Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hookin' up with my old 4th grade teacher

I got the hots for my 4th grade teacher and — guess what? — she’s digging, me too!

The situation reminds me of the obscure, but funny 2011 movie “Cedar Rapids” where Ed Helms is playing a nimrod who later in life starts screwing his old sixth grade teacher.

After they’ve done their on-screen love rumble he sits there and giggles, “Did you ever think about being with me when you were my teacher?”

Sigourney Weaver looks incredulous and says, “You were 12.”

It’s a little different with me and Mrs. B.

I’m 51. She’s not.

We have a history. I was her first.

Her first class, that is. She was the new teacher at Julia Ward Howe Elementary in Mt. Lebanon.

I was a hot shot 4th grader who’d just mastered tying his shoes so I was pretty full of myself.

I guess of all the teachers I’ve had, she’e one who either made the greatest impression or at least made the first great impression.

It was in her class I began becoming the person I’d always be — and I mean that in the parts of me I like to think people like: creative, cheerful, out-going. These were the aspects of me she encouraged and it was in her class they began to flourish.

When I say I have the hots for her, I don’t mean that in the tabloid way. She was the first teacher I remember liking enough to want to spend free time. 

She laughed at my jokes. She didn’t talk down to me. She challenged me to become conversational. She read stories that made books an indelible part of my entire life.

The last time I saw her was Jan. 14, 2004. I remember her telling me she always knew I’d wind up the way I am because I was, as she said, “born with the happy gene.”

That’s a wonderful thing to tell a person, especially one who is grieving. See, Jan. 14, 2004, was the day of my father’s funeral. She and her husband both came to pay their respects. It was very thoughtful.

So, of course, I’ve been eager to track her down so she could read my happy little book.

I spoke recently at a South Hills church and a woman rushed up to me and said, “Oh, I know a woman who is so disappointed she couldn’t be here. She’s your old 4th grade teacher.”

Mrs. B. and her husband were vacationing in Ireland.

The woman gave me all her contacts. I sent her a book and called a few days later.

We had a wonderful chat. She told me she thinks she was a terrible teacher her first year, and she wishes she could go back and do it all over again because she knows she’d be better.

I told her she was perfect.

It’s very satisfying to know I’m friendly with someone who so long ago made such a pivotal impact on my life and that she is proud of her role in the result.

I am now friendly with many of the wonderful teachers who’ve shepherded our daughters through elementary school.

I wonder if they feel they’re not doing as good a job as they should. I’ll bet many of them stay up late at night trying to divine ways to get precocious 4th graders to learn their daily lessons.

I wish I could tell them to not fret so much. I’m sure they’re doing fine.

Just like me and Mrs. B.

Our lives have progressed like so many of the vivid stories she read to me and my runny-nosed little confederates.

We’ve lived happily ever after.

Related . . .

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dining discounts for device-free families

A growing number of restaurants are giving 5 percent discounts to families who agree to put the damn devices down and engage loved ones during vital meal time.

Their motto: “Disconnect phones, reconnect families.”

I think it’s a great idea. I read about on my phone last week while I was ignoring my family at a local restaurant.

I think it would be fun to exasperate a waiter or waitress by insisting I was entitled to the discount anyway because, indeed, even though I’d been on my phone my calls dealt with uniformly grave matters.

Then I’d let the server overhear me talking about my blog.

Of course the best thing to do would be to as your order was being taken would be to pretend to answer your phone and shout, “No! No! No! Make the incision behind the left ear! The left ear!”

Then set the phone down and say, “And I’ll have the lasagna.”

I’m always fascinated by the increasingly common site of the family unit sitting at the restaurant and appearing as socially distant from one another as the planets of the solar system.

When did it all go so wrong? What if you need the salt? Text the request?

What about if you need a genetic match for a new kidney? I guess you could try Craig’s List, but there are merits to asking a sibling.

And, most pressing, could that one day be me and mine?

See, I’ve been at that table as both son and father. I understand how family dynamics can pulverize efforts to even appear civil in public. We had a night out a couple of weeks ago that was brutal.

The sisters were warring. Val was angry. The tension was palpable.

Heck, I was the only one who managed to appear serene and the only reason for that was because I was the only one who’d had the good sense to stop at the bar and get a good snootful before our table was called.

It happens. I mean, we can’t all be as happy as Jon & Kate Gosselin. 

The difference these days is disgruntled family members can e-scape to places that make them feel loved and important.

