The most unlikely of pars

I play golf because I love the game, even though I play it poorly.

I play golf because it allows me to spend time with friends. 

I also play golf because sometimes, the moments are unforgettable, ridiculous, and hilarious.

On Sunday morning, I played golf with two friends at Rockledge country club, a public golf course in West Hartford, CT. After playing poorly for seven holes, I came upon the 17th hole, a downhill par four that curved slightly to the left. 

My tee shot went low and left, hitting a tree and landing amidst the trees on the left side. 

My second shot - an attempt to punch the ball out of the tree line - hit the tree in front of me dead on. The ball ricocheted backward, flying across the fairway about 15 yards behind me.

I was now farther away from the hole than when I started. 

My third shot sailed down the fairway but hooked left, hitting another tree - my third in three shots. This time the ball dropped like a stone at the base of the tree, inches from the trunk. 

Trapped against the tree, now about 50 yards from the green, my only choice on this fourth shot was to punch the ball toward the green as best I could. I took a 7-iron and treated it like a putter, smacking the ball toward the pin.

The ball flew over the grass, landed softly on the green, and rolled into the cup.

I had just managed a par, despite the fact that I had hit three separate trees on my first three shots, including one shot that yielded negative yardage.

The most unlikely par ever. 

My friends thought it ridiculous and hilarious and unforgettable, as did I. On the previous hole, I had hit another tree while teeing off, this one just 20 feet from the tee box. The ball ricocheted directly back at me, about six feet from where I was standing. 

That had sent us into hysterics, too. Little did we know that there were greater things to come.

I have so many clear and brilliant memories from my dozen years on the golf course. Moments spent with friends, hitting spectacular and spectacularly bad shots, laughing at our own inanity, and sharing moments of genuine warmth and friendship. 

There was also the time a squirrel stole the bag of nuts from Plato's golf bag. The time Phil hit a woman with a ball and tried to blame it on us. The time I hit a duck on a hill. The time the head of Plato's six iron detached from his club mid-swing, sending it helicoptering between mine and Jeff's heads. The time Andrew and I unintentionally played in the snow. The time Jeff accidentally divulged the sex of his future child to me without realizing it, and then the time we did it again with the next child.  

Both of those moments also happened on the 17th hole at Rockledge. 

Those moments, and hundreds more. Maybe thousands. 

I was lucky when my friend, Tom, introduced me to golf by purchasing a set of irons for me for $10 at a yard sale and throwing them into the back of my truck with a ribbon wrapped around the shafts. Little did I know what I was getting that December afternoon more than a decade ago.

A lifetime of unforgettable, ridiculous, and sometimes hilarious moments, including the chance to one day score par on a hole despite squarely hitting three trees along the way.

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The importance of an editor

Remember Brandi Chastain from the 1999 World Cup?

She's the soccer player who kicked the winning goal against China to win the gold medal for the Americans. After scoring the goal, she pulled off her jersey, exposing her sports bra and sending a sizable number of conservatives into amusing, ridiculous hysterics.  

Chastain was recently inducted into the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. Her induction included a plaque that featured her image.

Here is a side by side comparison of the statue and Chastain. No joke. 

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This makes no sense to me. 

How does anyone in charge of this award or Hall of Fame allow this ridiculous, hideous plaque to see the light of day?

This is why I love my editors. I'm blessed to work with at least half a dozen of them at the moment. I have an editor for my fiction, an editor for my nonfiction, and an editor my upcoming middle grade novel, as well as four different magazine editors at three different publications who I work with regularly.

On top of that, Elysha serves as an editor for my storytelling performances, and when I'm working with The Moth, I am blessed to work with producers who essentially work as editors while you are crafting your story.

On top of all of that, I have about a dozen friends who read my material before it even makes it to an editor, and these people are invaluable to me. Discerning, honest, and skilled, these friends make everything I write better. 

Creative people need editors. We need someone to say:

"That is not good."
"Those words stink."
"That story is boring."
"That ain't funny." 
"That idea is interesting but not right for this moment."
"This part makes you sound like a creep."
"No one cares that much about hermit crabs, so stop it." 

