Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's Just A Game

We should be watching basketball today. But, as we all know, this year is different. Not different as in ‘odd’ but different as in ‘we’ll always remember 2020’. The economic ramifications from COVID-19 are only beginning to be understood. And there are very real tragedies unfolding, both economically and for victims of this illness. All of that is priority, let us be clear. But I think it’s also fair to mourn the loss of our sports games. Humans are social beings, made to be in community. To have that community yanked away feels unnatural. Because it is! And sports form the community many of us find connection with. 

Sports provide an outlet that measurably improves student outcomes, engenders friendships, and develops maturity. It’s where we learn the lessons of life. Through the arc of a sports season we learn to come together as a team and build towards the crescendo that is the end of the season. This climax isn’t found just in sports, with those in music working towards their concert or those in theater to their show. Study after study have shown the positive effects of these extracurricular activities. For me, though, it was always sports. Anybody dealing with this year’s cancellations is feeling similar. This year there is no climax. The story has been stopped short. How do we begin to reconcile this loss? 

March is my favorite month of the year. Spring is springing, and with it the rites of this season like warming weather, flowers, and spring training come. My birthday is this month, appropriately placed. But what I connect with March more than anything else is the NCAA tournament and basketball at all levels. I have watched the tournament selection show almost every year, and immediately began analyzing year after year of brackets. It’s my favorite TV event of the year. I remember going to the library after school and copying the bracket from the Monday newspaper before the days of the Internet. I love the raw human emotion inevitably captured yearly as the games begin and upsets ensue. And this year we don’t get any of it. It’s all gone. A year that will forever be marked in the record books as a gap. I miss it incredibly. It’s just a game, they say. But it marks so much more. 

Selfishly, my first reaction after the cancellations was to be sad for myself. I was sad about what I wasn’t going to get. No Selection Sunday. The team I cheer for was finally going back to the tourney (after too long an absence). I’d have to wait another year. From March Madness to March Sadness. But my mind quickly turned to others who are undoubtedly suffering more. Teams who hadn’t been for far longer. Seniors who had worked their entire career for this one chance at a shining moment. There is no next year for so many. My cousin, a senior in college, was literally about to run out onto the floor for warmups before her tournament game when it was cancelled. The grief at it being so suddenly over would clearly be overwhelming. It feels cruel. 

As I contemplated this loss, I knew the feeling only too well. You see, I lost my senior year season. This is not something I’ve talked a lot about, but on February 6 that year my world was rocked. Two fellow starters on my high school basketball team were in a car crash, with one dying and the other severely injured. We had been a tight knit unit. The season did technically go on. But losing 2/5 of our lineup was insurmountable. We obviously weren’t the same on the court, or off. We struggled to even play the games after the tragedy. Our playoff run was short, but our grief was long. It took a long time and some spiritual growth for me to come to terms with what had happened. By then I was gone to college, never to return to my hometown for more than a summer passthrough. 

You see, I was devastated at the loss of a close friend. Still am. But I also ached for our team. We never had the chance to see what we could do. What we might have been. We were actually a decent team with dreams of return to the state tournament; a destination our little town hadn’t seen for years. But we’ll never know. To this day, I have dreams about what it might have been. I had to mourn for both my friend and our team’s hopes. 

This sort of tragedy happens. Every year somewhere a team’s possibility is cruelly stopped short for tragic reasons. I cringe when most years I read horrible headlines about young lives lost. But this year it happened to everyone. 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Almost all of these players will feel this for a lifetime. I still do. For some it will fade as they get a chance at a redo next year. For others, they never will and that will sting. That we have an entire year of kids who must go through this is awful. But I’m here to tell you things get better. Life gracefully does go on. You will find a job, you’ll find love, you’ll have children. Our lives are filled with blessings that we so often take for granted, which, with time, become more and more apparent. 

It will take years to reconcile what this year has meant. I truly believe we can come through it. Perhaps even learn to recognize some positives that came from it. But let’s not trivialize the pain. This loss is real. Yes, any sport is just a game. But these games are imbued with a value far deeper. They are as human as we are. Recovering from what we’ve lost becomes about who we are as a community of humans. How we must come together by, for now, staying apart. I grieve with those affected. May each day bring further peace. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Baby #3

Welcome to our third girl, Clara Elizabeth! We are so excited to add a third musketeer to the family. Born in our nation's capital, she is already charting her own course and we can't wait to see where she will go.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Follow Me

For those who may be interested, you can follow me on Twitter @Westy33, where I every so often share some short bits of miscellany.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care Overview

So (that's the Minnesota way to start sentences) I thought this graphic by the Chicago Tribune was pretty helpful in understanding the impact the health care bill will have on us.

