Monday, September 29, 2014

Chasing The Dream....

Had I been blessed with professional level talent in any sport, I surely would have chased the dream until that well went completely dry.  If I had managed to bullshit myself just enough to believe professional sports could be a reality, I would have been off on that likely fruitless chase.

I knew, though.  I observed the guys around me in college (in various sports), and I knew I didn't have "it".  I was competitive enough to eek out a job as a role player for an NCAA tournament soccer team and that's as high as my dream ever went.  I can't complain about that.  I got to play competitive sports for four more years than most people and I got the chance to play against guys that eventually became professionals.  Plus, I think I may be the only USAFA soccer player to ever receive a red card in the NCAA tournament.  That's something! (I was in a poor defensive position and got beat badly and had to pull the guy down from behind since we were already losing)

There are thousands of athletes every year, though, that have the ability to play at the next level and so they pursue it, spurred on by unlikely tales of mere mortals becoming gods like Tom Brady, a sixth round draft choice and now 3 time Super Bowl Champion.  Some of these guys are highly regarded, and some aren't, but they pursue the dream either way, which means they will toil in the minor leagues and/or obscurity for as long as it takes to make it happen.  These are the athletes that fascinate me.

I had the chance to observe these type of guys over the weekend at the Napa Valley Challenger ATP tennis tournament.  For comparison, think of it in the same way as AA baseball.  There were maybe 200 people there to watch and the players stay with "host" families.  They enter these tournaments to gain ATP "points" so they can increase their overall ranking in the hopes of getting into major tournaments and/or getting a better draw at the major tournaments.  I got to see 4 different guys play singles matches and here's my scientific breakdown of their overall chances of success on the Tour.

1. Sam Querrey - 26 years old, turned pro in 2006 and has $5,462,000 in career earnings

He is the no brainer in the group and is already well established.  With his game he has a legitimate shot at winning a major, the gold standard for a tennis player. He really shouldn't even be playing this type of event.  He grew up in Santa Rosa, though, and apparently didn't want to go to Asia to play tournaments this winter.  Instead, he'll be bullying lesser pros for the next 4 weeks in the Northern California challenger circuit.  He has a gigantic serve and follows it up with a big, nasty forehand.  No one here was even close.  He simply issued swift ass kickings to the guy on the other side of the net.  His winning amount?  $7,200 and a bottle of wine. Now he has $5,469,200!

This is what fascinates me about the whole mindset.  If you know you're going to get your ass kicked by Sam Querrey for the next four weeks and you'll never win a major because there are 50 guys currently better than Querrey and you're not good enough, what keeps you motivated to keep playing? The money?  Check the guys below for more information.

Querrey unloading on a forehand.

2. Jared Donaldson - Age 17.  Turned Pro August 2014. $81,477 career earnings.

This I understand.  The dude is 17 and is just starting out so it makes sense for him to play the challengers.  Plus, he made $81,000 in his first 6 weeks, that's not too bad.  It looks like he has some serious game and in fact made it into the U.S. Open draw in August, where he lost in straight sets.  I'm jumping on this bandwagon right now.

With these crazy arm angles, I don't understand how more tennis players don't require Tommy John surgery.  This motion is the same as throwing curveballs all day long.

Big game.  Unloading on a forehand.

Check out the compression on this ball.  Shot of the weekend.

3. Tim Smyczek - Age 26, Turned Pro 26, $639,000 career earnings.

This is where it starts to get dicey.  His career earnings break down to $79,875 per year.  That's not bad, right?  Now we have to factor in travel, and paying a coach, and training, and whatever else.  Now  I'm guessing we're down to about $3,425 in income per year.  Couple that with the fact that he's simply not good enough to win a major and you really have to ask why?  He's an effort guy.  He chases down a lot of balls, only to have them rammed down his throat on the next shot by the bigger, stronger, harder hitting Sam Querrey.  Yet, he's a top 100 player.  Out of the billions of humans on this earth, only 99 people can play this game better than he can.  And yet, he's so far removed from winning a major.  I suppose it's enough to keep you going to be able to say that you were the top 100 in anything in this world.  At this point, though, I recommend he pursue being a lawyer as indicated on his bio.