Someone needed to tell the artist who made that image of Brandi Chastain that he or she was clearly looking at a photograph of the wrong person. Or was drunk at the time of creation. Or needs to see an optometrist immediately. Or must secretly hate Brandi Chastain.

To Chastain's credit, her response to this atrocity was, "It's not the most flattering, but it’s nice.”

I would not have been so kind. 

Five sausages and a good story

The New England Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. It was the eighth AFC championship game that I have attended in my lifetime.

Patriot fans have indeed been blessed over the last 16 years. 

Prior to the game, about ten of us gathered in the parking lot across the street from the stadium for our traditional tailgate. My friend, Tony, does this cooking. My friend and seat mate, Shep, brings tables, grill, and a TV. 

I hand over money and thank them for taking care of me.

After the game, the group gathered back in the parking lot for a post-game tailgate. Since we remained in the stadium to watch the championship festivities on the field, we knew it would be at least an hour before we could exit the parking lot, so burgers, dogs, and the first half of the Eagles-Vikings game was on tap. 

That is, until we realized that one of our friends decided to skip the post-game festivities, flee to the parking lot, and escape the traffic. This would have been fine except he took all the food with him, knowing full well that a post-game tailgate was planned.

Needless to say the eight remaining souls were not pleased to discover that all we had to eat were five sausages and a little cornbread. 

Not exactly a meal for eight people who had just spent five hours standing in the stadium, cheering on their team.

After speaking about our departed friend in the most vile of terms and declaring him dead to us now and forever, we decided to take the one item we had in abundance - alcohol - and attempt to barter for meat from our fellow tailgaters.  Before long we had traded hard liquor, beer, and space around our TV for a little bit of chicken, two pieces of steak, a small army of pigs in a blanket, potato chips, and more. A couple people came over with cooked food and brownies, offering us some of their food out of pity for our miserable condition. Our huddle mass of eight grew to as many as fourteen at one point, and I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with some fellow Patriots faithful.

Don't get me wrong. Burgers and hot dogs would have been fantastic, and they should've been there, damn it. You don't leave early with the food when you know that a large group of hungry football fans are expecting to eat. 

Leaving with the food was not cool. It will not be forgotten. 

But the result - bartering for food, the chance to meet new people, and the collective, creative resentment for a single individual - was kind of great. A otherwise ordinary post-game tailgate turned into something memorable and meaningful under the sodium lights of that dirt parking lot.

There's a phrase that my friend, Catherine, uses about storytelling:

"You have a good time, or you have a good story."

In this case, we were lucky. We got both. 

Vin Scully's boycott of the NFL is stupid

In response to football players kneeling during the national anthem, Vin Scully has announced tat he will not watch the NFL ever again. 

His comments:

"I have only one personal thought, really. And I am so disappointed. And I used to love, during the fall and winter, to watch the NFL on Sunday. And it's not that I'm some great patriot. I was in the Navy for a year -- didn't go anywhere, didn't do anything. But I have overwhelming respect and admiration for anyone who puts on a uniform and goes to war. So the only thing I can do in my little way is not to preach. I will never watch another NFL game."

Questions:

Does Scully not know that the players who are kneeling are protesting police brutality and racism in the criminal justice system and not the flag or our servicemen and women?

Has he not heard that thousands of military veterans have openly supported the players' First Amendment right to kneel, arguing that this is exactly what they fought and risked their lives for? Some have even taken a knee in solidarity with the players. 

Has no one told Scully that at least one Major League Baseball player also kneeled in protest this past season? Is he done with baseball, too? 

Has he forgotten that he is a wealthy, white man who grew up in a segregated America, attended a prep school, and has no clue about what it's like to be an African American in America today? He can't begin to imagine what it's like to be an African American man during a routine traffic stop or what it's like to be locked up for a crime while your white counterpart goes free. 

Could someone please clue this old, white guy into the stupidity of his boycott, please? I've always liked and admired Scully, but this nonsense is seriously tarnishing his image.

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Free Dive

This is both fascinating and bizarre.

