Coach's Corner

When my 15-year-old daughter asked if she could have a slumber party, I figured I could handle two or three friends for a night. Yeah, I said, why not. Within moments -- though I didn't know it -- I'd completely lost control of the situation. I told Janie three friends were the max. This, it turned out, was not acceptable. She'd already invited eight. I was unnerved. I hemmed and hawed and tried to cajole her into rescinding a few invitations. This was done in vain. Trying to take charge -- I am, after all, the parent -- I relented (like I had any choice) with the condition the party not start until 8. This too was unsatisfactory. The party was to begin at 6pm. "Dad, I've already told everybody," she said. Floundering, not thinking clearly, I imagine my 18-year-old son would find this audience amusing, so he'd help entertain the girls, a little anyway, and my girlfriend and soulmate would be there too. Okay, we can do this. Within moments of a slumber party briefing, I was, again, on my own. Adam, who rarely leaves the house, quickly bailed out to his mother's. Kelly, also feeling a sudden need for maternal nurturing, decided this might be a good time to visit mom. It's always comforting to be able to lean on family and loved ones for support.

Stuck in rush hour traffic on Friday afternoon, I soothed myself with the notion that nobody is going to be at my house at 6pm sharp. I'm figuring 7-7:30. As we pull into the driveway, loaded down with movies, soda pop, candy, and popcorn, I'm dismayed to see my son acting the genial doorman. Three girls, who have not yet learned they're supposed to be late, are already there. Within 10 minutes, my living room is littered with a vast, colorful array of overnight baggage, and the air is filled with high pitched squealing and the frantic barking and snarling of two overly stimulated boxers.

Within minutes, the chaos rose to an unnerving, frenetic crescendo. In need of "medicine," I trotted upstairs for a pinch of Valium. When I came back down, the noise level had, impossibly, risen discernably. Another friend had arrived, along with an unexpected guest, her 100 lb. German shepherd, now rampaging through the house, aggressively pursued by my two territorial dogs, who were not overly enthusiastic about canine company.

The doorbell rang again -- dear Lord, not another friend. It was the pizza man, who recoiled backward as the burst of teenage energy shot from the door. Two large pizzas were devoured within minutes. By now, the Valium, pushed along with a liberal tot 'o rum, had soothed me somewhat. I got to thinking this was really not too bad. In fact, at this age almost nothing is required of a parent, aside from occasionally checking in to make sure no boy guests had arrived. No one cries. No one needs help putting on shoes. I didn't have to hire a clown. The girls amused themselves doing whatever it is teenage girls do. At about 10, I decided to be a good dad and take this entire assemblage down to Amy's Ice Cream. This, of course, made me quite a popular fellow, especially since I was buying. The decibel level of all nine of them inside the small, tinny store made it so loud, the Amy technicians had to yell just to hear the orders. Now, fortified with plenty of sugar, we went back home for a quiet evening. Needless to say, sleep was a long, long way off, at least for them. But living in close quarters with my son, for 18 years, has somewhat dulled my sense of "too loud." I took a head count at midnight and went to bed.

Meanwhile, in Arlington and Houston, far from the upheaval on Holly Hill Drive, men in suits were making unprecedented decisions with their baseball teams. Both teams are involved in pennant races, in itself the rarest of occurrences. Even more unlikely, they were making heretofore never seen August moves to improve their teams. Remarkably, both worked. The Astros' landing of Randy Johnson was as unexpected as it was brilliant. Houston had underrated pitching, both starting and in the bullpen, before the Johnson move. Now, with adequate hitting, they're a legit threat to win the National League pennant. Understanding the Astros' heartbreaking playoff history, though, my guess is this team will, again, rip the guts from the bellies of their fans. Such is baseball. The usually somnambulant Rangers, customarily fading fast after too many games played in the open air oven of Arlington, also shored up some glaring weaknesses. They turned a bad defensive infield good with one trade, and then got some desperately needed quality starting pitching. The Rangers have the benefit of slogging along in the majors' worst division. Their pathetic performance, against the rampaging Yankees, doesn't leave even a glimmer of hope they'll advance out of the first round, if -- and it's a big if -- they hang on to win their division.

Parting Shots: My first football prediction of the year: No matter how badly the Cowboys struggle under first year coach Chan Gailey, he's already injested a Norv Turner pill. He won't be held responsible for anything bad that happens in Dallas. Count on this: If Dallas falls on their fat faces, the media will find a way to blame Barry Switzer.

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