Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Duit ("Happy New Year" in Irish)

It's New Year's Day
Just like the day before
Same old skies of grey
Same empty bottles on the floor
Another year gone by
And I'm thinking once again
How can I take this losing hand
And somehow win

Just give me one good year
To get my feet back on the ground
I've been chasing grace
But grace ain't so easily found
One bad hand can devil a man
Chase him and carry him down
I gotta get out of here
Just give me one good year

I'm burning oil
Engine's running rough
I drive from job to job
But it's never enough
I can't find the will
To just up and get away
Some kind of chains holding me down
To make me stay.

Just give me one good year.....

It's a bitter wind
In your face every day
It's the little sins
That wear your soul away
When you start giving in
Where do the promises all go
Will your darkest hour
Write a blank check on your soul

Just give me one good year
To get my feet back on the ground
I've been chasing grace
But grace ain't so easily found
One bad hand can devil a man
A good one can turn him around
I gotta get out of here
Just give me one good year
I gotta get out of here
Just give me one good year

Slaid Cleaves - "One Good Year"

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

I'm a little late doing this - two days to be exact. But I have an excuse...and a written note from my Mom, too!We tried something a little different at the Monaghan household this year - we started cleaning the house for Christmas before Thanksgiving. OK, so that's not exactly how it happened. Let me 'splain, Lucy.

Over the past couple of years we've had not one, not two, but three different episodes of the Dreaded Flooded Basement. I can't tell you how much memorabilia from my WNEW-FM days was completely destroyed in the process. The most recent episode happened in the fall. I woke up on a Sunday morning and went down into the basement/family room to check something before coming into the radio station to do All Mixed Up. As I moved around, I noticed that my socks were starting to get wet. And that's when I realized that water was coming out of the laundry room, and up through the French drain, through the rug and into everything that was on the floor.

I ran upstairs and told my wife what was happening. The two of us spent the better part of a half hour trying to pull buckets of water out of the sump in an attempt to get the water flow under control. With both of us having to go to work later that day, we ended up having my sister-in-law come down to keep an eye on things and empty the sump when needed. I borrowed a pump from my friend Bob and the Monaghans spent the next couple of days turning it on every couple of hours in an effort to make sure that no more water came in. No one was spared; even my Mom and our two younger children were put on pump duty. So what does this have to do with Christmas? Hang on.

The damage was extensive. All the carpeting downstairs was destroyed. Everything that was in the basement had to be moved upstairs. The house looked as if a bomb had gone off. In the process of replacing the basement rug, my wife and I decided that maybe we could afford to get new carpeting in the living room, too. After 12 years, three kids, and a dog it was time. I mean, Dad IS working two jobs, right? Maybe we could actually swing this financially. But if we were going to put new carpet in the living room, it meant that the living room also needed to be painted. So for three consecutive weekends, I had "help" from my wife's parents. In the interest of One Big Happy Family, let's just leave it at that. We made the appointment to have carpeting installed in both rooms and moved the living room furniture into the dining room. The house now looked as if a second bomb had gone off. What does this have to do with Christmas? I'm getting there.

To top it off, Daughter #1 had asked a few weeks earlier if, instead of driving into the city to have Thanksgiving with my sister and her husband as we had done for the past couple of years, we could have everyone come over to our house. You know, freshman year of college and all; she wanted to really feel as if she was home. That meant that all the painting and the carpet installation and moving of furniture and whatever had to be done by Thanksgiving Eve. The race was on.

Somehow we managed to get it done. All of it. The house (or at least the family room/basement and first floor) was done. And it was clean. Spotless. And with Thanksgiving a little later this year it meant that if we could keep an eye on things, we might actually be able to not have to scramble to get the house ready for Christmas.

For three and a half weeks my wife was positively relentless. If something was left on the kitchen counter for more than three minutes it disappeared. Our two little ones felt as if their parents had turned into Marine drill instructors. But the bottom line was that on the morning of December 24th, outside of wrapping some presents and making sure that we got the kids to church on time to sing at 4 PM Mass, we had very little to do.

Christmas Eve meant the Invasion Of the In-Laws. Santa made his phone call from somewhere over the South Atlantic. The kids were bouncing off the walls. In other words, business as usual around the Monaghan house.

2008 has been a strange year. The economy is an absolute disaster. We watched a historic presidential primary campaign turn into an even bigger historical election. As a country we're still mired in a war we can't seem to find an end-game to. But we're together. As dysfunctional as we all are sometimes, we're still together. Amid the chaos of flooded basements, and rugs, and painting, and the usual holiday stress, and whatever else gets thrown in our midst, we're still together. And THAT'S the point. THAT'S what this has to do with Christmas.