Places full of total strangers using fictitious names!

I admit the only time Val and I halt our ceaseless gazing at our electronic devices is to admonish our children to halt their ceaseless gazing at their electronic devices.

But she and I would never dream of using our phones in any dining situation. Like so many parents, we’re trying to set a good example. It seems to be understood by the 14 year old. She’s yet to push back on the policy.

How that’ll work with Lucy, 8, remains to be seen. After all, she’s the one who when we tell her she can’t have dessert reacts like young Damien Thorn does in “The Omen” when his parents try to take him to church.

What do these people — children and parents — have in common?

The only thing I can figure is a desire to feel important, to feel needed.

It’s confounding. 

Our lives become appreciably more balanced and sane the instant we realize our jobs aren’t nearly as important as we think they are.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say.

I haven’t taken what I consider a really important phone call since the mechanic called and said, sorry, my car wouldn’t be ready ’til 2 p.m. and I had a 1 p.m. tee time and my clubs were in the trunk.

So I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be truly important.

Still, I’ll never understand how so many people allow the need to appear important usurp the need to be loved.

Because each and every one of us has the opportunity to be truly important in ways that matter most.

Just don’t be disappointed if it’s only to the person you’re asking to pass you the salt.

Related . . .

Friday, September 26, 2014

I cry over commercials (farewell, Cap'n Jeter!)

Twice this week purported loved ones asked me word-for-word the exact same question.

“Are you crying?”

Read like that without any inflection, it’s a beautiful question. It’s what caring souls say to one another anytime someone’s in need of human understanding.

But my wife and daughter, 14, didn’t have compassion on their agendas.

Their intent was to mock.

My instinct was to sleeve away the tears, issue a strong denial — “Why, no, I’m not crying.” — then dash into the nearest bathroom, slam the door behind me and settle in for a good long sob.

Through teary hindsight, however, I realize I should have responded the way Col. Nathan Jessup did in “A Few Good Men” when that sniveling Tom Cruise character kept badgering him if he’d ordered the Gitmo Code Red.

“Your goddamned right I’m crying! Now put your arms around me and repeatedly say, ‘There, there,’ until I’m all done blubbering!”

I had nothing to be ashamed of.

I mean, what grown man doesn’t cry at Gatorade commercials?

The new Derek Jeter ad starts out with iconic shots of Manhattan. The great Jeter is on his way to one of his final ball games. He appears composed, reflective, magnificent.

He is the great Derek Jeter. How could he appear anything but?

He says to the driver, “You know what, I’ll walk from here,” and he exits the vehicle.

I’d say it’s like Jesus strolling through Jerusalem, but the analogy would be flawed.

Jesus couldn’t hit.

He greets children, sanitation workers, bars full of delirious Yankee fans. In the background Frank Sinatra is singing “My Way.” I guess that’s what really gets me. We honored my late father’s request we play “My Way” at his ‘04 funeral.

So a song sung by a performer who enjoyed international acclaim and fabulous wealth throughout his life was played at the pauper funeral of an unknown optician who died so broke even the red pin on his leased Dodge Neon was pegged hard on “E.”

It was poignant irony, especially for me because it’s increasingly looking like Dad’s way will be my way.

I’ve loved Jeter six years longer than I’ve loved the sassy little rascal who was ridiculing me for my sentiments.

He played baseball, my very favorite sport, with exuberance and skill. That right there is enough. People loved Ty Cobb for that and Ty Cobb was at the very least a racist and malicious prick.

Cobb was everything the great Jeter is not.

Understand, Jeter’s played 20 years as the most visible athlete in what was called the media capital of the world — and that was before everyone with a smart phone became media conscripts.

Yet, Jeter has never once been involved in even a minor scandal. There is zero evidence he’s even once been a drunken lout, rude to a doorman, or left anything less than a huge tip for even the surly waiters.

It’s remarkable.

I have far less visibility and am renown for committing at least one of those scandalous infractions every day before lunch.

Then there are the women. I remember one year reading he’d dated 30 of the Maxim magazine hottest women list. The list includes Scarlett Johansson, Minka Kelly, both Jessicas Biel and Alba, and most of your SI swimsuit lovelies.

Good for him, sure, but that’s not really an achievement. Beautiful women will understandably throw themselves at any rich and famous athlete.

What is exceptional is that none of the women he’s dumped has ever come out and badmouthed him like, say, all those tramps did with Tiger Woods. 