Personally, I'm in favor of many of these components.  Thoughts?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

School Achievement Success

Upon reading this success story in the Chicago Tribune today, I couldn't help but post some excerpts to draw attention to this astounding bit of happy news

Four years ago, the Urban Prep Academy began as an all black boys school in the neighborhood of Englewood here in Chicago.  For those of us who know Chicago, we know this is a relatively tough area.  As the first class graduates from the charter school, though, I think we can safely call the experiment a success.

Urban Prep, a charter school that enrolls using a lottery in one of the city's more troubled neighborhoods, faced difficult odds. Only 4 percent of this year's senior class read at grade level as freshmen.

Now, however, a much different picture of this school's students can be painted.

The entire senior class at Chicago's only public all-male, all-African-American high school has been accepted to four-year colleges. At last count, the 107 seniors had earned spots at 72 schools across the nation.

This in a city where overall the high school graduation rate alone amongst black males is only 38%.  It is an inspiring example of the difference that can be made via an educational investment.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Baby #2

The pages of this blog have slowly grown quieter.  This is largely directly correlated to the addition of children into our home life.  Time is at a far greater premium than it ever has been before.  But, you know what, it's a good thing.  And so for whatever it will mean for this blog, I don't care, because we've added another to the family.

Baby #2 arrived in our home on Groundhog Day.  We welcome Annikah Kate, weighing in at 9 pounds, 13 ounces, with a length of 22 inches.  She and mom are doing great, and I have to say, it's been a fun ride.

Stay tuned at WCW's for all the updates...

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Decade In Photos

How about another 'decade in review' post.  I thought I would point you to this fantastic compilation of news photographs from the '00s.  Many are sobering, reminding us of the world we live in, but I think they do a pretty good job of reminding us of many of the most newsworthy happenings.  And a lot happened, that's for sure.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Noughts

As we wrap up the decade that was, I'm a big sucker for reminiscing.  So I'm loving all the posts collaborating on the 'best of' the decade.  From movies to tech, I enjoy reading the lists and the recaps. 

It was a big decade for me.  I moved from basically being right out of high school to becoming an 'adult' with a family.  There's been a lot of change, many adventures, and lots of fun, but throughout I've enjoyed what life has brought me.  And that I will count as a blessing.  Through the years, many of the items on these lists have proven to be companions to our life, and thus being reminded of them reminds me of what life has been.

Therefore, I would be remiss if I didn't point you others who may similarly enjoy these to The Noughtie List.  Compiled at, this list is basically a list of all the "best ofs" from the 2000s.  There you go then, no more sappiness, enjoy this list of lists.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where I Was - 2009

Continuing the tradition from last several years, here's where I was in 2009:

Chicago, IL *
Champaign, IL
Indianapolis, IN
London, England
Dublin, Ireland
Ada, MI
Panora, IA
St. Paul, MN
Elbow Lake, MN
Battle Lake, MN
Alexandria, MN
Greenville, IL*
New York City, NY (Manhattan and Brooklyn)

How about you, where were you?

Criteria = One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Photos the World Over

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to take the chance to point you towards some of the photos in the National Geographic's International Photography Contest.  We live in a big world, and it's often good to remind us of that, in the midst of being thankful what we are blessed with.  Enjoy the photos, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago, the #1 ranked high school basketball player in the nation was shot and killed.  Ben Wilson's death resonated across the country.  In the Sunday Chicago Tribune, he's remembered by K.C. Johnson who was a member of the Evanston basketball team that lost to Wilson's Simeon team in the state championship, in his last high school game.  His violent death came to personify the rising violence that was part of the growing drug epidemic in Chicago.  Today it's worth being reminded by the continued sadness at his death that unfortunately the problem of urban gun violence is not also a story of the past. 

Ben is still probably not the most famous basketball player to wear #25, though.  Another famous man born in the 60s who also wore #25 likely wins that honor, and now maybe has the chance to do something about the violence still ongoing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Stats (and Football)

I cannot understand the outcry today over Bill Belichick's decision to 'go for it' in last night's game.  Not a single media member that I have seen on TV has stopped to ponder whether it was a decent decision.  Nope, they've been quick to pile on.  Yes, the decision didn't work out.  But let's not kid ourselves, it was unequivocally the right one.