Watching the video of this man free dive to the bottom of the deepest pool in the world is both mind boggling and incredible, and yet:

1. I don't understand the desire to free dive. I cannot fathom (see what I did there?) the desire to swim as deep and far as possible on a single breath of air while risking your life in order to do so.  And while it's true that there are many other desires that I don't understand (sky diving, marathon running, baking), free diving seems to hold absolutely no reward.  

You can see the bottom of the pool with or without a tank of oxygen. I'm not sure how the lack of life sustaining air makes the experience any more compelling.   

2. Who spends millions building a creepy-ass pool like this? Sure, you might want to build the deepest pool in the world, but does it have to look like the inside of a water treatment plant from a Bond film?

Julian Edleman changes everything!

Each month my children each receive a free book from PJ Library, an organization that sends free books that celebrate Jewish values and culture to Jewish families across America and Canada.

Last week the newest books arrived. They tend not to be my favorite stories. Perhaps part of the problem is that I'm not Jewish, but while they do an excellent job teaching Jewish culture and values, they tend to be light on humor, antagonists, and conflict.

I find them a little boring.  

Elysha opened the latest books and began raving about one that she remembered reading at a child. "Yeah, yeah," I thought. "Another sweet little book with no stakes, no bad guy, no car chases, and no laughs."

A little while later I rose from my computer and took a peak at the book she had been holding. Just as I thought. No sword fights. No blood. No evil emperor. No underwear jokes. Blah.

Then I looked at the other book that had arrived. The one she didn't mention. My eyes immediately settled on the author of this book:

Julian Edelman.

"Julian Edelman!" I shouted. "This book is written by Julian Edelman!"

"Who's that?" Elysha asked.

"Who's Julian Edelman? Just the best receiver on the Patriots since the days of Randy Moss and Troy Brown! And apparently Jewish! Julian Edelman! I can't believe it!"

Flying High is the story of a squirrel named Jules who learns to overcome his physical limitations through hard work and the assistance of a goat named Tom.

If you know anything about the Patriots, you understand the genius of this plot. 

Julian Edelman is an undersized player - my height, in fact - who played quarterback in college and transformed himself into one of the finest receivers (and former two-way player) in the league.

Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T. - an expression in sports that means Greatest of All Time.  

It's true. There wasn't much conflict in the story and very little humor, but still... Julian Edelman wrote the book. 

I couldn't wait to read it to the kids. It was truly the first PJ Library book that excited me in the same way Elysha, Clara, and Charlie are so often excited about these books.

I guess even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and again.

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A Trump supporter has found his bridge-too-far, and it's pathetic

Former NFL head coach turned television analyst Rex Ryan was on ESPN's pregame show on Sunday. Ryan was a vocal Trump supporter during the election, going so far as to introduce him at a rally in Buffalo, NY.

On Sunday, in a conversation about Donald Trump's comments about football players kneeling for the anthem, Ryan said:

"I supported Donald Trump. But I'm reading these comments, and it's appalling to me, and I'm sure it's appalling to almost any citizen in our country. it should be. Calling our players SOB's and all that kind of stuff... "

Sure, Rex, because during the election, this wasn't quite enough to turn you off to Trump:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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It's good to see that someone like Rex Ryan has finally come to realize that maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump is not a decent, reasonable, honorable defender of the Constitution.   

It's just a shame that he was able to look past the bragging about sexual assault, the denigrating of Mexican immigrants, an attack on a United States war hero, and his blatant bigotry.

Not to mention Trump's attack on Gold Star families, his lies about Muslims celebrating on rooftops on 9/11, his broken promise to release his tax returns, his failure to understand concepts as critical as the nuclear triad, and the way he stole money from hard working Americans via Trump University.    

All that was fine. No big deal.

But call a football player a son-of-a-bitch?

In the words of Rex Ryan, "appalling."

No, Rex. The most appalling part of his whole disaster was your willingness to look past all of these atrocities and support a candidate who was morally and ethically unfit for office.  

Would I ever take a knee in protest during the national anthem?

I was pulled over by a police officer last week. I was driving 53 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.

