Friday, January 27, 2012

Saving My Son From Sports Purgatory

I was born into Yankee fandom. My mom was a diehard Yankee fan and my father rooted for them too, but he also rooted for the Mets. So we never hated the other team and had the benefit of going to both Yankee and Met games when I was a little kid. My first sports memories was the 1976 World Series when the Yanks lost to the Big Red Machine. I was only 4 and the memories are mainly of the emotion of sadness than actual visualization. My most vivid memories first came in the 1978 at the height of the Yankees being the Bronx Zoo and the epic quest to come back from 14 games back of the hated Boston Red Sox. It is then when my love of the Yankees was born and my hatred for anything Boston. I was six, the same age my son Alex is now.

There was another thing I learned to hate--the meddling George Steinbrenner, so it became easy for me to root for the Mets in the 1980s and return my full allegiance to the Yanks when King George was banned from baseball. History would note that my hatred of the Boss was warranted and that the Yankee 1990s dynasty mainly came about because King George wasn't involved in the baseball operations.

The thing is, I wasn't born into football. My father never watched it (being from Puerto Rico his main sports loves were baseball and boxing). My older brother is a Dallas Cowboy fan from the days of Roger Staubach. So, when I was very young I tended to root for the teams against the Cowboys so you could say I was a nascent Steelers fan since they would kick "America's Team" in the but in the Superbowl. But it came a time when I got older and needed my own team. Being essentially an AFC fan, and from New York, I naturally started rooting for the Jets in the 1980s, although I did like the Giants and remember having my favorite cup at the time being a Giants cup. It wasn't until 1990 when I got serious about football and I fell in with the Buffalo Bills, mainly because of the justification (in my teenage mind) they were New York's only real team (since unlike the Jets and Giants they actually played in New York state.

Because my friend Sergio was such a die hard Giants fan, it was only natural to root for the Bills in the Superbowl against his team. After Sergio's murder a week before the big game, it was only fitting that I still rooted for the Bills out of respect for him. Of course, I was happy for him that the Giants won. I stood with the Bills through their 3 other heartbreaking Superbowl losses and when the Jim Kelly-Thurman Thomas dynasty faded away I needed a new team, and sticking with the AFC, I went back to the Jets in 1997 with the arrival of the legendary Bill Parcells, who had won 2 titles with Giants and took the Patriots to the Superbowl.

These last 14 years have actually been the best stretch in Jets history, but the stench of Same Ol' Jets remains. During this time I took pictures of my son in Jets gear, but him being so young he wouldn't have any say in it. Now at 6 going on 7 he has a better idea of what team to root for and this is a pivotal time because it will define his later years of fandom. That's why I did the only thing a good father can do--I've now made my son into a Giants fan.

Of course it's a perfect time with the Giants in the Superbowl. Let his first real sports memories be of happiness like mine was with the Yankees. I've bought him Giants gear and football, which we've thrown around. He'll wear the Giants gear on Superbowl Sunday. As would I. Yeah, I'm doing it for my son.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

For Sergio ... Giants, Niners, 21 Years Later

Tomorrow, the New York Giants face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, the same as it was 21 years ago on January 20, 1991. Championship Sunday, when the last four teams in the NFL playoffs square off to see who would face each other in the Super Bowl. My best friend, Sergio, was a big Giants fan. Back then the NFL still played their Championship games at 1 pm and 4 pm, rather than 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm as they do now. The Giants had the late game, so Sergio took his younger brother out side to throw a football around as they waited. He never got to see the big game.

Sergio fell victim to a “random act of violence,” a crime that occurred all too often in New York City at the time. He was five days away from celebrating his 19th birthday. The call from his sister was the worst call I had ever received in my life. Weeping, she said he had been shot and didn’t know if he was going to make it. I frantically gathered up our friends and drove to his house. Police had cordoned off the house and there was a large blood stain on the concrete in front of the front gate. We rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. Sergio was already dead.

This tragedy forever altered my life. At the time I was in college studying architecture and madly in love with my high school sweetheart. Fate took me away from both. I dropped out of college and joined the US Army for the GI Bill. My sweetheart—who later became my fiancée—dumped me for another man and when I got out of the army, I pursued a career in law rather than architecture. I met my wife in college and we have an amazing six-year-old son and newborn baby girl. None of that happens if not for the events of January 20, 1991. That is the irony of life.

