Monday, February 19, 2018

Stop Panhandling Online

Comic used with permission. Check out for more awesome content

Seriously. It's becoming an epidemic. Stop it.

I've been struggling to write this post for a long time because I'm worried about calling people out. Then I came across this fantastic comic from Mega Dads and it gave me that extra push to get this thought out there. (Except I started writing this like three years ago and chickens out again.)

It started with...well I don't actually know where it started, but I going to make some wild and probably inaccurate generalizations here.

I first saw it with, a micro financing site that gives loans to people in "underbanked" areas. The great thing about Kiva is that the loans are well, loans. If the entrepreneur is a success you get paid back. Pretty cool right? Yeah! Then you can use the money you get paid back to fund another business. That's a micro-finance model that seems like it could work pretty well.

Next I saw Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. These sites wanted you to fund projects in exchange for...something. It seems like you mostly get offered potential stuff. At first you'd be getting the actual product they were trying to develop, and maybe some more shit on top of that if you gave at a higher level. Then later it was that you could get a chance to be the first to pre-order the thing they might develop if they got the money and then actually developed it. So, I guess that's cool.

I did give $10 to help my friends finish their movie. It was in the early days of online panhandling, and it was a project I believed in. I really wanted to see it come to fruition. And it did! And it was awesome! And you could see it on Netflix! And here's a link to their website! In return I got my name in the credits, which was pretty cool.

The thing is, it didn't stop there. The next thing you know everyone has some project they want you to fund. Then it's every parent on Facebook trying to get you to donate to their kid's school. Not buy stuff as a fundraiser, just give money to the school. Like I don't have kids in a school that I'm already giving money to. And look, I get it when you set up a GoFundMe when someone dies or gets really sick and didn't sign up for the ACA. I'm down. I give to those when I can. But it didn't stop there. Oh no. It's gotten all kinds of weird now.

The first time online panhandling struck me as being weird is when I saw a plea to help fund a vacation. It's not like it was some kind of quest to help underprivileged people somewhere, it was just for a vacation. "OK," I thought, "so this is just one yahoo who doesn't quite get the point of micro-finance or crowd funding. I'm sure it's an isolated incident." It wasn't. I've also seen people asking for friends to crowd fund their wedding. Like, I don't even know if I'm invited to the wedding yet, but you're already asking me to pay for it?

Then actual for profit businesses started getting into it. I remember reading about restaurants that crowd funded for things like new dough mixers and latte machines. Seriously? You're a business! You sell things in order to make money. Be better at that. Make better pizza, have better service, do something other than ask me to donate money on top of paying $5 for coffee. I'm sorry, I wish I had links to these articles, some of these were years ago now. Here's one about a coffee shop from last year. 

The pleas that really sent me over the edge with the whole thing came from a group of people who are generally well off, and who should have planned better. I'm talking about some of my fellow interpreters.

The Federal government is probably the largest employer of Deaf people in the country. As such they are also the largest consumer of interpreters. Here in Washington D.C. most interpreters and interpreting agencies are heavily dependent on the Feds for work. During the government shutdown of 2013 interpreting requests were cancelled and a lot of non-federal employees, contractors who relied on interpreting requests, were also out of work. 

On top of this most interpreting agencies were declining to honor the job cancellation policies that allow interpreters to get paid for untimely (short notice) cancellations. As the days stretched on some interpreting agencies started to furlough their staff interpreters. Suddenly the D.C. area found itself in a position it had never seen before, there were more interpreters available than were needed in the market. There simply wasn't enough work in the schools, hospitals, or private industry to keep all of the interpreters in the area working. It was a tough time to be an interpreter in D.C.

Please, please, hire me.
Tough, but not impossible. Frankly, interpreters (who work hard and deserve acknowledgment and respect) have pretty cushy gigs compared to people in many other jobs. In places like D.C. they also make a decent amount of coin. There aren't any millionaire interpreters, but they're not having to #FightFor15 either. So it was shocking to me when I started to see my Facebook feed littered with crowd funding campaigns to help support out of work interpreters.

