stancofski and Sabbagh. The Falcons won in  overtime 1-0 in spite of being outshot 12-3 and outcornered 15-4. Speaking on the record afterward to a pink-headed dried-blood grandfather of sportswriters, Kate Windett Austin said, “We should have won that game. We left too many opportunities out there.” The Severna Park coach didn’t like reading what she perceived as a lack of graciousness and dropped Cape from the schedule even though I threw myself under the bus and into the car door saying “You know Kate. It was about her frustration with her own team, not disrespect toward yours.” Last week, Severna Park was all up in the news in the Capital Gazette out of Annapolis and the Washington Post. A tradition after the Falcons win a region game (a sleepover followed) is that they throw toilet paper at the coach’s house. But then they moved on to throwing paper at each others’ houses and maybe just any old house. “Absence of malice” was not an excuse but an explanation, and that Falcon didn’t fly, as the superintendent suspended all players and coaches, and pulled the team from the playoffs. Tough call. The super was boxed into a corner and he converted it into a season-ending exit. 

Snippets - I’m ready to take a cold-weather beat down these last two weeks of outdoor sports before going inside to watch basketball, wrestling and sometimes swimming inside the subtropical humidor at the Sussex YMCA, and an occasional indoor track meet down to the Worcester County Recreation Center. It’s been great fall weather for watching sports, but I don’t know if I can take three hours of cross country races followed by a three-hour soccer game in 40-degree weather. Actually I do know, I can’t take it. Lots of local talent is participating in NCAA field hockey and soccer tournaments beginning this weekend. Consider yourself on a need-to-know text alert. If you don’t already know, you probably don’t need to know anyway. Go on now, git!