In this transparent age of kiss-and-tell, no one’s ever said he’s cheap, rude, kinky or  has a snicker-worthy penis.

So what we’ve seen for the past 20 years is something remarkable.

I do cry whenever I see a human do something to exalt humanity. I cry over great art, the triumph of justice, random acts of kindness, and the site of an old man teaching a child how to catch a fish.

I cried a little more last night when Jeter hit the game-winner on his last home at-bat.

I guess sometimes I cry when I know something great I was once privileged to cheer is going away for good.

Related . . .

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why do some many things suck so bad?

The visit to the pharmacy had been a model of efficiency. I’d stopped in while I was waiting for some take-out lunch Chinese a few doors down.

I’d bought a $4.69 anniversary card for my darling and for me one of those 59 cent pingpong ball-size blueberry creme swirl lollipops I get when I know I can enjoy one home alone and in peace without the little whiners complaining about me never getting them squat.

I approached the register. The friendly older woman smiled and began her interrogation.

“Find everything you need?”

I had.

“Any coupons?”

No, ma’am.

“Do you have a Wellness card?”

I did not. In fact, right then all I had was a growing desire to complete my transaction and vacate the store before any of my neighbors saw I was a grown man who likes to lick lollipops.

“That’ll be $5.57.”

I gave her $6.

She gave me 43 cents as the obligatory receipt began to unspool. For my two-item purchase it was as long as the distance from my wrist to my elbow, or about what you used get when you’d purchase a used car.

She picked up a pen and circled a paragraph and informed me if I went on-line and filled out a customer satisfaction survey I’d have a chance to win $1,000. “And you’ll be eligible for great store discounts and sales!”

Whoopee, I thought

“Thank you,” she said, “and have a nice day!”

Too late. She’d already ruined it.

I’d already begun to calculate just how much a once-simple cash transaction has begun to suck.

It sucks she had to ask me three questions before she began processing my purchase. It sucks to environmentalists like me that stores feel obliged to hand over wasteful receipts for every single transaction, even ones involving cards and candy, knowing they’ll be in my possession for the three seconds it’ll take to stroll to the nearest trash can.

It sucks to have someone try to tempt me to their corporate website where the suckfest of a transaction will be multiplied ten fold.

I guess it could have been worse. At least she didn’t ask to “like” her on Facebook.

When did so many things begin to suck so bad?

Even though we can only skim the surface, let’s break a few of ‘em down:

Shoelaces — I guess back when they were made of simpler materials they used to be shoestrings, but now they’re made with some kind of expensive high-tech polymer that fails at its priority function of keeping shoes tied. I bought some expensive Merrell Gore-Tex shoes and the laces are always coming untied. It’s infuriating. 

U2 — I used to love ‘em. Now, I’m ticked when I see an ad that tells me they have a new album and I can get it. For free! Does everything they do have to seem so contrived? 

Reading long news stories online — Hard copy will always be preferable to online as long as every online is embedded with links and ads designed to get you stop reading that story and begin reading something else. Even though I know they are mostly idiots, I’m still surprised that the people who produce newspapers don’t realize they are destroying one of the most essential components of their business: readers with attention spans that have yet to be atomized. The people who produce online content don’t want you to read. They just want you to click. 

Bags — The wastefulness of making sure everything at the grocery store comes with its own bag drives me nuts. Even though I carry my own bag, clerks will sometimes try and sneak already self-contained items into individual bags to put in my bag. It’d be like the pizza shop giving you a box to carry home your boxed pizza. I have word for this kind of behavior. It’s bagnanimous.

Surrendering to commercial characters/catch phrases I swore I never would — Capitol One finally broke me. I now I think I’m being uproariously witty when I break any lull in the conversation with the question: “What’s in your wallet?” And, God help me, but I recently had a sex dream about Flo. She was wearing nothing but her holstered Progressive Insurance price gun. I haven’t had a sound night’s sleep since.

Business who think me “liking” them is good business — The sign outside the local tire store is asking me to “like” them on Facebook. Really? I’m going to like a tire store? It’s all so counterfeit. Give me good tires and friendly service and I’ll do more than “like” you. I’ll shop there and tell friends about you.

Our collective future — My 13-year-old daughter came and told me in a lesson about scarcity she heard some estimates gauge the world will run out of drinking water by 2050. I want to tell her not to worry, that everything’s going to be all right. But I don’t believe it. Instead, I tell her the problem will solve itself if all the 13-year-old girls in the world simultaneously stop taking 20 minute showers.