It ticked me off. It was tacky. Here were members of a privileged class asking for handouts after being out of work for less than a month. And yes, interpreters are members of a privileged class. They are generally highly educated, highly employable people who earn a living due in large part to the fact that their industry is basically mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Aside from that, interpreting is a highly portable skill. No work in D.C.? Take a trip up to Delaware, or Pennsylvania, or New York. It's not unheard of for an interpreter who wants to travel to book a couple weeks with an agency in another city. Heading to a nearby locale that is less impacted and less dependent on Federal work is a feasible solution for interpreters facing something like a government shut down. I understand that people have kids and commitments and may feel like they can't go somewhere else for work. I have kids and commitments. When I need to feed those kids and put a roof over their heads I'll go wherever I can to get it done. Finding help with kids can be hard, but it can be done.

Interpreters aren't poor. We're not usually rich, but almost all of us have access to enough credit to get us through a couple weeks. Most interpreters I know take vacations. They budget for time off. This isn't any different. Yes, using credit sucks. Yes, using your savings sucks. But you know what sucks more? Asking a bunch of people, most of whom are also out of work, to support you because you didn't plan well. And that's what really bugs me about it. When your plea for money comes across my feed I'm sitting in the same city with the same problem. So are many of the Deaf people you know, and many of them earn less than you do. Interpreters panhandling online is like athletes crying about missed checks during a strike or lockout while the people who are really in dire straights are the stadium employees and people in other service and support industries who don't make six figure base salaries.

So I'm begging you. Please. Stop panhandling online.

If you're out of work, I'm probably out of work too. You're kid's school needs whatever? So does mine. Someone suddenly died, or was diagnosed with a terrible disease? OK, you got me. I'm in.

And hey, for profit endeavors, how about a different model? Why not go back to what crowd funding should be? Call for investors. You need money to develop your game? You need to finish that movie? You think you can build a better mouse trap? Great! Instead of offering me a beer coozy with your logo on it, or a chance to download early, why not offer me a piece of the action? You think you need $10,000 to do your thing? Great, for my $100 I want 1% of the net profits. Maybe I'll get my money back, maybe I won't. But I'll be much more likely to bet on your idea if I'm getting more than a commemorative tote bag. My issue isn't with you asking for money, it's with what you're offering in return.

I know I'm shouting into the void. I know that online panhandling will only get more bizzare. I can't help it though. I need to call for some kind of sanity. I mean really, I haven't even gotten into the allegations of fraud or people using conservative outrage to get rich quick. It's like I tell my kids, if you want something, work for it. Begging is usually just kind of ugly.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hanging with Ronnie Lott and Von Miller (for like, 5-minutes)

Me and a blurry but happy Ronnie Lott
When I started this blog back in 2003, it wasn't what it is now. For one thing, only nine people read it. The focus was also very different. I wrote a lot about sports, especially baseball, and I tried to bring a unique analytical spin. This was back before Baseball Prospectus and Football Outsiders started providing really good stats based writing and blew me out of the water completely. After I became a parent the focus of this space changed. I still write about sports, but mostly as it relates to my kids and what I can teach them (or what they teach me) through sports.

Last week was the annual Dad 2.0 Summit, a conference for dad bloggers to network with each other, and to interact with brands. It was also my chance to meet and chat with Super Bowl winning NFL players past and present. The opening key note featured former San Francisco 49ers great and Hall-of-Famer, Ronnie Lott and his son Ryan Nece talking about fatherhood. They both emphasized the importance of vulnerability, and being able to show that you are vulnerable, as key components of not only being a father, but also being a teammate, and a man. Lott explained that he wanted Nece to take his mother's maiden name so that Nece wouldn't grow up carrying the name of an all-time great player. It gave Nece a chance to be himself, and even to turn away from football if he'd wanted, without pressure from others.

Beyond fatherhood, the two gave insight into an NFL locker room. Nece indicated that a lot of "locker room talk" really centers around parenting and personal finance. The numbers behind athletes going broke after retirement are well known, and modern players are trying to avoid doing that. Nece also said that many players talk to each other about where to send kids to school. Lott added that with men for whom the locker room is a workplace, there's little time or space for bawdy conversations. Said Lott, "The thing is, it’s your job. There’s not many jobs where you go talk about of off color things. You’re trying to figure out life."