There has been an empty place in my heart over the last 21 years. I wonder what kind of man Sergio would have become. How his children would have grown up with mine. What memories we would share. Luckily, I have our other friends who are all like brothers to me. We’ve shared life and death together. We live each day thankful for each other and lamenting the loss of our dearest friend.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

... Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

From American Rhetoric

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Elena Marie Cordero

Well, my daughter did end up being a birthday stealer. Elena Marie Cordero was born at 8:18 this morning, weighing it at 7 lbs and 7 ounces and measuring about 21 inches. She now shares a birthday with my sister-in-law, Elly, her namesake. My beautiful wife and baby girl are doing well and I can't be happier.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Birthday Stealing

My son Alex is a birthday stealer. On Sunday, July 31, 2005, my very pregnant wife Betsy and I were set to go to my sister-in-law Elly's house for her daughter's 17th birthday. We never made it together because Betsy went into labor and gave birth by noon. I did make it to Elly's house to drop off the birthday gift and have her help me install the carseat. The thing is, Betsy was due August 10th, but Alex would have nothing of it. He was intent on stealing his cousin's birthday, I'm sure of it.

Flash forward to now and my again very pregnant wife is due January 25th, a significant date for me as it is the birthday of my dearly departed best friend Sergio. So that's birthday stealing I want. But the thing is, if Betsy gives birth again at 38 weeks and 4 days as she did 6 years ago, she'll give birth this Sunday, January 15th. Whose birthday is that? Elly's, of course. So my kids may end up stealing not only her daughter's but her birthday as well. Unlike her daughter, however, Elly wants the baby born this Sunday. Fitting considering that we're naming her Elena in honor of her aunt. We'll see.

Friday, January 6, 2012

¡Feliz Día de los Reyes!

That's "Happy Three Kings Day!" in English (or literally, "Happy Day of the Kings"), aka, The Feast of the Epiphany, the traditional day when the three kings/magi/wise men arrived from the east to worship and bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus. In countries that still celebrate it as a national holiday, such as Puerto Rico where my family is from, it's today, January 6th. In the U.S., the Catholic Church places it on the first Sunday after New Year's.

In the old country, Three Kings Day was the date when you exchanged gifts. In Puerto Rico, children put grass or hay under their beds when they go to sleep on January 5th and when they wake up in the morning there are gifts under their beds as a reward. That's how my father celebrated it back in Bayamon, his home town, but when he moved to the mainland U.S. he celebrated Christmas like we normally do.

Also, for those that might not know, the famous Twelve Days of Christmas is the period from December 25th, Christmas day, to the eve of the Epiphany, January 5th. So now, Christmastide is over and it's time to take down my decorations, which I always leave up until January 6th. It's also time to look forward to spring.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

37 Weeks

Yesterday, my wife hit 37 weeks in our pregnancy, which means she's full term. Although her due date is January 25, she can go any time now. She's doing well, but tired often. We try to relax as much as possible now, but with the holiday and our 6 year old battling various colds these last two weeks, it's been tough.

I'm focused more on the waiting now. Since August I've been consumed with getting the house ready--having the basement finished, cleaning out the guest room to make into into my son's new room with a fresh coat of paint and new furniture, and turning my son's old room into a nursery with new paint job and new crib, because my son destroyed his old one we had in storage. Now, I think about being a dad again.

It's odd, really, because for the last six years it's just been us three. Now our trio is a quartet. I'm most interested in seeing how she looks. I can imagine it, but you never know until a couple of months after she goes through her early newborn transformation. I remember with our son, he looked like Mr. Magoo for the first month until he transformed into a minny me (no, I don't look like Mr. Magoo, thank you).

I can't help but think about when our daughter gets older. When she's six, or preteen. What her personality will be like? Who will be her favorite parent? (*cough*me*cough*). How will she interact with her big brother? And, will I be blessed enough to see her grow up because we all know that the future isn't guaranteed.

So now we wait and hope and be thankful for our wonderful arrival.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Happy New Year to one and all. May this new year be better than the last.