As Nate Silver observes (yes, of PECOTA and 538 fame),

Bill Belichick is not dumb, provided that his goal is to help the New England Patriots win football games. Instead, much of the NFL's conventional wisdom on when to go for it on fourth down is horribly, horribly wrong -- teams are way too conservative and punt way too often. This is the one case where 9-year olds playing Madden -- it's no fun to punt in a video game -- quite literally make better decisions than most NFL head coaches. With that said, since the same flawed conventional wisdom can govern hiring and firing decisions, there may be a price to be paid for unconventional (if statistically correct) playcalling; see also Marty Mornhinweg.

If you follow that first link, it affirms--the Pats had a 79% chance of winning doing what they did, versus 70% by punting. So why is there outrage?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Football, Part 2

And worth reading as well, Malcom Gladwell, again on football.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Football, Part 1

Well worth reading is fellow far upper Midwesterner Chuck Klosterman on football.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How Gangs are like Al-Qaeda

Since my last post on the problem of violence amongst youngsters here in Chicago, there has been much rhetoric about "fixing" the problem.  I don't think it's that simple.

But I do think this article was interesting and probably true.  As he notes,

Understanding this may help us prevent future violence in our communities.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wall Street's Billions

The past quarter has been very good to the investment banks on Wall Street.  JPMorgan Chase reported $3.6 billion in profit and Goldman Sachs came in at $3.2 billion.  How have they been able to do this well with many other banks continuing to struggle, and the everyday citizen still feeling the effects of a tough economy?

Is it this simple?

(ht: kottke)

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Flu (Vaccine) Scare

So far this year about 1,000 have died in the USA from the swine flue. Thankfully an effective safe vaccine exists to prevent the condition.

Wait, what? People don't want the vaccine? They fear it's part of a global government scheme to practice population control? That pharmaceutical companies are inserting additives to ensure people get sick again, thereby ensuring their future revenue? The Chicago Tribune ran an article detailing two mothers' choices in vaccinating or not, treating both as viable options. Conspiracy theories abound.

All the reliable research I have seen indicates vaccines, including this one, are safe. Thus, it has been surprising to me that such an uproar is being made in our country. I wonder if medicine has become too effective and our lives too comfortable if we take for granted the saving power medicine has in our lives. We live at the point in recorded human history at which life expectancy is the longest. And yet people question the very medical advances that have made this possible? It doesn't make sense to me. I wonder how many mothers will be glad they didn't get the vaccine when their child gets sick?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The world's greatest city?

Which city do you think is the world's greatest? The editors of Time Out asked that question and here's their list:
1. New York
2. London
3. Paris
4. Berlin
5-tie. Barcelona
5-tie. Chicago
5-tie. Tokyo
8. Istanbul (not Constantinople)
9-tie. Rome
9-tie. Sidney

It's a fascinating list, and their reasoning seems good to me. I don't have many qualms with their rankings. The other fun thing on the site is that you can score the cities yourself. So for those of you who have travelled a lot, contribute away.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Prodigal God

As you can see on the right, I've just finished reading The Prodigal God. Because I've just been reading it, I've been thinking about it a lot, but let me just say that it's a great book. And thus, I wanted to use this forum to pass on the recommendation.

It's subtitled Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, and I think that's an apt description. Tim Keller uses the parable of the Prodigal Sons to drive home the true message of the Gospel. If you're looking for a great synopsis of what the Christian message is all about, I highly recommend this book.

And if you think it's possibly mis-titled, you definitely need to read it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Beating Death of an Innocent

Last Thursday on the far south side of Chicago, a 16-year old boy was beaten to death after stumbling into a gang fight. You've probably heard of this story.

The day after the incident, however, it didn't draw much attention. While mentioned on the news, it wasn't really 'news'. Unfortunately, the death of a young black man in a city doesn't bring the same attention most other murders do.

By the weekend, though, that began to change. But not for good reasons. On Saturday, Fox Chicago obtained a cell phone video showing the incident. Immediately, other news organizations picked up the story and showed stills from the video. All of a sudden, the police began to feel great pressure to act as the outcry cause by the brutality so apparent on the video was loud.