There was a touching moment when Nece told a story about asking his dad how to cope with failure. "I asked him, 'what did you do when you had a bad game, made the wrong play?' He told me, 'Son, I never made a bad play.'" The larger point was that you learn from failure and you move on. You understand that everyone fails at some point. It's what you learn from it, how you move on to the next play that matters. It's something I've tried to impress on my students in the years that I've been teaching. Nothing succeeds like success, but nothing can teach you to succeed better than trying and failing.

Lott also addressed the issue of kneeling during the National Anthem.
For me there's always some trepidation in meeting people you looked up to as a child. I loved Ronnie Lott when he was with the 49ers. I was five-years-old when Lott and the 49ers won their first Super Bowl. This was back before 24-hour sports networks (we didn't have cable) were pervasive. It was before social media. All you really knew about athletes was what they said in post-game interviews. So there's always a fear that they'll end up being something other than what you hope for. Brent Jones and Gary Plummer are staunch republicans. Even Jerry Rice threw out a #MAGA tweet during the election. So I was worried about what Lott would say. He was everything I'd hoped for. He made little five-year-old Tito beam with joy.

At previous Dad 2.0 conferences NFL stars Peanut Tillman and Michael Strahan were whisked away fairly quickly. Lott and Nece walked out through the ball room, stopping to chat with people. I didn't want to take up too much of Lott's time, but I had to say hello. I expected a quick handshake and greeting. He surprised me by stopping and seeming genuinely interested in my question, what was it like coming in as a class with Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright? "It was great, because we all genuinely liked each other. We had a special bond." I asked him about a story I'd read about him and Williamson passing off receivers and switching coverages without discussing it with the coaching staff. He didn't seem to recall it, but said it probably happened. I wanted to ask him about the psychology of switching positions, something many great athletes hesitate to do, but his handlers wanted him to get moving.

(More after this enormous embedded photo)

 This year I was also lucky enough to be included in a chance to meet Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, thanks to Best Buy. It was clear from the ticket that we wouldn't have much time with him and I had no idea what the format would be. I wracked my brain for something I could ask that might be even slightly original. He'd already answered every conceivable sports question. I wasn't a big enough Broncos fan to know any cool trivia. ESPN had already scooped me on the chicken farming angle. Then I remembered his ads. He always comes across as a kind of a nerd, from his dancing to his glasses. I decided to ask him how much input he gets when doing a commercial. How much does he get to guide the look and feel of how he's presented?

His answer was predictable. It was the kind of answer you get form a savvy, polished media personality. "I choose my endorsements carefully and work with brands that already understand who I am and what I'm about. So I don't need to control the process that much. I trust the people I have around me." It was a solid answer, even if it wasn't eye opening. We also took a moment to reminisce about his two strip-sacks of Cam Newton in the Super Bowl. As I was finishing my time I had to ask him his thoughts on free agent quarterback Kurt Cousins. "Oh he's coming! He is coming!" Miller exclaimed.

So there you have it. My NFL reporting from Dad 2.0 uncovered that Von Miller is all in on Kurt Cousins, geek is chic, and vulnerability is masculinity. Take care, y'all.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Let Them be Friends

No one asked if they were getting married.
I hated it when I was a kid. You probably did too.

It made me squirm a little, I could feel the heat rising up in my ears. I grew silent and stared straight ahead. My brain suddenly felt thick, not knowing how to respond, searching for an answer that would be both cutting and safe, but feeling strongly that the best approach was probably to say nothing at all. It was the same feeling I'd get when I was being bullied and knew, without any doubt, that help would not be coming. I was cornered, no matter what I said or did next, I would be punished in some way. In this instance the suffering would be limited to mental and/or emotional trauma. It would pass soon enough, but the sediment of this, and every moment like it would build up into a reef of seething resentment and distrust.

The thing is, it was probably usually an innocent query from most people. It was never innocent coming from my dad. Though it wasn't malicious, he had a way of taking things too far. Most of the adults, and even some of the kids who engaged the topic, likely thought it was all in jest. Just a little fun. They didn't know what it was doing to me, and I imagine, many boys and girls around the country.

What is it? (I know, I'm doing the click bait long mysterious intro thing. Sorry.) What's the one question that caused so much anxiety in young Berto? It's this:

"Do you have a crush on anyone?"