Honestly, I had no idea that I was speeding. It was Elysha's first day back to work, and I just wanted to get home and talk about her day. I guess I was a little too anxious to see her. 

As the blue lights filled my rear view mirror and the officer hit the siren, my heart beat faster. My muscles tensed. My flight-or-fight response triggered. 

I am always terrified when dealing with the police. 

When I was 22, I was arrested and tried for a crime I didn't commit because a single police officer was convinced of my guilt. My arrest resulted in the loss of my job and my home. I ended up homeless and hungry, and if not for the kindness of friends, I don't know where I would be today. I ultimately lost about 18 months of my life working 90 hours a week in order to pay a $25,000 legal fee.

As a result, I am always afraid when I encounter police officers. While I respect and admire the work that they do and appreciate their dedication and service, I also know how one police officer derailed my life and came close to putting me in prison. 

I can't imagine what it must be like to be a black man in similar circumstances. 

I have watched far too many of videos of black men being beaten and shot by white police officers. I have watched as a great majority of these officers have avoided jail time for their actions. When I encounter the police, I am terrified of being misunderstood. Mistakenly perceived as a criminal. Unfairly arrested. Perhaps even jailed and tried for a crime I did not commit. 

I am not afraid for my life. I am not afraid of being shot because I reached for my license too quickly or took my hands off the steering wheel.

I can't even imagine.

On Sunday, hundreds of athletes in the NFL, the WNBA, Major League Baseball, and other sports knelt during the national anthem, joining Colin Kaepernick in his protest against police brutality and the mass incarceration of Africans Americans.

Including my New England Patriots.

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Many of these athletes knelt in response to Donald Trump's comments in Alabama, where he called Kaepernick a "son-of-a-bitch" and demanded that he be fired (even though Kaepernick has been effectively blackballed by NFL owners for his protest and doesn't currently have a job). 

My response to their protest was simple:

I support the players' First Amendment right to peacefully protest. I support the hell out of it. So, too, do thousands of military veterans and active duty personnel, who took to social media on Sunday to remind Americans that they risked their lives so these men could freely protest.

Including 97 year-old John Middlemas, a World War II veteran who took a knee in solidarity on Sunday. 

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I wanted to add that if I were in these athlete's shoes, I would probably choose a different means of protesting, but to say such a thing would be stupid. And if you look anything like me, it would be stupid for you, too.

I'm a white man. I have not spent the last ten years watching watching people who look like me get shot and killed by police officers on video. I have not watched countless white police officers go free after killing unarmed black men. 

I don't live in a country where African Americans are statistically imprisoned for longer periods of time than white Americans who committed the same crime.  

I have no idea how these men and women feel. 

Yes, maybe there is a better way to protest, but until Kaepernick took a knee, America didn't seem to care much about these issues. Every month or two we would watch body camera footage or a Facebook live video of a white police officer shooting an unarmed back man, and after a brief period of outrage, nothing would change. 

Maybe if I was as afraid as someone like Colin Kaepernick, I would've taken a knee, too. I might've stood on my damn head.  

Donald Trump's stupid remarks may have turned Sunday into a protest against him, but Kaepernick's initial goal was to raise awareness of the issue, and he clearly has. When the President of the United States is talking about your protest, you have brought significant attention to the issue.

If I was afraid to getting shot and killed during a routine traffic stop, maybe I would be doing everything in my power to get the attention of the world, too. 

Donald Trump is an old, white man. He does not know the fear that African Americans face on a daily basis. Despite my arrest, trial, and near-imprisonment, neither do I. Going to prison unjustly and getting shot in the driver seat of my car are two very different things.

If you aren't black, you can't know what it's like to live in this country,

The people who vehemently oppose the player's kneeling during the national anthem are almost exclusively white. They are people who do not fear being shot and killed by a police officer for speeding or driving with a broken taillight.

When was the last time we saw body camera footage or a Facebook Live feed of an unarmed white motorist being shot by a police officer?

Trump doesn't know what it's like to be black. Neither do I. I never will.

But I know that the First Amendment gives Americans the right to peacefully protest, including kneeling during the National Anthem. Or sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Or even burning the flag in protest.  