I asked my wife for her list of things that suck. Here it is: Meanness & disrespect in politics, Facebook angst, movie theater commercials, strip mall ubiquity, metrosexuals, litter and men with ugly feet wearing sandals with toes showing.

It’s a good list and I’m relieved she didn’t include “being married to you.”

Of course, any reasonable list of things that suck ought to include Ebola, prejudice, ignorance, poverty, ISIL and Roger Goodell.

And because I believe rampant negativity sucks, here’s a list of things that don’t: My Bose wave radio, Derek Jeter, love, joy, Christmas, children, grandparents, and you because you’ve taken the time to read this blog.

Oh, and 59 cent pingpong ball-sized blueberry creme swirl lollipops.

Funny, isn’t it?

One of the few things that these days doesn’t really suck is something I could sit and suck all day.

Related . . .

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Who's Who in my new YouTube promo extravaganza!

The thing I like most about my new YouTube promotional extravaganza is it’s already turning out to be polarizing.

For instance, my family seems horrified. Not just that they’re in it, but that I’m really, really in it. Parts of it are way over the top, like the part when I lip synch “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

And there’s word that Sir Paul McCartney’s feathers are ruffled, too, although I suspect he’s just reacting that way to get Yoko to shut the hell up.

I do hope you’ll check it out. You won’t be bored.

Nauseous, maybe, but not bored.

My purpose for producing it is to give event planners a good long glimpse of how people are reacting to my talks. As you’ll, see many of them are euphoric. About half the people who attend say I ought to be a stand-up comic and the other half say thank me for being so inspirational.

It’s a wonderful breakthrough for me and I need to do everything I can to seize on it.

Hence the video. It stems from a string of my summer appearances where I had a video guy approach attendees and ask, “So, in 20 seconds or less, what did you think of Chris?”

Of course, people are mostly polite anyway and would say “He was funny!” Or “Inspirational!” That kind of thing.

My initial idea was to have about two minutes of people saying that. But wouldn’t that be boring?

So I decided to spice it up with family and friends chipping in their snide remarks. That led to a bunch of mini-skit.

This is 7:22, far longer than experts advise. They say no one will watch something this sprawling.

To hell with them.

My tech guys are right now working to make it even longer. My buddy Quinn Fallon sent me a musical tribute and I responded with a sign-board reply. My fingers are crossed that’ll soon be available as a director’s cut.

But this is what’s there now. Here’s a brief rundown of who’s who and some behind the scenes info about when into the shot.

I had a lot of fun doing this over the past two months and am grateful to all who appeared or encouraged. I apologize to those who had to be cut.

Scene 1: That’s Josie. She’s turning 14 on Thursday. She shot many of the scenes and advised when I was doing something way too dorky for her 8th grade tastes.

Scenes 2 - 6: An extended version of this could have been the whole thing. I think it’s very effective to hear real people saying they genuinely like something and nothing about these reactions is contrived. But for the thing to stand out, it needed more. 

Scene 7: That’s Arnold. People everywhere clamor for his endorsement. But I thought it’d be more fun if this Midas-touched pitchman pretended he’d never heard of my book.

Scene 8: That’s a blow-up cover of the book featuring Palmer’s endorsement. I think following up him saying he doesn’t know who I am with a shot of his quote from my book is exactly what Spielberg would have done . That Mick Jagger is heard in the background singing, “I like it!” is purely coincidental.

Scene 9: That’s Brad. He’s my nephew who was up for a visit. Lovely backdrop of the Point State Park fountain and Ft. Pitt Bridge in the background.

Scene 10: That’s one of the ladies from an area church group that invited me to speak. I’m fond of this one because she just seems so happy.

Scene 11: That’s Eric. He’s a cook at The Pond. And he really did buy 10 books. I didn’t use any fakers. I like following a petite church lady up with Eric, a great guy, who looks like he’d have nothing in common with petite church ladies. The subtle message is my book works with every demographic. And it does. But those two would get along great, too, I’m sure. 

Scene 12: That’s Heidi. She’s an instructor from South Side Area School district. You’ll notice I start moving away from endorsements to more jokey stuff. I think that’ll keep interest fresh. Again, once you’ve established that people like the book, move on.

Scene 13: That’s a Greentree Methodist minister where I spoke to local rotarians. I almost cut the “And tell him to get a job!” line, but I think self-deprecation goes a long way in helping promote a book like mine.

