Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Shorts: Patriots' Training Camp, Badminton Tourney Gets Competitive & Youthful Protesters

After a neighbor of ours raved about going to the New England Patriots’ training camp -- on a field next to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough -- The Spouse and I roused our kids early on Saturday morning, slathered everyone with sunscreen, threw some food at ‘em and dragged the lot of ‘em to a hilly spot of grass overlooking the playing field.

And sat there.

And sat there.

In the blazing sun.

Until the players came onto the field. Many were wearing gray T-shirts and shorts, none with names or numbers on the back. There was virtually no contact (they weren't wearing pads) and it looked like they were casually walking through of plays for a while as the coaches held playbooks aloft for the players to see. C-SPAN is more riveting.

The fans sitting around us were busy trying to figure out who was who. “Is THAT Tom Brady? Is Randy Moss over there? I can’t tell. Where’s Belichick?”

And there was whining. Lots of it. From my kids and from the grown-ups. I was ready to pack it in as I too was bored, was getting fried in the sun and was tired of telling the kids that I wasn’t going to spend $47 on a bottle of water or a freeze pop or whatever else the vendors were selling as they gingerly stepped around the Patriots fans sitting there on the grass or sitting in the bleachers around the field.

However . . . the mood changed like a fast-moving late afternoon summer storm when a handful of players decided to walk over to the edges of the field – behind the ropes that keep them separated from the riffraff that is the fans – and sign autographs. That’s when the three Picket Fence Post kids perked up considerably, seeing as though there were standing right in front. Despite the efforts of aggressive fans and rude teenagers who shoved my children and pushed my kids’ hands out of the way by harshly lowering their arms on top of my kids’ arms, the children were able to snare some autographs from Patriots players and stand within arms length of some of their favorites.

Yes, one even got a "signature" from Tom Brady, doing his best Justin Bieber impersonation with that ridiculous mop of hair, though it was covered by a cap on this particular morning. As he walked along the edge of the playing field along the rope line, he grabbed The Youngest Boy’s football from his hands and signed it with my son’s Sharpie. This is what it looks like:

Yes, we’re all underwhelmed. Plus no one will believe that that's Brady's so-called "signature."

However the kids got enough signatures from players (Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko and Brandon McGowan) that The Eldest Boy clamored to return to see the training camp on Sunday morning with The Spouse, which he did and came back smiling as one kind player, Cornerback Darius Butler, signed my son’s football card.

Badminton Tourney Gets Competitive

A few weeks ago, The Spouse put up a giant volleyball/badminton net in the backyard with the idea that the kids would have a ready-made activity to do when we said, “Go outside and play.” It’s worked out somewhat well, as they have played together, though my refereeing skills have been requested more frequently than I’d like.

But I personally hadn’t set foot on that spot of lawn in order to play badminton until this weekend, after the kids said they didn’t think I could play. (Doing yoga doesn’t exactly cut it in their eyes as a physical activity.) Yes, proving to the children that I can be athletic – my pride was hurt by the implications of their assertions – drove me to participate in a family badminton tournament and, once I shook off the rust, I wasn’t half bad. The following day we played a second tournament. The only downside to all this badminton: Getting into an argument with The Spouse when his trash talking and bellyaching about whether the birdie was out or in went too far.

Youthful Protesters

I recently took The Girl to see Eclipse – as I promised her I would when she saw the trailers a few months ago (though I think we’re going to hold off on seeing Breaking Dawn together when it comes to theaters) – and the two boys who were left behind with The Spouse were ticked. That’s putting it mildly.

The Spouse was in his office doing some work when the boys decided to treat him like he was a one-man G-8 summit and they were radical environmental protesters. For example, they made signs, which they toted into The Spouse’s office until he kicked them out, complaining of their treatment. (See above.)

Then they attempted armed resistance -- we are in Minuteman territory, after all -- toting Nerf guns into The Spouse's office while The Eldest Boy slid a tape recorder into the room with his hummed version of the Jaws theme playing (No, I don't get it either.) and demanded to be taken to a local laser tag establishment.

Unfortunately for them, The Spouse does not negotiate with pint-sized terrorists.

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