Christmas Day, I was nodding off on the couch in my in-laws' living room. Every so often I would wake up to hear someone laughing as stories about Christmases Past were being told. Funny, but in none of those stories were any presents mentioned. It was always about the idea of a family being together, working together, just trying to get through the day to day nonsense that attempts to drag us down. Think about that First Christmas - a young couple struggling against pretty heavy odds along with a rather unexpected baby, but together.

I hope you've been able to spend these past few days together with people you care about...together with people who care back.

Merry Christmas.

Take this silver lining
Keep it in your own sweet head
Shine it when the night is burning red
Shine it in the twilight
Shine it on the cold cold ground
Shine it till these walls come
Tumbling down

David Gray

Friday, October 17, 2008

Faith Rewarded. Again.

Game Five of the 2008 American League Championship Series. With the Red Sox having lost 3 in a row and trailing 3 games to 1 to a white-hot Rays team, there could be no margin for error.

I watched the first inning at my 2nd job; the game hardly started the way I figured with Dice-K giving up a 2-run HR before an out had even been recorded. On the way home I put on WTIC out of Connecticut, opting to listen to the game through the static with the regular Red Sox announcing crew of Joe Castiglione and Dale Arnold instead of putting up with the painful experience of listening to the ESPN radio feed with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. More TB home runs; more Red Sox runners left on base. F-bombs were flying through the car at lightning speed.

As I pulled into my neighborhood at 9:30 PM, my oldest daughter called me from her college dorm on my cell phone. "Dad, this is disgusting. What's happening here?" We talked of the fun we'd had on a couple of Fenway road trips we'd taken from NJ this year, lamented some key injuries to important players, and just figured we'd start counting the days until pitchers and catchers. When I walked in the door, my wife had turned the game off in the living room. The look of disgust on her face echoed my own sentiments. Our 7-year old son came downstairs when he heard me come in and asked me what the score was. "Well, maybe we'll get them in the next game," he offered, until I reminded him that this would likely be Tampa Bay's 4th win. I sent him back off to bed with a Manny-like "there's always next year" and headed down to the family room to check in on the game thread on the SoSH website and see what had developed. That was right about the time that Red Sox relief pitcher Manny Delcarmen left and closer Jonathan Papelbon came in. Like some others, I turned the game off when it got to 7-0. I figured that I wake up for job #1 at 4 AM; it's probably best to not torture myself any longer, so I went upstairs, kissed my wife goodnight, and headed to bed.

"Jim...I don't want to wake you...but I don't think you should miss this."

My wife was gently shaking my shoulder and had this edge of excitement to her voice. Big Papi had already hit his 3-run shot and Papelbon had shut the door in the 8th. J.D. Drew was up. I struggled to focus on the TV in the bedroom just as Drew's shot left his bat. I bolted upright and threw my arms in the air. Somehow I managed to blurt out, "DON'T LET US WIN ONE!" - echoes of Kevin Millar from the 2004 ALCS. Our 9-year old daughter heard the commotion and poked her head out her door. "Get in here!" I exclaimed. My wife mentioned something about it being late and a school night and I just gave her that look that said, "You're kidding, right?"

When Mark Kotsay doubled off the glove of Tampa center fielder B.J. Upton with two out in the bottom of the 8th inning, the phone rang. It was our oldest daughter calling from school. She and her roommate were making so much noise as Fenway was becoming unglued (to steal a phrase from Francona) that one of her dorm RA's came in to see what the problem was. That RA and another ended up watching the game with the two of them. So with my 9-year old talking on the phone with her big sister while wrapped in my arms in bed, and my wife clutching my shoulder, the four of us hung on for dear life during Coco's AB.

By the time the game ended with J.D.'s line drive, we were all screaming - my daughter in her dorm and the three of us in my bedroom...while our 7-year old somehow slept through the entire thing.

We flipped back and forth between ESPN and the TBS postgame show, not entirely believing what we had seen. I'm still not entirely sure that what I saw really happened.

Faith Rewarded.


Monday, August 25, 2008

John Farrell - Take A Look At This!

If Clay Buchholz and Manny Delcarmen had this kind of form, the Red Sox pitching might be in MUCH better shape! By the way, he's not even 7 and a half yet!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


So let's see if I have the head count correct.

Five adults, four teenagers, two smaller children, and a kennel's worth of dogs. All packed into one house for the better part of a week.

What have I gotten myself into?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Softball Dreams Do Come True!

She was three years old when that picture was taken. Her 7-year old brother likes to tease her that she didn't get her hips to the ball and she was swinging underneath the ball (he's right, btw).

This past Monday, my now-18-year old completed her scholastic softball career. Though she was a four-year varsity player, this was the first time that Courtney actually got some serious playing time.