Scene 14: That’s Boris and Bill. It’s some of the most infectious laughter in history. I’m very fond of this because it looks like Bill’s laughing at the idea of me getting a job. That is funny.

Scene 15: That’s Andy. He’s a great guy, but I couldn’t have him go on longer than 20 seconds because it might have seemed cloying, thus . . .

Scene 16: I rudely cut off Andy. That Ray Davies and the Kinks are singing “Village Green Preservation Society” in the background is purely coincidental.

Scene 17: That’s another teacher from South Side Area School District. I’m very pleased by what he had to say and wouldn’t dream of cutting one word of it.

Scenes 18 — 21: Here’s where the thing really begins to diverge from typical promotions. It’s where friends of mine begin acting out scenes for me. All four reactions from my darling girls (Mom, Val, Lucy and Josie) make me laugh. Josie cinches her best supporting actress nomination.

Scene 22: That’s Boris and Bill again laughing hysterically at my daughter’s reaction.

Scene 23: That’s Renee Stallings’s Greater Latrobe Senior High School journalism class. I spoke to two classes that day but, alas, could only include one in the video. But the reaction I get from high school and college students is so heartwarming. These guys were great. This and their next appearance are among my favorite scenes.

Scene 24: That’s Dave setting up a key joke at the end. He dodged me for a week before finally agreeing to be in it. Odd, because he was so great in the previous FAQ one linked below. I think he’ll love this when he sees it.

Scene 25: That’s Arnold again because you can never have too much Arnold.

Scene 26: That’s Doc. He’s been Arnold’s right hand man for nearly 50 years. I showed him the clip with the warning that I really hammed it up. I think he was shocked at just how hammy I can be.

Scene 27: That’s me swinging a golf club. I wanted my boisterous golf buddies mostly clammed up when the camera went on.

Scene 28: That’s Doc again. Same clip only cut into two. We both love “Survivor” and are eager for it’s Wednesday return.

Scene 29: That’s me pretending I’m Jeff Probst.

Scene 30: That’s my family acting apathetic.

Scene 31: That’s me acting dumbfounded that they don’t want to know what they’re playing for.

Scene 32: That’s TC, the whistling beer vendor. He’s a real Pittsburgh character and I am proud to have him in my video.

Scene 33: That’s Rick. Remember, this whole video is shot in the hopes it’ll interest event planners to have me into speak to their groups. At this point in the video, a little more than halfway, I wanted to remind them what they’re getting when they’re getting me.

Scene 35: That’s Dave again saying I sing like Sinatra. Again, he’s setting up a concluding joke.

Scene 36: That’s Wanda. I love what she said and the way she said it.

Scene 37: That’s another church lady who’s eager to buy the book.

Scene 38: That’s Lori from Second Chapter Books in Ligonier. I’ll be at her store for the Friday and Sunday of Ft. Ligonier Days. Stop by!

Scene 39: That’s Brooke. She’s bought a bunch of copies of the book and taught both our daughters. We love her. This scene represents a shift where I wanted to have a bunch of people say basically the same thing, “I loved the book so much I bought 10/20/30 copies.” I think that’s really uncommon for most books, but I want viewers to know it’s very common with “Use All The Crayons!” And isn’t what she said wonderful? So kind.

Scene 40: That’s Paul looking like he’s taking a moment to talk to the camera while holding back a collapsing wall. His story is pivotal in the journey of my book. Because what he’s saying is true. We’d met only briefly and I sensed he’d like the book so I dropped one off at the bank where he works. Didn’t hear from him for two months. Not a peep. Then out of the blue he called and said he loved the book so much he wanted to buy 30 copies for his employees. I thought, man, I might be onto something here. He’s disappointed he comes across as the only serious guy in the video. He’s not serious and I’ll try and come up with a  better role for him next time.

Scene 41: That’s Sue and Martina. Our families are great friends and I love her story. It’s all true, too. Her 99-year-old mother wrote me a note saying the book had changed her life. God bless her.

Scene 42: I had to justify letting her talk longer than the allotted time. That The Who are singing “Mama’s Got a Squeeze Box” in the background is purely coincidental.

Scenes 43-46: That’s me relating the groundswell of organizational interest in having me speak. Those kinds of orders from those kinds of organizations are significant and should add heft to the idea of having me speak.

Scene 47: That’s the WVU 4H group reacting to one of my speeches like they think I’m Oprah and I’d just promised them each a brand new car. The full clip (below) is worth checking out.