Tim chasing a ball down.

Here he is chasing down another one.

Got his racket on it.

Back in the corner, chasing down another bomb.

Alex Bolt Facing backwards as he chases down a ball.

4. Alex Bolt - Age 21, Turned Pro 2010, $112,000 career earnings

 The photo above is how this kid looked most of the day against Querrey.  Nothing about his game stands out.  He was little more than a sparring partner in this match.  He's not as fast as Smyczek and not anymore powerful.   His career earnings breakdown doesn't look good either.   I wonder how long he'll try to keep this dream alive?

Me and the fellas have already talked about it and we're going to see if we can get him signed up for our beer league.  Nobody will know the difference.

Friday, September 5, 2014


I never saw myself retiring from the Air Force, and I damned sure never imagined Perry doing it either. The guy currently drawing a retirement paycheck from the U.S. Government is the same guy that stood up in Arnold Hall circa 1994 and asked if it was O.K. to have both his nipples pierced.

Arnold Hall is a 3,000 seat venue used for many things including world class concerts, shows and events for cadets and the public at large.  For the general public it's a terrific place to see an intimate show.  For cadets it's a place to A.) get yelled at  B.) fall asleep or C.) both.

As basic cadets we flooded the theater in a giant horde at the end of each day to be told we sucked ass that day or we were doing great.  Inevitably it turned into a pep rally with us waving our caps and shouting "Keep The Pride '95".  This scenario was great for getting things off your chest in a passive aggressive way by shouting subversive things like "you're a douche" or "lick my b*lls" at the cadre.  They couldn't hear us, we looked enthusiastic, so it didn't matter.  We felt better, though.  In the end we didn't care what they said, we looked at it as a way to try and nod off for a few blissful moments.

As upperclassmen, Arnold Hall represented hours and hours of torture in the form of briefings.  The speakers might range from a 4 star general to the Cadet Wing Commander covering any array of topics pertinent to the Air Force.  It was during one of these cadet briefings that Perry had his shining moment.

Out in front of the Irish Bank

In 1994 tattoos and piercings were much less common than they are today and the regulations were somewhat unclear on what was allowed.  Perry came back to the dorms one weekend with both nipples pierced and was unclear on whether he had violated regulations.  Like any good rule follower, Perry stood up in Arnold Hall in front of the entire class of 1995 and asked "theoretically" if it was OK to have dual nipple piercings.   In perfect cadet fashion the Wing Commander responded, "Maybe you shouldn't be here".  This response is the reason we liked to shout "You're a douche" as basic cadets.  Hilarious, douchey cadet, but you didn't answer the question.  Perry had the last laugh, however.

P-Mac telling his story at Vesuvio cafe a haven for beat poets back in the day including Jack Kerouac

Fast forward about 20 years to present day San Francisco and I get a message from Perry telling me he's attending the San Francisco Academy Of Art on the G.I. Bill.   I'm pretty sure he's kidding so we agree to meet up in SF and hang out.  We sit down and go over the details over a few beers and it turns out he's not lying about the G.I. Bill.  In an effort to recruit and maintain personnel after 9/11, the government beefed up the G.I. Bill as an incentive.  As a result,  Perry's tuition is fully paid and he is getting a substantial living expense (in addition to his retirement pay).  I think it might be the greatest legal scam I've ever heard of.   He got over, and I love it.   It helps me with the chip on my shoulder that was put there 25 years ago by a senatorial panel that said I wasn't "Academy material".   In honor of Perry's achievement I sit here at my desk, gold trucker hat in hand, gently swaying, and chant "You're a douche" to all those who told us we wouldn't make it or shouldn't have been there.

Our waiter at Original Joe's.  I highly recommend the burgers at this place.

Earl Thomas at Biscuits and Blues. I've never seen a bad show here.  World class musicians at a small venue.