By Monday, the story had gone national. Links to it were found on the homepages of CNN, MSNBC, and a link to the video was the headline on Drudge. You see, this week Chicago is also finding out its Olympic fate. The combination of the ramifications of such a public brutal murder on the Olympic bid and the presence of the video itself meant the story was definitely now 'news'.

In a city where the murder of young black men is all too frequent, and usually overlooked, it is no longer the case. For now at least...

Think back to your own knowledge of this story. When did you find out about it? Was it just recently? Think about the implications media coverage has on what we deem important.

You see, this incident was not the only occurrence of innocent death at the end of last week. You may also have heard about this one, but more likely not. On Friday, two teens were gunned down in North Lawndale (one block from where several of my Little Leaguers have lived) on their front porch. There have been no arrests in this incident. And much less public outcry. Sadly, these college kids were not safe even at home and it doesn't seem to be that big a deal. There certainly isn't the national microscope on this incident. And I can't help but wonder, is that because there wasn't a dramatic violent video for these murders?

Until these tragedies are felt with the same emotion every time they occur as the beating death has wrought this week, we will have a problem. There is a scourge of violence amongst certain communities in our country, and work needs to be accelerated to end it. The equitable education of all our youngsters is a right we have not done enough to achieve. If anything good can come of these incidents, my prayer is that it results in fewer of them down the road.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Health Care

As it seems like we all are taking some time to consider health care in our country, I thought this article was well worth passing on.

The Atlantic prefaces it this way:
After the needless death of his father, the author, a business executive, began a personal exploration of a health-care industry that for years has delivered poor service and irregular quality at astonishingly high cost. It is a system, he argues, that is not worth preserving in anything like its current form. And the health-care reform now being contemplated will not fix it. Here’s a radical solution to an agonizing problem.
With no further ado, an article some have called a must-read, How American Health Care Killed My Father.

(ht: JT)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

In Defense of HSR

Good analysis by Yonah Freemark on why High Speed Rail has potential.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Ricky Rubio Situation

A lot of fanfare is being made out of the fact that Ricky Rubio is not going to be coming to NBA and play with the Timberwolves this year after all. Many are blaming David Kahn for the situation. Personally, I think that's shortsighted. The only upside in my mind to him coming over now would have been drawing more fans. Maybe that would be a good thing, but for the future of the Wolves, I think Rubio developing for another couple years in Spain is fine.

Let's be honest, the Wolves aren't making the playoffs next year, and probably not the year after that either. So what is it setting them back? If they find out what they have in Flynn, they're that much further along. Many, such as The Sports Guy have been pretty down on Kahn. Simmons recently posted on Twitter, "Hey Kahn defenders: You think a team that's BLEEDING MONEY wanted to bottom out again, take on bad salaries & wait 2 yrs for Rubio? Really?" This was the latest in several posts directed at Kahn's maneuvering. I disagree, and so here's what I wrote The Sports Guy:

Okay Bill,
We need you to write a little further on this Timberwolves situation. As a fan (yes, I know that makes me biased) I think you're being a little harsh in regard to their draft results.

I'm with you in thinking Kahn deserved to be questioned based on his lack of experience. But now that we have him, let's see what happens.

You've said yourself (in the New Yorker): "Just play your best five or six guys and figure the rest out later. In the old days, nobody gave a crap about positions." You've also said that teams in the draft should take the best available player and not draft for need. So why so down on the Wolves for taking the two players they thought were the best left on the draft board? You've said yourself that you like both Rubio and Flynn. And based on the LV league, I think I'd still rather have Flynn than Curry. Are both players PG? Yes. But how disastrous would it be to play two great PGs together? Would a team be terrible if they played Chris Paul and Deron Williams together with a great wing, a great inside scorer, and a great rebounder?

What if Rubio and Flynn are nearly as good as the aforementioned? With a good shooter on the wing (Ellington) and the scorer and rebounder extraordinaire inside (Jefferson and Love), how far away are you from being a legit presence in the league?
I can think of much worse combinations. And further, if Rubio or Flynn do not pan out, you are still not in bad shape. I think the Wolves thought, and I think correctly so, we're not good enough to draft for need, let's take the best players available, and in a couple years, figure out which parts to keep in order to turn this thing into a championship.

