Old Photo

May 31st, 2012 § Leave a Comment

There’s this old photo. It’s maybe 5×8. The resolution says the original was even smaller. The black and white has that greenish/brown tint of genuinely old photos. It’s a “head shot” of a Korean man with a very Korean face: Broad with small eyes and full lips. The eyes and the full lips wear a trace smirk, giving the man a kind look. His hair is wavy and pulled back like Clark Gable. And he is wearing a coat and tie. I was told that he was the only man in his village to wear a coat and tie. The man in the photo was my Grandfather. I never saw him. I don’t know his name.

Growing up, I’d see that photo a couple times a year. It along with another grainy photo of a small woman got pulled out of the closet and pasted on the wall for a traditional memorial called Jae Sah.  Depending on who you ask, Jae Sah is characterized as everything from a memorial feast to ancestor worship. For me it was a strange evening of seeing men, my Dad and Uncles in humble posture – a posture they seldom took. Followed by a feast of too much of a good thing. The feeling leaving the table was always, “Ah, I didn’t quite get at that right.” During those nights, I’d overhear bits and pieces of the story.

My Grandfather as a young man led a student resistance movement against the occupying Japanese rule. He was arrested, jailed and tortured. My Dad remembered a permanently disfigured elbow. His courageous patriotism garnered him local legend status, which he parlayed into advancing a political agenda. Despite being a wealthy landowner … okay, okay, I know, this is where every Korean ancestry goes back to some wealthy landowner or royalty. Right. And family history has that acute vulnerability to embellishment. Acknowledged. Like I said, I didn’t know the man. This is what I heard from admittedly sources who tend to bleed truth into legend into wishful thinking. Okay, where was I? Yes, despite being a wealthy landowner, he was a political idealist who believed in the virtue of Socialism. Or he was a big, bad communist. Again, depending on who you ask. At the outbreak of the Korean war, the Communist North advanced South. In retreat, the South rounded up known Communist leaders. He was marched up a hill with others, lined up, and shot.

My Dad was fourteen years old. Being the oldest surviving man of his house, he went up that hill accompanied by a trusted servant to identify and retrieve the body. Two years later, he lost his Mother to disease. He lived through the War and practically raised his two younger brothers.

Fathers aren’t perfect. My Father sure wasn’t. By the time I came around though, he’d seen a few things. Life has a way of crushing a man. It’s surprising really – after all he’d been through that he treated me as well as he did. My Father, I don’t think, knew the man in that old photo much better than I do.


What Are You Called?

May 21st, 2012 § Leave a Comment

The last few posts have been about naming your child. It is the first thing you will give your daughter, your son. I am of the opinion that giving a child a name is not some recreational activity for us, the parents. It’s not a canvas for some sort of self-expression. It’s not an opportunity to pay tribute to something we think noteworthy. And not something we give our child so that everyone will think, “Wow, your name must mean that your parents are cool.” I’m not saying every name needs to be steeped in meaning. For each of our kids, their names were chosen at least in part for the way they sounded. We liked the name.

With these latest posts along the theme of Naming, I’ve wanted to set the stage from which I might suggest to you, fathers, that our role in giving a name goes beyond bestowing on our children a good name. There seems to be an era, and perhaps a region that have long passed and/or shrinking in which a common question for us was posed in an uncommon way: “What are you called?” The setting in my mind has cowboy hats, horses, open plains, and a banjo plucking in the background. None of this is familiar to me (As an aside, nothing looks more comical than a Asian man in a cowboy hat), so I admit I cannot speak with any authority on matters this far country. I think it’s a safe bet, however, that where or whenever this question was commonly posed it was heard as the equivalent of our, “What’s your name?”

Regardless of what I suspect as the intent, the outdated wording highlights for me an interesting distinction. Allow me to further highlight the distinction by posing yet another question: “I know that’s your name, but what are you called?” You see, a person can have a name but be called something else. An alias. Nickname. All the way to what a person believes him/herself to be: Great, True, Beautiful, Brave, Smart, Dumb, Ugly, Liar, Useless.

