An #InauguralCourt Dinner With Damon Stoudamire

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Over the years, being a blogger has brought a lot of free samples and products to test and review. It’s certainly a perk. But the ultimate is when you get invited to events where you get to meet other bloggers and celebrities and enjoy a VIP experience.

Last night, thanks to my relationship with Swiffer, my wife and I got to dine with Damon Stoudamire, the first ever draft pick of the Toronto Raptors.

Damon was there to kick off a new campaign where anyone can own a piece of the #InauguralCourt that the Raptors played on 20 years ago. You can get all the details here, but basically, all you have to do is buy $15 worth of Swiffer product at Loblaws, send in a form and you are mailed a framed piece of history.

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The dinner was held at E11even down by the ACC. I had never been so I was excited for a great meal on top of meeting a legend of the hardwood.

The food did not disappoint and neither did the conversation. It took a few cocktails, but everyone starting picking Damon’s brain on his life as a dad, opinions on the NBA and what he would like to do in the future.

Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Damon has to do his own laundry. He was very clear on this.
  • One day he would love to coach college ball. He wants to help kids achieve their goals.
  • Perfect scenario for him, he said a school like Georgia Tech.
  • He believes Phil Jackson will come down from the booth and coach the Knicks eventually.
  • Loves Andrew Wiggins growth and advises him to never come home and play for the Raps.
  • When talking Raptors, he thinks Terrance Ross is the key to their success.
  • Loves Toronto but does not think he could live in the city. Prefers the warm weather like Arizona.
  • Not a big fan of Twitter. That’s something his kids do.
  • Laughed at us all for ordering dessert. The portions were giant.

We took some photos and Damon called it a night because he had a big media day ahead. I am sure you have seen Damon all over the Toronto media.

Meeting Damon has brought on a lot of old memories watching him 20 years ago. He was so quick as the PG for the newly born Raps. He was electric and could shoot from deep. He was the first fan fave when it came to hoops in Toronto.

Photos from the night.

 

Swiffer is giving away 3400 pieces of the Raptors court from their inaugural ´95-96 season. It´s your chance to own a piece of Raptors history. Receive by mail† when you buy $15 worth (after coupons or discounts applied and before taxes) of Swiffer products between March 25-June 30, 2015.
Limited time offer.

The Real March Madness Tournament

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I love basketball. I really love March and basketball.

This past weekend was the annual sloth fest of watching as much hoops as possible. The NCAA Tournament is what the world calls it, but it goes by a much cooler nickname, which is March Madness.

64 teams (I don’t care about those other four because I am old school) crammed into three weeks of insane drama. Back in the day I would probably watch 80% of the coverage and that is without PVR or live streaming. But since becoming a parent, the new norm is reading about games, seeing highlight packs and tuning in for the last five minutes of a game. The other 35 minutes are not as important as Thomas the Train.

The tourney brings out the best and worst of coaches, players and teams. The mistakes and bone-headed plays make it real. It’s not a pro game where execution happens 95% of the time. I love the flaws.

It is all unpredictable (see my brackets for proof), it is heart-warming, it sparks arguments and it rallies people together. This sounds a lot like a family. This past weekend, on top of buzzer beaters, Furious 7 commercials and way too much of Charles Barkley, our family was separated into our own version of the Final Four, with each trying to survive the day.

I am not sure if it was the change of seasons, the warm,cold, warm, cold weather thing we got going on, or maybe the Madness just taking over. But in our house, it was like an old-school slug fest like they used to have in the Big East Tournament.

Everyone was tired, everyone was on edge and everyone wanted things to go their way at the buzzer.

Katie and I  of course are a team without question and it seemed like we were on opposite sides of the bracket. We wanted to get to the Final Two, where things would be calm and go back to normal. But we were pitted against two opponents who were ready for a tussle.

Man what I would have given for TV timeouts or the change to diagram plays that would be followed through on. It seemed like no matter what we were doing, we were just getting on each other’s nerves.

Charlie started sleeping in his crib without the rail. This of course  opened his world fully. He now gets up, opens the door and leaves the room.

Harry got some new hama beads, but he can only seem to enjoy on his own when Katie is not around.

I can’t drink beer and not snore all night.

Katie due to a lot of this is just plain tired and can’t fully function as she would like.

Saturday and Sunday felt like we were playing a never-ending game against the Kentucky Wildcats.

It was not until about 9:30 pm last night where we acknowledged that we made it. We survived the onslaught of boys.

Katie and I advanced to the Final Two.

There was no net cutting or branded hats. There was quiet. Well until I snored again after the lights went out.

I love basketball. I really love March and basketball.

I really, really, really love March and basketball and my family.

Other Notes From The Opening Weekend

  • When I see the ad for NCAA.com, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that the webmasters earn more than the players.
  • Wow Furious 7 ads.
  • The guy falling off his stool was the best thing I have seen so far.
  • My brackets are in the shitter thanks to Iowa State.
  • How many more ways can they say Louisville?
  • Michigan State beating Virginia was the easiest pick I made.
  • Still wondering what a Bearcat is?
  • Pangos is the new Steve Nash, hair and all.
  • Love Jack Armstrong’s chair height. Looks like he is blasting off.
  • Pulled pork and #PlayterMadness was a fun time. Lone Star is a legend.
  • Harry learned how to keep score and gave me constant reports.
  • Tom Izzo. Coaching God.
  • I was pulling for Harvard.
  • I am thankful there is not a Wendy’s within walking distance of our house.
  • LET’S GO LOUISVILLE.

6 hours in. Added a glaze. Almost there. #marchmadness #playtermadness #pulledpork

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Oh, are you wondering who would win the title game between Katie and I? It is a good question. Like I said, we are a team, so it really doesn’t matter. As long as we can stay ahead of the boys, all will be good.