Why?!!! Why do we ask kids these things at such a young age? Especially if they're not offering up the information on their own? And when we ask, why don't we take it seriously? Why is it a joke, a way to tease? Don't kids have enough to deal with socially that they don't need adults piling on to what is already a fraught social navigation?

"OK. Take a breath, Berto. You're over reacting a little bit."

Am I? AM I?!

I don't think I am. Think about it, how many friendships have you seen in young kids, hell how many can you remember from your own life, that ended because of outside questions about a crush? It happens, and it's not OK.

When kids are little they play with whoever is around. As they get just a little older, pre-school according to this article from Psychology Today, they start to gravitate towards same-sex friendships. Having read a few articles about this, I wonder at how matter of fact they are about this pull towards same-sex friendships. Most of them describe it as being totally normal and natural, and not at all due to societal factors like parents who consciously or not, push their children into this division. I don't wonder this in a vacuum. I see it every day. I remember it from my own childhood. Parents who nudge their children into whatever gender roles they themselves were nudged into. It's pervasive, and when it comes to the "crush question," it's largely unacknowledged.

Pink Chicken Footies
Sure, maybe you're sitting there thinking about the new-age parents and the recent tidal wave of gender neutral parenting. I think back to a yard sale we had in 2010 when we were moving to D.C. We were selling a bunch of baby clothes. A hip young couple came by, the woman was visibly pregnant. I listened to them as they picked through our assorted onesies and other newborn size offerings. "Ugh, turtles" she said. "Hmm...footballs and basketballs," he remarked disapprovingly. "I like this one, but the chicken with the bow is just so normative." she said about a pink footie PJ that Buddy had rocked like a straight up boss. "Yeah," her partner remarked as they turned away, "it's a shame people just can't do gender neutral."

"Thanks for coming." I offered cheerfully as they walked back down the driveway, too good for our 25-cent/piece infant clothes. Inside I screamed, "You idiots! Gender neutral doesn't mean only giving your kid green and yellow! It doesn't mean avoiding footballs. It doesn't mean any of that! It means just putting clothes on your kid without giving a shit about what's on it. My son wore a pink striped footie featuring a chicken with a bow. HE LOOKED AWESOME! AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! GIVE YOUR DAUGHTER A BASKETBALL! IT HAS NO GENDER!!"

My man looks good in pink.
Lou provided an example of this just last night. I don't remember how it came up, but she was talking about coming out as someone who prefers the color blue. I know, maybe that's an extreme way of describing it, and yes, it's supposed to be funny. I'm sorry, I hope it's not offensive, but the way she talked about it, that's how it seemed to be for her. At the ripe old age of almost-seven, she talked about how she had always liked blue, but for some reason when she got to day care she just let everyone tell her to like pink. "So I just went along with it. I don't know why, I wanted to tell them I really liked blue, but I felt like I couldn't. Then I started telling everyone that I liked pink. I don't know why. But now I tell people about what I really I like, and I don't care what they think."

OK, I know I'm straying a little off topic here, but I'm coming around to it.

Just friends
When you press kids about crushes or tease them about who they "like," you're simply highlighting and emphasizing societally contrived differences between boys and girls. You're teaching children that they should only see the opposite gender as a potential romantic partner, rather than as another person in the world. When you do this before children are ready for those kinds of relationships, especially if you tease, you also introduce the idea that they should feel ashamed or uncomfortable about their relationships with the opposite gender. There are many reasons why our country is going through its current and long overdue awakening over how men treat women at work (and in general). One of these reasons is how we adults socialize little boys when we turn their platonic friendships into something they're not.

This often starts when kids are inappropriately young. I've heard parents of toddlers, or babies who are still crawling joke about how kids from the playgroup, or at the park are sweethearts. Really? Ew. Can you do me a favor and not sexualize my 20-month-old? Thanks. Beyond that, this line of questioning and teasing is almost exclusively heteronormative. When I hear parents engage in this behavior they're never saying "Hey Timmy, is that your boyfriend?" I've never heard anyone predict that little Jane and Samantha are going to get married based on their enjoyment of playing in the front yards together. Statistically your kid probably isn't homosexual, but do you really want to chance nudging them towards the closet before they can even walk?