To you fathers, I propose that your job of naming does not end with bestowing on your child a good name. You are an important, dare I say primary voice in determining what they will be called.

Fantasy Friday

May 18th, 2012 § 2 Comments

A Confession: I love Arian Foster

Ten reasons why Arian Foster needs to be your top pick.

1. 20 pts. per. That’s Arian Foster’s average fantasy output in the last two seasons in games he has played. Let me put that number in perspective. Over the same span Aaron Rodgers, the number one QB has put up 23.5 avg.
2. 6’1″ and 229 lbs.  4.69 40. Size and speed.
3. 26 – his age at the start of 2012 season – his third full season. Neither a pup nor an old dog, 25-29 prime RB years.
4. Favorites – Houston Texans poised to be tops in the AFC South for some time. Each game will matter and they will be motivated.
5. Andre Johnson – Takes the top off opposing defenses, meaning the safety can’t drop into the box. Foster will see no 8 man fronts.
6. O-Line – Houston has arguably the nastiest, most athletic offensive line in the NFL. Last season I saw D-Lines just getting blown off the ball.
7. Perfect Combo – Foster’s patient, cut and run downhill style is perfect for the Kubiak’s zone blocking run system.
8. Nose – Arian Foster has a nose for the goal line. Rarely gets stoned at the the gate. 30 TDs in 28 games.
9. Kubiak – From Shanahan’s coaching tree, but decidedly different approach with respect to RB usage. Suspect that he’s more influenced by Terrel Davis than Mike Shanahan. Davis during Denver’s best seasons with Kubiak at O-Cordinator was the only one back there getting the ball. When he got it, he ate up huge chunks of real estate. Amassing ridiculous numbers in ’98. In his heart, I do not believe Kubiak believes in platooning RBs. A platoon situation was presented to him on a platter last season. It made sense to integrate Ben Tate. Kubiak passed. Check the numbers. One more thing, he’s not a cute Offensive Coordinator. He’s not a Sean Payton or a Mike Martz who get their thrills from being clever. Kubiak wants to vicariously punch the opponent in the face with his Offensive Line.
10. Every Down Back – Obviously early downs. His size and his nose for the endzone makes him a goal line back; he ain’t gettin’ vultured. On top of all that, he’s got great hands, making him the best 3rd down back in football. Last season when Johnson went down, Foster became the Texans’ #1 receiver.

11. BonusMarshawn Lynch. Beastmode will be a top ten RB taken in most drafts. That’s how thin it is at RB.

My Name

May 16th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

I heard an insightful lady once say that she believed the father has the unique role of naming the child. She didn’t mean it’s solely the father’s responsibility/privilege. As we all know, nowadays the father and mother together settle on a name they both like. No, she meant something that goes beyond settling on a name. When I heard her say it, there was this resonance. I remember thinking that the father more than any other calls the child into the world. He says, “Hey, you, this is who you are. What I believe you will become.” By so doing, he strengthens his son, his daughter to face a world of terrifying beauty.

Before my regretful name change, my father gave me a Korean name which means A Star that Shines Over Many. Naming is serious business in the Korean culture. There are certain procedures: patterns to follow, people on which the office of naming is bestowed. My father who was himself fatherless for the majority of his life took it upon himself to name us – me and my brother. He could’ve gone to some expert or followed some prescribed pattern. Instead, he wandered off tradition to give us a piece of his heart. Looking down at a helpless baby – one of millions, born in an obscure, humble part of the world to two ordinary people, he let his heart dream as big as he could and said, “My boy, you’re gonna be like a star that shines over many.”

I go by that name now. And carry with me his call. I want to live – dare to live in a way that honors my father’s inspired call on his son.

Your name is what?

May 14th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

For a couple of years, I went by the name Harold. Whew. Glad I got that off my chest – that’s a load off. I’ve come clean. Opened the closet for all to see. Go ahead, Ye without sin ... Really, it’s not much of a secret anymore. For years, I tried to keep it under lock and key. The mention of American names in conversation would get my ears hot. In a panic, I’d attempt to hijack the conversation to fly it far, far away from the subject. In recent years though, I’ve grown lax. As it often does, the hiding grows more dreadful than the monster itself. Now, many of my friends know. My kids know. It’s a bit of an inside joke now. Haha … haaaaa. 