Scene 48: That’s Martina saying she really likes it when I sing.

Scene 49: That’s me singing a joke from the book.

Scene 50: That’s Martina again saying she likes it when I really, really, really, really sing.

Scene 51: That’s me pretending to really, really, really, really sing. That Queen is singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the background is purely coincidental.

Scene 52: That’s the GLSD high school journalists saying they love Chris Rodell. Thanks, guys! I love you, too.

Scene 53: That’s me delivering the payoff lines. I’ll be sending the video all over the country and I’m hoping people will get in touch about having me speak to their group. That Paul McCartney and The Beatles are singing “The End” from “Abbey Road” in the background is purely coincidence. I mention this because when I finally posted the video YouTube informed me that song is blocked. I decided I’ll let it play until they take steps to shut it down. It’d be a pity because it’s only background and having a song called “The End” play at the end of my video is purely coincidental.

Scene 54: That’s Arnold right before he calls security. Love it!

So there you go, way more than you wanted to know about something few of you may ever even watch. But I wanted to document it.

That’s enough for now. This is the end.

I’m ending with “The End” for purely coincidental reasons, too.

Related . . .

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Pittsburgh Pirates & the KKK (not those ones)

Yesterday’s big Pirate victory over the hated Milwaukee Brewers differed from many past season finales in that I wasn’t there and neither was the KKK.

Instead, it was the KKKKK.

K is the baseball scoresheet designation for a strike out.

It’s been that way for about 165 years since pioneering scorekeeper Henry Chadwick developed the iconic box score, a minute marvel of a concise yet thorough way to impart information no 1,000 word story could equal.

It is said he used K because it is the most prominent sound of the word “strike” and “S” was already useful for denoting sacrifice, stolen base or single. And this I just learned: a backwards K on the scoresheet means the batter struck out looking.

I used to be one of those baseball nerds who on occasion kept score in the stands, just like the broadcasters.

I did it for a number of years until I found many of my scoresheets dominated by the enigmatic WWs, a designation conceived by New York Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, who when asked what WW meant said, “Wasn’t Watching.”

For 20 years from 1992-2012, huge swaths of once-proud Pirate fans could have been described as “WW.”

The teams stunk. Three Rivers Stadium was empty. Nobody went.

Nobody, but me and my three buddies. And we went all the time, about 30 games a year.

You had to really love baseball to be a Pirate fan during what turned out to be a 20-year losing streak.

And I truly did. It was my golden age of fandom. I snagged three foul balls, saw an unassisted triple play — one of the most rare plays in all sports — and witnessed many superhuman feats by Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds and other men we later learned were superhuman only in the pharmacological sense.

Yesterday, the Pirates set an all-time home attendance record with 2.5 million fans.

I remember the days when it was just me, my buddies and the KKK.

See, most every team has a section where a ballpark employee keeps track of the number of strikeouts the home pitcher registers. In old Three Rivers, it was on the upper deck facade above right field.

A Pirate pitcher might get his first strike-out in the 2nd inning and a kid would get out of his seat and put up a big K. He’d get another an inning or two later and a second K would be slid right next to the first one.

This was the moment for which we’d been waiting. We knew the next strike out would be what we called “The Special K.”

Because someone in Pirate management had made a decision that The Special K — the third strikeout — should never be allowed near to the other two. A space would be left between the 2nd and 3rd Ks so it looked like this:   KK  K.

The only thing we could figure is management feared seeing three in a row — KKK — might confuse fans into thinking ownership was so desperate to sell tickets they’d offered group discounts to notorious hate mongers.

It was riveting whenever the kid mistakenly put KKK up. We’d wager among ourselves how long it would take for a paunchy team official to hike all the way to the upper deck to move The Special K.

I always thought it would have been funny to see what would happen if the four of us would have sat up there dressed in hooded white sheets whenever it went to KKK.

Much has changed.

No one cares about the number of consecutive Ks they see, and the Pirates for the second year in a row are playing feisty ball and look playoff bound.

Me, I only attended four games and planned on watching yesterday’s home finale on the big TV, but my oldest daughter requested it for a movie. Our youngest reserved the basement for a playdate, and Val was sorting fall clothes for the kids in the bedroom so that was out.

That’s one, two, three strikes, I was out. I wound up in my office all alone listening to the game on the radio, a far cry from my baseball glory days.

For me, there was no joy in Mudville.

Didn’t bother me a bit.

There’s plenty in Pittsburgh.

Related . . .