I can’t wait for another One Shining Moment.

Spring Means New Football Equipment

Apologies to those still buried in snow. For us, spring is practically here. The temperature is on the plus side, the birds are singing and for our oldest son, he is ready for football (soccer) season. His indoor play ended a few weeks ago and every day he has been asking to go outside and kick the ball around.

It is hard to say no, as I am also a huge fan of football or American soccer. This will be Harrison’s first experience with outdoor play on an actual team. What this really means is we need to find some new football equipment for him to use. Showing up for the first game without the right equipment is not cool. As the parent, I always want him to feel comfortable, confident and ready to show off his moves.

Outdoor soccer involves cleats. As I remember, running in cleats is great. It makes you feel like you can go so fast and stop even faster. The traction is perfect for soccer and not slipping on the grass if it is wet.

The checklist is pretty short, as the team he goes on will provide the kids football kits consisting of shirt, shorts and socks.

All Harrison will need is a ball (check), shin pads (check) and cleats (check). He is all set. Too bad the season is still over a month away.

To fill the time, we are talking about football and even kicking balloons around the house until we can get outside to play. Pretty soon I am going to have to start showing Harrison football videos just to get him excited.

For a 5-year old, waiting over a month for a game you love to play is hard. Every time I need to get the excitement up, I bring out the new cleats. Yep, it works every time.

I personally can’t wait to get outside to watch him play. The fresh air, the exercise and the continuing development of his skills.

Who knows, if his love for football grows, we will have to pick up a few more accessories, build a net and of course have a lot more time for drills.

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This is a collaborative post but all words and opinions are my own.

Kids Playing Sports? Keep Your Inner Coach In Check

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Are your kids playing organized sports? If so, have you ever had the urge to step in and “coach” from the bleachers? I have and it is one of the hardest things to stop doing. But it is what you need to do. The coach will appreciate it, other parents will appreciate it and most importantly, your kid will appreciate it.

Our oldest started playing indoor soccer in the fall and will be moving on to outdoor soccer in the summer. It is his first taste of organized sports and playing on a team. It is his first time being coached by someone other than me. It is his first change to showcase his own self on the playing field.

As a parent who grew up playing sports, it is hard to watch and not want to chime in. Like many dads in particular, we have created this alternative memory of just how good we were at a sport and want to pass it on to our kids.

I played soccer most of my life. I like to think I was pretty good. I know the rules, the tricks and what should be done on the pitch. What I have never done is coach kids how to do it. They are unlike teenagers or other adults. They need to “get it” on their own and without patience, things can go south.

I have kicked the ball around with Harry for years. He loves it. He is good at it. It only makes sense he will be a natural at any sports he wants to play. But that is not how it goes.

Playing one on one with dad is a whole different world than playing on a team with other kids and a coach. You have to learn to share, work together and be a good teammate. All things I want Harry to learn of course. So we started soccer and I figured all would go how it should.

After the first week, it was clear, Harry had his own idea of playing soccer, and there is nothing wrong with that.

He loves to run. He is a tall 5-year old, so he looks like an antelope sprinting up and down the floor. He is always having fun and smiling. The one thing he did not have much interest in – the ball. He loved to just run and follow the play. Following the heard so to speak. If the ball came at him, he kicked it, but he would never seek it out.

This for me was hard to watch. I would fidget in my seat. I wanted to take him aside and coach him on what to do. I even yelled a few times with words of encouragement. He simply brushed me off and went back to the game he was playing in his head. I think the term I used when describing the night to Katie was space cadet. I had to not let it make me go crazy.

Each time Harry came off to have a drink, I would fall into coach mode and start filling his head with what to do, where to go and things to try. He had none of it. He just drank his water and laughed with his friends over what happened on Digimon.

Then I heard the coach sharing words of encouragement to the boys and girls. Things as simple as “great running”, “awesome job” and “be ready to go again”. That’s when I figured it out. I had to stop coaching and simply be dad. I wanted Harry to be Messi on the first night of his soccer career. It’s not that I am delusional. I just want the best for my boys. I want him to be better than I was. Basically I want him to achieve what I could not. All wrong.

I had to keep my coaching to myself and just be there as dad.

Each time Harry went out, he would dart up and down the floor, playing his own game of tag. If the ball happened to get in the way, he kicked it the right way (most of the time). I would start to say something and I would shut it down. It was hard to filter myself and not be that guy.

I looked around and there were other parents doing the same. Coaching from the sidelines and getting really into it. Their kids also seemed to tune them out. I did not want Harry to do that to me. I needed to stop and keep the thoughts in my head.

The only outlet was to come home and share it all with Katie and she would quickly point out that he is five and as long as he is having fun, who cares. He is not trying out for the National Team, it’s Timbits.

I read so many stories of aggressive parents at sporting events who yell, fight and cause a real scene and I always comment on how stupid it is. But as I sit there watching Harry put a pylon on his head instead of doing drills, I can see how it can happen. I can see how a parent can go from sane and caring to over the top idiot, all in the name of their kid.

Competitive juices flow. You hate to see your kid get scored on. But you let it happen and let the coach be the voice that is heard. I want Harry to understand authority. He listens to teachers and coaches now better than I think he listens to me and I don’t have a problem with that. As long as he has respect and understands who is in charge, I can say we did our job as parents.

This is only the start. It is only going to get harder with each sport and each year that goes by. What happens when someone hurts Harry or Harry hurts them. What happens when Harry gets cut when I firmly believe he shouldn’t. It’s going to be tough.

But it is not about me. It’s about Harry and his enjoyment of a sport or activity. As long as he can say he had fun afterwards, that is all that truly matters. I can save my back seat coaching for when I watch Toronto Raptors games.