It's tough because even if you refrain from this kind of behavior, it's still out there. Lou has been coming home telling us who she's going to marry since she was in daycare. I don't know if she got it from teachers, or parents, or kids, or Disney movies, or from having married parents. It's been about a 60/40 female/male split on who she's said she's getting hitched to, and I don't know if that means she's gay, or didn't really understand what being married meant. I'm fine with either explanation. I don't need my 3-year-old (now 7-year-old) to fully understand any of that yet. Though, she's known the biological facts of reproduction since she was about three, and she knows that men and women can marry anyone they want, I don't need her to feel pressured to declare herself until she decides.

I recently broached the topic with Buddy. He's been having some trouble with rough play at school. It's been mutually agreed upon rough play, and for the most part no one has been hurt by it. But the teachers don't like it. A couple of times he's mentioned verbal spats that grew physical. I wanted to know what the issues were. Buddy has a lot of girl friends that he plays with at school. At age 9, I know the kinds of things kids tease about. For all the reasons above, I didn't ask him about any crush he might have. I asked "What kinds of things do people tease about?" He was non-committal. "Do they tease about crushes? Like, who likes who?" They do, but for him that's not what any of his altercations were about. It seems that most of teasing at school starts not with boys and girls being friends, but with someone telling a friend who they themselves like. Being nine-year-olds, the secret never keeps and someone tells the object of the crush, and sometimes problems arise. From there we talked about the nature of crushes. How it's OK to have them, or not have them. How if someone accuses you of a crush (what a terrible concept "accused" of a crush) it's OK to brush it off, because ultimately it's not something to be ashamed of. It's either true or it's not, and either way it's between you and the other person. Relationships, in any form, aren't subject to public approval.

You can fight crime together without other entanglements.
I hope my kids have a good sense of this stuff. I hope they know they can come talk to us when they do start to venture beyond feelings of normal friendship. I hope I can foster an environment where they know they won't be made to feel ashamed of their feelings. I also hope they continue along their current trajectories, having friends of the opposite gender who remain just friends. My goal for them to form and maintain comfortable relationships with people in general at school, at work, and socially, that are devoid of "will they won't they" complications.

I want my son and my daughters to move through their lives seeing the person in front of them, not a bunch of external complications and societal noise. It starts with helping them cultivate normal friendships with members of the other gender. It starts early. It starts at home.

Just let your kids be friends.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hardcore Parkour!

Great job everyone! Can't wait to see all of you soon! Train safe! ~Raul
Posted by SF Parkour on Monday, January 15, 2018

OK, I bet there's like a million blog posts with the same title. Whatevs, dude. I'm going with it.

Hi! It's been a while. I basically went into a bunker at the start of last semester, and haven't emerged until recently. I spent 60 hours-a-week at work trying to make things work as the lone member of an academic department. It didn't work. I'm no longer in traditional academia, which I'm sure I'll write about at some point, but for now I've taken about a month to reacquaint myself with my family. I'm also getting to see some of the friends I allegedly moved back to California to hang out with.

One of those friends is an actual good parent who, unlike me, has made time to sign her kid up for actual activities. She's an awesome mom, I look up to her. Our sons are six-weeks apart in age and we've been friends since right before her and T were preggo-buddies. Knowing I had more free time on my hands, she reached out about a beginners parkour class hosted, by SF Parkour. Her son had been wanting to try it for ages, but it always conflicted with football. (See, she like, does stuff for her kid other than tell them to play in the yard while doing seemingly endless piles of laundry. I mean, I'm sure she does piles of laundry, she just is able to do other stuff too. I'm not.) Bonus: it was being held at U.C. Berkeley, just a short walk from home.