Oh yeah, American names. “What’s an American name?” You ask. Right. Unless you’re an immigrant, and a certain type at that, you wouldn’t know. In 1977 the world wasn’t quite so small. Globalization wasn’t a word. More xenophobic … maybe not. More centralized and narrow? Definitely. It wasn’t hip to be multicultural, to be a connoisseur of ethnic foods. It wasn’t cool to be Korean. In such a world, the American name was an attempt at quick assimilation. For a “bowl cut” kid, turned instant card carrying alien to his surroundings by hopping a 12 hr flight, the American name at the least took down the “sign” that blared, “I’m not from around here.”

Quick. Yes. But at what price? I wonder. What is more you then your name? An abrupt change like a violent face lift, no? A disowning of self. Maybe a name isn’t a mere name: Changing it, not so innocuous. Reading a bit too much into it? Maybe. If nothing else, the lesson might be: Something as important as naming shouldn’t be left to just anyone – definitely not to oneself. You do, and you get disasters like Metta World Peace, Whoopi Goldberg, … and, yeah, you get Harold.


Fantasy Friday

May 11th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

The Key to Pleasure

For every instance of sheer, unadulterated pleasure, fantasy football exacts at least two measures of brutal pain. Those of us who love it, know this; it’s clearly a love hate thing. For every, “Yeah! Go, go! Touchdown!” there are twice as many, “Awe, no, NO! Not to the fullback! C’mon!” Case in point: Last year in our league, the poor fella who lost in the Championship started Tony Romo. Romo if you recall was on a tear going into the fantasy playoffs. And at home against Philly, all signs pointed “Go!” Then in the first, Jason Babin came up the middle. Romo in his follow-through inadvertently punched the top of Babin’s helmet. His throwing hand swelled up like a grapefruit. Unable to grip the ball, Romo was pulled. When pulled, he had exactly 0 fantasy pts. Zero. Zilch. Nada. To make matters worse, the rest of the poor fella’s fantasy team went off. In the end, he lost by a point. Yeah. This really happened. One point. In the Championship Game. Romo gets zero, and he lost by 1! Brutal.

Next time you’re in one of these fantasy “headlocks”, remember, it’s the “fantasy” in fantasy football that both pleases and pains. It’s the illusion. At the heart of fantasy football like all fantasies, there is an illusion of control. It’s what makes it fun: picking, sorting our line-up, playing a hunch. Our game of illusion however is played on a field of reality. Each Sunday, the day that counts, our fantasy interplays with their reality. And we’re reminded that we have zero control. There are real GMs, real coaches. Stripped of illusion, we’re relegated to screaming at the heartless LCD.

So, for me, here’s the key to enjoying the fantasy football experience: Loosen the grip, raise the hands, and go happily screaming with the ups and downs. It’s fantasy man; gotta embrace the fact that we don’t have much control. As much as you’d like to take credit for taking Steve Smith in the 10th round, you really shouldn’t. You can no more take credit for Steve Smith with your 10th than be blamed for Chris Johnson with your first.

What’s in a Name?

May 7th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Couple months ago, I met a guy who had those eyes – eyes that had seen a few things. We shared a meal, and he told me his story. After serving nineteen years of a fifteen to life sentence, he’d been out of prison for less than a year. Not an atypical story. At an early age, he got mixed up with a wrong crowd. Before he knew it, he was running with a gang, perpetrating petty crimes. The criminal activity escalated. By his late teens, he was locked up for robbery. His father visited him often. Told him he loved him, and that there was still a future for him. He wasn’t buying it.

Sometime that first year while doing time on robbery, he was pulled out of jail and charged with murder. “It was like a slap in the face. I was ‘asleep’, like everything was okay. And then ‘murder one’, it just woke me up. I did it; I knew I was guilty. I thought, ‘My life is over.'”