Only fascist and totalitarian states value their flags more than free speech. 

I respect these player's right to kneel. I respect a fan's right to boo in protest of this protest. 

What I don't respect is a white person's belief that he or she could ever know what it's like to be a black person in America today. If you're white, don't tell me what you would do differently.

There's no way of ever knowing. 

My favorite piece of paper

Elysha and I attended yesterday's Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. It was her first game in years, and she picked a good one.

With less than 2:30 on the clock and down 33-28, Tom Brady orchestrated an eight play, 75 yard touchdown drive that won the game for the Patriots. With less than 30 seconds left on the clock, he threw a touchdown pass to Brandon Cooks that caused the stadium to erupt in celebration.  

It was exciting. Thrilling. Supremely satisfying. 

Over the course of the last 17 years, Tom Brady has brought me enormous joy. Constant celebration. Countless memories. 

I've also been fortunate enough to begin attending games regularly at the very beginning of his career. Brady has played in 239 regular season games and 34 playoff games over the course of his NFL career, and I have been inside the stadium to witness many of them. 

Brady was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. Pick #199. A compensatory pick as a result of losing four players to free agency: Todd Collins, Tom Tupa, Mark Wheeler, and Dave Wohlabaugh.

Four forgotten players whose exit from the franchise changed it forever.  

This is the draft card, submitted by the Patriots organization, that gave them the rights to Tom Brady. It is my favorite piece of paper in the world. 

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A serious commitment to golf

I've played golf in the rain many times. 

I've once played golf in the snow. 

To be fair, it wasn't snowing when we started the round, and the forecast hadn't called for snow. But it was definitely cold enough for snow. 

But this photograph of golfers in California playing as wildfires burn in the distance is both unbelievable and most impressive. 

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My son thinks I'm a golfing god

I haven't beaten one of my golfing buddies in well over a year. I've been drastically altering my grip and swing, but I'm also just not as good as the guys who I play with. They hit the ball farther and more consistently than me.  

I managed to squeak out a tie against one of them this summer, which almost felt like a victory.

But I'm getting better. Hitting the ball farther. More consistently. Understanding all that was lacking from my game. Still, beating any one of them is probably a ways off. 

It's fine. I love golf. My father-in-law gave up the game years ago when he realized that he was never going to break 100. I understand his desire to be competitive, but even if I never beat a single person again for the rest of my life, I'd still play the game. 

But it sure would be nice to win again. 

As the summer drew to a close, Elysha and I took the kids to mini golf. 

The one thing I can do on a golf course is putt. A three-putt is a rarity for me, and when I'm reading the greens well, I can sink long putts.

Sadly, the expression "Drive for show, putt for dough" doesn't apply when you hit your driver as far as your friends hit their pitching wedges. 

An exaggeration, but only slightly.   

On the nineteenth hole of mini golf, I sunk the miracle putt to win a free game. As the buzzer sounded, my children went wild. My son told everyone in the vicinity that I had won a free game, and he kept telling them until we finally walked away. 

Honestly, it wasn't luck. It was a straight putt that needed to be struck just hard enough to leap over two troughs and land in the hole without going past. I judged the distance carefully and swung. 

It dropped. 

Two weeks later and Charlie still talks about that putt. My free game. My miracle shot. 

I'd still rather beat one of my friends occasionally. I'd like to be a competitive factor as we make our way into the final hole. But if that can't happen, Charlie's belief that I am an amazing golfer is a solid consolation prize. 

Disconnect the easy way.

I played golf yesterday morning my two friends, Andrew and Plato. 

The sky was blue. The sun was low in the sky. The greens were still sparkling with dew. 

We walked and swung and talked about our kids and the way we had spent our week apart. We told stories. Ribbed one another. Laughed a lot. 

On the fourteenth hole, Andrew hit a chip that rolled into his own putter, which is had errantly placed on the green, costing him a two shot penalty and the lead.

First time I'd ever seen that happen. He took it well.

Plato lost a ball in the high grass on the seventeenth hole, handing the lead back to Andrew. 