Kids learn hand position for forward roll
I have always been surprisingly athletic. This isn't to say I've ever been a star at anything, but I'm not much to look at physically so the athletic success I've had has generally been surprising to almost everyone. Over these early years of parenthood I have come to realize that my kids do not share this trait. Not that I've given up on them, or that they shouldn't continue to pursue all manner of athletic pursuits, it's just that moving doesn't come naturally to them. Of course, I blame myself for encouraging their more sedentary/nerdy pursuits. It's a lot easier to clean the kitchen when one is reading and the other is working on endless art projects than it is from a playground. And it's not that I haven't tried. There have been plenty of times when my little ones have gone tearing through the house wrestling and screaming, only to see them sit quietly in the tunnels of the play structure, refusing to move once we arrived at the park. Whatever the reasons, my kids have two left feet, two left hands, and possibly two left eyes. But I'd always wanted to try parkour and I wanted my kids to hang out with my friend and her athletic prodigy of a kid. (I'll add, her kid is also really smart and very good natured. He's basically perfect.)

The class wasn't aimed at kids, but it wasn't not for kids. It was open to literally anyone and that's who seemed to show up. The age and ability range was significant and the instructors were game to teach all of them. I can't say enough about how cool these instructors were. They were patient and generous with every single person who attended. The class started with a warm up and then moved into teaching some basic parkour moves. "HARDCORE PARKOUR!" my kids yelled, a phrase they had picked up from The Office clip I'd shown them the night before. "HARDCORE PARKOUR!" exclaimed while failing to execute a single summersault that didn't involve slamming head-first into the ground. "HARDCORE PARKOUR!" yelled Lou, well after she had abandoned the activity in favor of sitting in the shade and eating a Cliff Bar. Gotta love 'em.

The truth is, it didn't matter if the kids were any good at parkour. In fact, we spent some time before and during emphasizing that they shouldn't expect to be good at it yet. It was their first attempt, learning takes time and repetition. By the end of the day Buddy was doing pretty well vaulting over the wall and rolling down the hill. The instructors, with some help from dad, convinced him to embrace the process of learning instead of the result of his initial attempts. Once he realized he could be successful at the process of learning, executing discrete tasks and then combining them into a fluid move he improved rapidly. (He also stopped comparing himself to other students, which is something I emphasize with him, and my own classes.)

As we all walked back to our house for PB&J and an extended play date, both of the older kids said they enjoyed the class and wanted to do it again. I also had a great time learning the basics, though I am sore in ways I am not familiar with. So if you're looking for a fun day with the family, or on your own, I recommend looking up SF Parkour. They also mentioned other parkour meet up groups in the East Bay and around Nor-Cal, but I don't remember them all. SFPK is a good start, and I'm sure they can point you towards groups in your area.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Win Free Registration to Latino Dad Summit!


Have you heard about the Latino Dad Summit? Have you read my introductory post, "Who is Latino Dad?" Are you a Latino Dad, or do you have one in your life?

If any of these things sound interesting to you, please join us for the first ever Latino Dad Summit. Click the link for the schedule for this one-day only summit discussing modern fatherhood, as well as sessions for content creators and influencers in the Latino Dad space.

But hey, I mentioned free registration. Yes! Check this link on how you can win a ticket to attend Latino Dad for free with this Rafflecopter giveaway. I am giving away two free registrations this week!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why Go to NFL Training Camp?

It has almost never occurred to me to attend an NFL training camp practice. I've been a 49er fan for as long as I can remember. I really like football. I've been the commissioner of the same fantasy football league for 14 years. I like going to games. I spend most Sundays watching football. Still, the idea of going out to a practice facility that isn't really designed to accommodate crowds to sit in the heat and pay $7 for water has never appealed to me. I mean, what's the point of watching practice? Sounds boring and inconvenient right?

That's what I thought too. So when the 49ers sent out tweets, emails, and Facebook invites to their open practice this summer my answer was, "Yeah right. Never." Not three hours later my friend Daniel sent me a text:
"I just won tickets to 49ers practice on Saturday, want to go?"
I think I took all of thirty seconds to think about it. "Yes!" I replied. I did still wonder if it was going to be fun. I didn't even know where it was.  After finding out it wasn't in Napa (that's where the Raiders practice, duh) I was happy to hear it was at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara and not at the practice facility. I was even happier to read that the food would be free.

Seriously, bro. Free food.

OK, let's go.

Daniel is awesome and suggested I bring Buddy with us. I was excited to see a new stadium, and Buddy had been wanting to go to an NFL game. I can't afford that right now, so this was good chance to get him an NFL experience on the cheap, and for a duration (it was a 4 hour event) that he can handle.