Again, his father was there. On one of his visits, he asked him, “Do you know what your name means?” He had an ethnic name, and being born in the States, he had never sought out its meaning. “Your name, it means ‘life’. And your middle name means ‘full’.” It broke his heart.

Later that day, back in his cell, his life changed. Couple days later, he was offered a plea. He took it. At sentencing, he was, in his words “…so ashamed, but given the courage…” to face his victim’s family, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. To his surprise, the father of the victim stood and asked the judge for leniency. “He is just a boy,” he heard this father say, “My boy cannot be brought back, but this one still has so much life left.”

“Your name, it means Life.”

What’s in a name? I’d say quite a bit. Like the hopes of a father. The man I met was a man determined to live up to his name.

Fantasy Friday

May 4th, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Junior Seau 1969-2012

News broke Wednesday that Junior Seau was found dead in his Oceanside, CA home. The first reports placed the cause of death as an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Those reports have since been confirmed. Junior Seau was 43 years old.

On a football field, there are high profile positions. Quarterback being the highest. Wide receivers and running backs get a lot of love. They move the rock; they score TDs. The defensive ends get noticed for sacking QBs. Even corners and safeties on occasion pick a ball, and get that “high-steppin” spotlight. The middle linebacker, not so much. They are usually the first in a gang tackle, lost in the cluttered, pile somewhere near the line of scrimmage. Their names, though, their names are some of the most iconic names in football: Nitschke, Butkus, Lambert, Singletary. Not glamorous, but revered. They are the Quarterbacks of the defense. The leader. The anchor. And when there is a good defense, you can pretty much bank there’s a good middle linebacker holding it down. And for twenty NFL seasons, Junior Seau was one of the best.

What possesses a man to take his own life? Even more, what possesses a man like Junior Seau to take his own life? The unthinkable is so common place that the rest of us barely stutter a step. “Nothing to see here. Just keep moving.” With hardly a moment’s ponder, we dial up a conclusion – simple and far removed from our own stories. Hurry, reconnect the loop, man; get the reel spinning. Just keep moving.

I hope the news of Junior Seau stops you in your tracks.

Group Hug Continued …

May 2nd, 2012 § Leave a Comment

Look, I’m not saying I get that first thing. I’ve already divulged that I’ve dragged my wife through my darkness. Then there’s the selfish, self-centeredness. Before we married, my wife noticed that I always managed to will my way at the local Blockbuster. “We’d always end up getting something you wanted to watch. I really wondered if I could deal with that kind of selfishness.” “But, but … my choices were better … I was only trying to help.” We still watch a lot of Sportscenter. Yeah, I do dominate that remote … like all the time. Okay, right. I am very opinionated – often bullish about it. It does genuinely surprise me when I am wrong, which ought to mean that I’m frequently surprised. I am not. And that, my friends points to a serious gap in self-awareness. Who I think I am looks about as much like who I really am as Denzel Washington looks like Martin Lawrence. Not the most affectionate guy in the world. Slow to the trigger with words of affection or praise. And a down right bad gift giver. One Christmas I gave her a set of steak knives, okay! There I said it. If the first thing in loving my kids is loving their mother, I’m still not breaking even at the first thing.

All I’m saying is I believe they’re connected: Your love for your kids and your love for their mother. It “sets the table.” It’s the source, the foundation. The kids get an orientation to relationship. And from the love between you and their mother radiates out the love for them. Think about it: How many couples who love one another, end up hating their kids? Can’t think of too many, right? Now think about this: How many men would accept another man raising their kids while they are still alive? Not many. But those very same men, who would otherwise consider the proposition unimaginable, routinely let this happen to get away from the woman they’ve grown to disdain. The belief that we can by-pass that first relationship without affecting the second is wrong.

What I’m saying is this: You want to love your kids? Love their mom. It’s not easy, I know. I certainly haven’t gotten it right. It’s not too late for me though. With help, I can do it. Big or small every little step counts. For those who seek it, there’s always hope. Even for someone as lost as me.

Where Am I?

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