Freshman year, she felt lucky to just make the team. There were a some starts at DH, and some pinch-running assignments, and with a bunch of other freshmen on the team, there was a sense that this team was going to be good in a couple of years.

Sophomore year brought a new coach and some new challenges. Playing time was reduced a bit, but when her team beat our local town high school for the first time in at least four years, it was Courtney who pitched the first two innings, holding her opponents to a single run until the regular starting pitcher could get to the field. I will never forget the look on my daughter's face at the end of the game - "We won...and I had something to do with it!" The team's record was awful, but they played hard every game for this new coach, and the feeling from freshman year about how good this team was going to be was looking like a reality.

Junior year was almost a complete waste of time. Yet another new coach, and that meant having to prove herself all over again. Playing time was very scarce and limited to an occasional late-inning replacement in right field or second base. One disastrous pitching outing doomed her from ever getting back into the circle for the remainder of the year. One bad practice (a practice for goodness' sake!) and her playing time went down to almost nothing. She was hurt. She was angry. And she was determined to prove EVERYONE wrong.

Heading into her senior year, Courtney started going to a local gym. She ran. She lifted weights. And every Sunday for the better part of six months, she had me train her. As we got later into the winter, she upped the workouts to twice a week. We played long toss until I thought my arm would fall off. She did ground ball drills on her knees until they ached. I can't begin to count the number of swings she took. I told her again and again, "Hard work pays off." The last Sunday before tryouts, I looked her in the eye and told her, "You're ready." I don't think I've ever been more sure of anything in my life.

Trouble was, the one person whose opinion really mattered - her coach - wasn't convinced. Despite being named a co-captain by the coach, and showing VAST improvement in pre-season practices (she was the only infielder to reach 1st base from 3rd on the first day of throwing drills), she started the season on the bench. We continued to work out. We would go to outdoor fields and I would hit her ground balls over and over. I started to doubt my own ability to teach the game and evaluate talent. After one particularly strong workout in which she made play after play, I threw my arms out in desperation and pleaded, "What am I missing here? I don't understand why you aren't playing." Was it personal between her and the coach? Was I biased because this was my daughter?

Shortly after that day she got a start at second base. By Courtney's own standards, she had just an OK day. One routine ground ball out, a miscue on another ground ball, and a loss to the big local rival. Convinced she wouldn't play the next day, we were all stunned the next morning to find her back at second base in the opening game of an annual tournament at one of the local Catholic high schools.

Her team fell behind early (the coach chose this game to start one of the younger pitchers and by the time she made a change to the regular starter, it was 8-1). But something odd happened. The other team stopped playing well, Courtney's team scored a few runs, and all of a sudden the score was 8-6 and this game was actually within reach.

Enter the defining moment of her season.

Leading off an inning, the coach noticed a look on my daughter's face and asked her what was wrong. Ticked off by what had happened her junior year and frustrated at having already struck out in this game, she looked the coach straight in the eye and told her, "I'm frustrated by striking out and I am afraid you'll take it out on me and sit me." She then went out and drilled a single past the pitcher's head into center field to ignite what would be the tying rally. She also made two brilliant plays at second base and when she was injured on another play covering first, she waved off her coach - "I wasn't giving her the chance to take me out," she would later relate. Her team ended up losing by a run in extra innings, but the die was cast.

In the second game, she made a couple more great defensive plays and beat out an infield hit that drove in the go-ahead (and ultimately winning) run. All that work...those hours of ground balls...those stupid drills...all of it was finally paying off! "Are you crying, Dad?" she said to me after the second game. "Maybe a little bit," I responded. Shortly after that in the post-tournament award ceremony, she was named to the All-Tournament Team.


Courtney started almost every game the rest of the season. In another tournament, she once again sparkled with both her bat and her glove. Over the course of the rest of her season she made the great plays...she made the routine plays. She was NEVER out of position. She got some hits. She played. She had fun! Parents of her teammates raved about how she was the defensive glue of the infield. This past Tuesday night, her school held its annual spring sports dinner. She positively glowed when she was handed her varsity certificate and pin. When we came home, she threw her arms around me and said, "Thank you, Daddy."

No, Courtney. Thank you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trading Places

Have you ever wished you could be someone else for just a little while? Welcome to my world.

During the 2007 baseball season, the Red Sox called up a kid from the minor leagues who in no time managed to capture the collective interest of Red Sox Nation (and especially that segment of the fandom somewhat derisively referred to as the Pink Hats) with his positively electric playing style.