The only problem we encountered is that the parking and traffic flow around the stadium were terrible. They had traffic cops out to help, but it seem like a planning issue that just wasn't addressed well. Other than that, it was actually pretty cool.

Why should you consider attending an NFL training camp practice? Read on for my unsorted, semi-chronological list.

1. It's not crowded if it's at the stadium:

YMMV but it's unlikely 50,000 people are going to show up for practice. The concourse isn't crowded, there are plenty of bathrooms, there's shade. Also, the Kid Zone games don't have long lines.

2. Free Food:

Maybe only terrible teams like the 49ers are doing this, but it was very cool. And it wasn't just the cheapo/terrible stuff. The sausages were legit. They also had nachos, pizza, soft drinks, bottled water and a bunch more available. The line moved quickly. You could buy beer/wine (of course wine, it's the 49ers) for $14 if you wanted.

3. Open Seating:

Again, a more popular or recently successful team may have their event fill up, not so in Santa Clara. We watched part of practice from seats we could certainly never afford. Buddy liked watching the 11-on-11 drills from up close. It was almost like watching a game. If you're in my tax bracket this is as close as you're likely to get. You get a good sense of the speed and power of the players when you're this close. Also, dude, look how cushy these chairs are.

4. Nerding out:

I actually enjoyed watching the punt coverage and 1:1 passing drills more than I thought I would. I was reminded that I like watching practice because you can get a sense of how each part of a play is broken down into smaller group or individual responsibilities. It's also great because you can really see differences in technique by each player. They run through the same drill over and over, which allows you to suss out what players do well, and what they're working on. If you're football nerd there's a lot to see.

5. There are chances to get closer:

A lot of fans were able to go down on the field to watch the end of practice. I'm not sure how other people got their passes, but we got ours because my friend complained about the parking situation on Twitter. Not sure why that worked, but his guess was, "It could be because I have a verified account." By hook or by crook, we ended up down on the field during the two-minute drill. That was very cool. The offense was driving towards us and viewing everything from that vantage point allowed us to get a sense for the size and speed of the players. At one point Jeremy Kerley ran an out-route, made a great catch, and his momentum took him right into our knot of spectators. A few plays later Brian Hoyer threw a touchdown while standing just a few yards away from us.

6. They're good to kids:

For this event kids under six got in free. The adult fans were happy to let Buddy stand in front of them, right at the rope that cordoned off our viewing area, so he could see. The security guards held their gruff security guard demeanor with the adults, but one of them was genuinely playful and kind to Buddy. He even made it on the Jumbotron again, making it his fourth time in four different stadiums. But the highlight was the players, who were polite at worst, and jubilantly interactive at their best. Wide receivers Marquise Goodwin and Jeremey Kerley were very accommodating to fan requests and stopped to chat with Buddy briefly while signing his jersey. Punter, Brad Pinion chuckled when I told him he was my favorite player. He doesn't know about my abiding love for kickers and special teamers. Most of the players were able to see through the throng of adults shoving hats and posters at them, picking out the kids and going to them first.

Buddy with the Niners top 3 WRs: Garcon, Kerley and Goodwin
Buddy being able to meet players and get autographs was a special moment for me too. When I was five-years-old my mom took me to some 49ers banquet she had been invited to by a co-worker. I have no idea who I met that night, but I know they were players, and they were really nice to me. I specifically remember one spending a long time playing with my stuffed bunny with me. I left with a bunch of signed swag, all of which was lost to time over various moves and the fact that my mom didn't value it and I was little. Still, I was hooked on the Niners from then on.

So if you've ever thought about going to an NFL training camp I suggest looking to see if your team is doing an event day. That's likely going to be the best organized day. If you don't live near your team, the practice environment can be fun. I wasn't excited about the idea of attending training camp, but I gave it a shot, and it was fun for everyone. I definitely recommend a trip for football fans who may not have considered it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

On City Dads Again!

I forgot to post this here, though I did share it on social media. I wrote this for City Dads Group and it published earlier this year. This time it's about my complete and utter failure to raise my kids bilingually.

Please give it a look. Thanks.

Raising Children to be Bilingual in Baby (Sign) Steps on City Dads.