I'd further note that I have to agree with what what Ken Berger of CBSSports observes in regard to the situation:

So Rubio will mature and get better -- albeit against sub-NBA competition -- and Kahn's team will begin the rebuilding process with a very capable point guard in Flinn. Can the two play together in the same backcourt in 2011-12? Time will tell. But in the meantime, Kahn moves forward with a formidable asset in Rubio. Even if he never plays a single game in Minnesota.

Kahn is quickly becoming the most mysterious executive in the NBA, tearing a page straight from the book written by his mentor, Donnie Walsh. He is humorless and needs to brush up on his people skills -- despite the fact that he's a former member of the media. (Maybe this explains why he is a former member.) But I'll give him credit for this much: It took a certain amount of gumption to welcome a controversy like this with the very first and most important decision of his regime. Whether it ultimately works out or not is very much an unknown. Say Kahn is in over his head if you want; you might ultimately be correct. But I have no problem giving Kahn credit for being unafraid of Fegan and all the contractual entanglements that came with Rubio. Enjoy Barcelona, Ricky. See you in 2011.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm Famous... Kind Of

So I'm overly excited to share some unexceptional news. I've now been featured on not one, but two of my favorite blogs. As those who follow the blog closely, about three years ago, an exchange I had with Henry Abbott at TrueHoop was posted on his well read (the best NBA blog, bar none) blog.

Now, though, I've gotten exposure on one of the top blogs in existence.

Yep, Westy is quoted on the Freakonomics blog. Enjoy reading the extremely deep question I asked... Hey, at least I inspired the title.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

What Did You Do Last Night?

Chances are, if it was between 2:20 and 3:50, you were sleeping. Between those times, the greatest number of people in America are sleeping, at 95%. That was by far the highest percentage of people doing the same thing at the same time at any point in the day. Next highest was from 10:20 to 11:00 when 33% of people were working.

You can glean these and many other fascinating tidbits from this captivating chart from the NYT.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Movie of the Decade?

Last week, some of us were discussing what the movie of the decade (the '00s) was, now that it's almost over. And yes, we were inspired by the Bill Simmons article on the subject.

So, of course, I'm curious; what are your favorite movies of the decade? For those curious, here is a list of the Oscar winning films from these years:

2009 Slumdog Millionaire
2008 No Country for Old Men
2007 The Departed
2006 Crash
2005 Million Dollar Baby
2004 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2003 Chicago
2002 A Beautiful Mind
2001 Gladiator

Others to consider?

Almost Famous
the Bourne Trilogy
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles
Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
Spiderman 2
Bowling for Columbine
Gran Torino
Mystic River
Born Into Brothels
Little Miss Sunshine
Napolean Dynamite

What is your best-loved? I will post my own favorites to the comments in the next couple days.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chicago Then and Now

On Friday night we were for the first time this season taking in a show at Millennium Park. A fellow concert goer and I were admiring the awe-inspiring view from the venue, and as we were discussing what a positive the park is, we reflected back on how far it's come. I think it's a history many may be unfamiliar with, and so I thought it would be worth a march back in time...

The area now including Millennium and Grant Parks actually didn't really exist prior to the Chicago Fire of 1871. As a result of that catastrophe, landfill and trash were dumped at what was then the lakefront creating more shore, and creating a landfill area that would become these parks. By 1890, here's what the area looked like.

By the mid-20th century, though, the area had been overrun by railroads, parking lots, and poor planning. Come the mid-1980s, things were looking a little better, but what's today Millennium Park was still pretty much just a railroad yard.

With the completion of Millennium Park and now the Modern Wing of the Art Institute this decade, however, the area has become a world-class destination.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ruins of Humanity

Whenever I have had the chance to tour ruins of old manmade fortresses, I have been moved by the history, the decay, and the omnipresence of change we see throughout our lives. Interestingly, ruins don't have to be all that old to inspire some pretty good reflection on humanity. Last week, the New York Times featured a photo essay documenting the stall of development in the USA in our current recession. Its images are haunting.

It actually reminded me of another photo essay of lost grandeur I also recently viewed documenting Detroit's fall.

Together these groups of photos serve as a healthy reminder that our lives here are pretty temporal.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ring Roads

This image produced by the Rice School of Architecture is pretty cool.

They note it shows the "ring roads from 27 international cities and the same scale. As it turn[s] out, Houston has the largest system of those...surveyed. (Beijing was second)"

I'll leave the interpretations to you.

(ht: Kottke)