On the last hole, Plato holed a 20 foot chip to win by one stroke. Plato punched his fist into the air, knowing he had probably just won the match. Andrew had a chance to tie with a long putt, but he left it short. 

I was a non-factor, having put five balls into four different ponds along the way.     

Here is one of the beauties of golf:

When was the last time you spent nearly three hours with friends and didn't look at your phone?

When was the last time you took a three hour walk with friends and didn't receive a call, answer a text message, or check email?

When was the last time you took a walk with friends and experienced moments you will never forget?

People are rather fond of championing the many ways to disconnect from the phone and the Internet. They love professing the value of being "in the moment." There are programs that will force your computer or phone off the Internet for designated periods of time to avoid the temptation of being connected.

I'm personally a fan of avoiding temptation by avoiding temptation, but if someone needs to tie their own hands by their back to stop themselves from clicking their device, so be it.  

Or maybe just play golf. It's a frustrating, inexplicable, seemingly impossible game to play, made more than tolerable by the fact it is played with friends between grass and sky, absent of life's technological distractions.

Baseball players are damn cowards

On Wednesday night, Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flipped his bat at home plate before rounding the bases after hitting a home run. 

Flipped his bat. Tossed it into the air so that it rotated as it fell to the ground. 

On Thursday night, Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran intentionally hit Bautista in the left thigh in the top of the first inning. 

The reason?

The Braves weren't pleased by Bautista's bat flip  in Wednesday night's game. Bat flipping in Major League Baseball is considered showboating. Making the pitcher look bad. Over-celebratory. 

Please note: Had the pitcher struck out Bautista, he could've fist pumped several times while standing on the mound with no repercussions. He could've leapt into the air. Shouted a barbaric yawp.  

But flipping a bat?

No. Too much. In response to a bat flip, the perpetrating player must stand still in a box drawn in chalk while a member of the opposing team throws a 90 MPH baseball at him like a damn coward. 

I love baseball, but I hate the sensitivity of baseball players. Their endless list of unwritten rules. And I especially hate the cowardly, pathetic, shameful retaliation that happens when pitchers throw baseballs at batters because the batter did something inappropriate earlier in the game.   

If you want to retaliate with violence (which is what throwing a baseball at another human being is), do so face to face. Man to man. 

Even better, keep your tender emotions in check when the big, mean man flips his baseball bat into the air after hitting a home run. Muscle through the emotional assault on your fragile psyche and strike the guy out next time. 

Someone please inform baseball players that winning is the best revenge. That throwing baseballs at players who have no chance of getting out of the way is childish, pathetic, and one of the greatest acts of cowardice perpetrated on network television on a regular basis. 

The essence of a New England Patriots fan and a Bostonian in 5 tweets.

This is a beautiful story. If you ever lived in Massachusetts, and especially in the greater Boston area, this will ring so true.

People in the Boston area are hardcore.  

It's Marathon Monday in Boston. As the runners make their way along the race route, a man stands on the side of the road, encouraging them with this sign that reminds them that in the third quarter of the Super Bowl, the Patriots were losing to the Falcons 28-3.

Keep going, marathoners. Don't give up. Anything is possible.

On Twitter, Addul Dremali, a biomechanical & data scientist and amateur photographer, posts a photo of the unidentified man and his sign.  

About an hour later, ESPN tweets at Dremali, asking if they can use the photo on all their platforms with a credit to him. 

This is where things get beautiful. With the opportunity to have his photo, name, and Twitter handle disseminated across ESPN's enormous and far reaching platforms, Dremail responds like a true and absolute Patriots fan.

This is a perfect reflection of what the people of Boston and its surrounding communities are like:

Fanatic, aggressive, perpetually angry, and so rarely self-serving. 

Forgive Dremali's language. It's also authentic to the Boston area.  

That is a thing of beauty. The perfect response by a man who had an opportunity to gain a little notoriety (in a culture where people will do almost anything to gain notoriety), and he decided to be a fan instead. 

About 30 minutes later, Dremail is contacted via Twitter by another news agency, requesting to use the photo. Their tweet is hilarious. 

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One minute later, Dremali responds perfectly.