Jacoby Ellsbury started the 2007 season in Double-A ball in Portland, moving to Triple-A Pawtucket before making his Major League debut over 3 stints with Boston. His Major League resume - even now only a few months old - is already pretty impressive. He hit safely in 27 of his first 32 major league games with an at-bat, including a 13-game hitting streak from September 1-15, during which he hit .426 (20-47) with 3 doubles, a triple, 3 home runs, 13 RBI, 11 runs, 4 stolen bases and 2 walks. The night in Fenway he scored from second base on a passed ball has already reached a kind of legendary status among Red Sox fans.

In the post-season, if he was even the slightest bit fazed by playing on baseball's biggest stage, he certainly didn't show it. In 11 post-season games, including the start in each of Boston's final 6 contests, Ellsbury batted .360 (9-25) with 4 doubles, 4 RBI, 8 runs, 3 walks and 2 stolen bases. His 4 doubles all came in the World Series. Say it with me - this kid is an absolute STUD.

Probably one of the fastest players to ever wear a Red Sox uniform, Jacoby Ellsbury is literally everything I ever wanted to be in my baseball career. He's currently rotating as the Red Sox' fourth outfielder pending either an injury to a teammate, or a trade of Coco Crisp.

If the opportunity to trade places with someone for just 24 hours ever were to happen, I wonder how Jacoby Ellsbury would handle waking up at 4 AM?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The High Holy Days 2008

I'm told it's a holiday of sorts in New England; to the best of my knowledge, no other team's fan base gets as excited about an 18-wheeler filled with baseball equipment as Red Sox fans do.

All I know is that this Saturday is "Truck Day" which means two things. One - the Red Sox equipment truck leaves Fenway Park on Saturday and Two - the High Holy Days are once again upon us!

February 10 - Truck Day
February 14 - Pitchers and catchers report
February 20 - Position players report
February 22 - Full squad workouts begin
February 28 - First Red Sox Spring Training game
March 1 - First day of spring (unofficial)
March 15 - Morris County St. Patrick's Day Parade
March 16 - Matthew's birthday
March 17 - St. Patrick's Day
March 20 - First day of spring (official)
March 25 - Opening Day: Red Sox vs. A's at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan
March 30 - 2008 Major League Baseball Opening Day
April 8 - Red Sox Home Opener

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Giants/Patriots - The Dilemma Begins

We have a small dilemma at the Monaghan home - we need to pick a team to root for in the upcoming Super Bowl.

First things first - I covered the Jets and Giants for three years in the mid-90's while at WNEW-FM spending virtually every weekend at Giants Stadium during that time. I had always followed both local football teams, but never declared allegiance to either much to the dismay of those people who claim you can't root for both teams. Fact is, when you cover a team you get to know the players a bit, you start to like them and then you start to pull for them. So yes, you CAN root for both teams (except of course when they play each other and then I generally pull for the Giants).

Unlike my undying allegiance to the Red Sox in baseball, when it comes to football I really don't have that one team that I call mine. On the contrary, I freely admit to hopping on the bandwagon of whatever team is hot, or I find a player I really like and root for his team. In high school it was Gene Washington of 49ers. I loved watching San Francisco QB John Brodie and Washington pick apart opposing defenses. And if it happened to be against the Cowboys, so much the better. The one year I played high school football, I kept trying to find a jersey with the numer 18 on it.

I stayed with San Francisco through Jerry Rice's Hall Of Fame career (Trivia - the only personalized jersey I own from any sport has RICE across the back). I still can't fathom what Rice was thinking when he decided to appear on Dancing With the Stars, but that's a discussion for another time and place. Jerry Rice was blessed with good speed and great hands, and was fortunate enough to have Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing the ball to him for most of his career.

I have been following Tom Brady's career since his rookie season. It's just my humble opinion, but I think he is going to go down as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. He has lost exactly one postseason game in his already-remarkable career that is absolutely destined to take him to Canton, Ohio when his playing days are done. I would LOVE to see him cap off this incredible season with a perfect 19-0 record.

But then there's the case of Eli Manning. I've heard all the complaints from the agoraphobes who call into the radio shows, and the armchair quarterbacks masquerading as media types who haven't played a meaningful football game since high school (assuming they even made their high school team). "He can't play under pressure." "He throws off the wrong foot." "He can't play in bad weather." "He's not as good as his brother." Seems to me that over the course of the 2007 regular season - and especially over the past 5 or 6 weeks - Eli Manning has knocked a lot of things off that list this season, including big wins in the playoffs over both Dallas and Green Bay. So I am pulling for him to have a stellar game in 12 days.

Who to root for - history (you don't get to see 19-0 very often) or the kid who personifies the much beloved underdog?

By the way, the last time I was faced with a similar dilemma was during the 1986 World Series. Torn between which team to root for, I ultimately opted for the Red Sox. We all know how that one turned out. Stay tuned; this could be interesting.