Victory brownies and the definition of fandom and friendship

Our tailgate meal prior to a New England Patriots game has many glorious traditions.

One of these traditions are "victory brownies." Tony and his wife, Erin, bake brownies for dessert after an enormous meal of meat and meat and meat and potato, but we don't eat the brownies until the Patriots win.

Yesterday I received a package from Tony. When I opened the box, this is what I found:

Victory brownies. "Victory brownies of all time."

THIS, my friends, is what friendship and fandom look like. 

It's so much more than just a game.

I know it's only a game.

It's a game played by men who I have never met and never will.

Still, I feel sorry for those who don't have the opportunity to experience the sense of collective purpose and love that being a sport fan can bring. I can't imagine missing out on the unmitigated euphoria that a victory like last night can offer.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl in the most dramatic fashion possible, capping off a season of obstacles and hardships. Their quarterback was (in the mind of every physicist) unfairly suspended for four games, and they were stripped of a first round draft pick. Their backup quarterback was injured in his second game, requiring their rookie, third string quarterback to play. Their second best player - one of the greatest tight ends of all time - was injured and could not play for most of the season.

They overcame each obstacle and remained mentally tough on the biggest, brightest stage in the world. They won glory last night. Eternal, unforgettable glory.

I stood with these men who I have never met and never will all season long. I stood in the sun and freezing rain and snow at Gillette Stadium, cheering them on. I rearranged every Sunday afternoon during the season so I could watch them perform. I stood in muddy parking lots with friends before the games eating meat and talking about the game. I was not a member of the 2016 New England Patriots, but I'll be damned if I didn't feel like one.

Just as important, this team has brought me closer and closer to the people I love most. With each play, each game, and each football season, I take a step closer and closer into the hearts and minds of these friends.

It is a collective joining of spirit and soul that is so rarely found in today's world. It's a mutual understanding of who we are and who we can be through our hope, our pain, our sorrow, and our joy. It's an opening of hearts and a baring of souls. We learn about our frailties. Our strengths. The way we handle pressure. The way we manage disappointment. The way we accept defeat. We learn about who we can poke. Where we can prod. When we must be gentle.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl last night. It was a historic victory. An unforgettable football game. A moment of a lifetime.

It was also a night when many of the people who I love most joined in sprit and soul and took one collective step forward into a ever-closing circle of friendship and love.

I know. It's only a game. Except it's so much more.

One person is listening. Perhaps more, but at least one. I'm so pleased.

I was asked by many people on Monday morning about the AFC championship game that I attended on Sunday night. One of the most frequently asked questions was:

"What time did you get home?"

I arrived home on Sunday night around 1:00 AM, but I explained that it was fairly early given the fact that I often arrive home from night games well after 3:00 AM.

Most people have a hard time understanding how I manage this. They also question my sanity when they learn that I will drive to a Moth StorySLAM in Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan, or Boston on a weeknight to maybe tell a five minute story and arrive back home after 1:00 AM.

I have always been a proponent of saying yes when opportunities present themselves, regardless of the sacrifice required.

I am also a proponent of living your life with the perspective of the 100 year old version of yourself.

I know that this advice is good. I know it would make people considerably happier if they followed it. I know that I'm right.

So often, I wonder if anyone is ever listening.

A couple years ago I met a teacher while speaking at her school. Over the past year, she's begun to listen to my advice and take it to heart.

She began by saying yes to taking the stage and telling of a story for Speak Up. This was not an easy thing for her to do, but since then, she's become a Speak Up regular and fan favorite.  

Shortly thereafter, she went to New York and told her first story in a Moth StorySLAM. The next day, she wrote to me about my philosophy of saying yes regardless of the sacrifices required:

"It's the greatest lesson you ever taught me. I'm trying so hard to fight my natural instincts to say no and just say yes. It's annoying how right you always are."

Needless to say I enjoyed that email a lot. 

Last weekend she traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Woman's March. 

On her way home, she wrote:  

"Learning to live life the Matthew Dicks way. Man, your way is exhausting."

It's true. It can be exhausting. It's not always easy. And it doesn't always work out. Sometimes I drive to Brooklyn for a Moth StorySLAM and never take the stage. Sometimes the Patriots lose a big game, and the long, late night drives home become much more difficult. Sometimes I say yes to something that I must later change to a no when I realize how much I hate it.  

But the willingness to take risks, step outside your comfort zone, brave the elements, forgo sleep, face uncertainty, and suffer possible failure are all superior to a lifetime of regret.

One of the most common regrets expressed by people at the end of their lives, recorded by hospice workers, is this:

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

From Business Insider:

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

The question people didn't ask me about the AFC championship game (but should've asked me) was this:

What will you remember most about the game?

The list is long. Tom Brady's flea flicker, the way Legarrette Blount carried half of the Steelers team to the goal line, and the huge goal line stand by the Patriots defense will always remain in my mind.

But my favorite part?

Midway through the third period, with the Patriots in the lead, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" began booming through the stadium during a timeout. The entire stadium became to sing. A second later, the big screens showed Jon Bon Jovi in one of Gillette Stadium's luxury suites, singing along with us. The crowd roared. Bon Jovi raised his hands and began conducting the crowd as if we were his orchestra. When the music stopped as the Steelers broke the huddle, 60,000 people continued to sing a cappella, finishing the song as Pittsburgh ran a play. 

It was a joyous moment. One of the happiest moments I've experienced in a stadium where I have watched games for more than a decade.

Had I been sitting on my couch at home, warm and dry instead of wet and cold, I would've missed that moment, and what a tragedy that would have been.

Perhaps others have tried to adopt the "Matthew Dicks way" over the years. Maybe they've listened to me speak or watched my TED Talks and changed the way they approach life. 

At least one person has, and for today at least, that is enough for me. 

Psychology of true friends

My friend Andrew - a golfing fanatic - ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing basketball last week. It's going to be a long road to recovery.

Three months in a walking boot. Eighteen months for a full recovery. 

The next golfing season in serious jeopardy.

My friends and I have a sack of golf balls that we pass from player to player depending upon who has won the last round. Bragging rights of sorts. Andrew currently holds the sack after winning the last round of the last season.

I sent a group text alerting my friends to Andrew's injury.

The first response was a statement of empathy. A question about recovery time.

Andrew provided details and expressed his concern over the upcoming golfing season.

I reminded him that I played golf with a separated shoulder one year and told him to suck it up.

A friend warned him against the hazards of contact sports at his advanced age.

Then we asked about the sack. Demanded it back. Reminded him of the rule that if you miss three rounds of golf, the sack must be returned to the group. Forgot his injury entirely. Moved onto more important things. 

When Andrew attempted to insert a injury clause to the bylaws, we told him we'd just get a new sack. A bigger, better sack.

See that? A momentary expression of empathy for a man who will be suffering through 18 months of pain and rehabilitation and perhaps a loss of the thing he loves most, and then we were ready to stick him on an ice flow and push him out to sea. 

This is what friendship is all about. 

Unfair assumption #29: Football fans are more effective in emergencies

As we left the house last night, our 19 year-old babysitter was settling in to watch the end of the Atlanta Falcons - Seattle Seahawks playoff game.

She'd been watching the first half of the game at home before coming over.   

When I arrived home from the show five hours later, she was sitting in the living room, watching the Patriots - Texans playoff game. She was kind enough to turn the game off as I entered the house so I could watch it on tape delay (after ensuring that her father was recording it at home as well), but still, she was watching intently when I walked in the door.

Just so we are clear: She watched NFL football on her own for almost the entire time that I was gone.

I know it's entirely unfair to assume anything based upon her viewing preferences, but if the house suddenly caught fire, a bear clawed its way into our home, or the Russians invaded our town Red Dawn style, I can't help but think that this 19 year-old woman would handle the situation with ease.

Or at least more competently than the babysitter who spends the evening watching the Kardashians or The Family Feud.  

An unfair assumption to be sure, but it's a gut feeling that I can't help but think is at least a little bit true.  

When I explained my assumption to Elysha, she informed me that our babysitter is also attending Harvard University and is home on break.

Perhaps my gut instincts are more accurate than previously thought.