Still feeling guilty, but why??

Drove past the home of a former church member at a former church the other day and it reminded me of the last time I saw “Jim.” This former church was having an anniversary celebration that we went to a number of years ago and when I saw Jim, I naturally asked him first how he was doing, then his wife, who was not there with him. I was looking for a hole to climb into and trying to find the right words to see when “Jim” looked me in the eyes, lowered his voice and his head and replied: “She died about a year ago.”
Not that there was any way for me to know other than to read the obits on a daily basis, but the recent drive past his house suddenly rekindled some other feelings of guilt that I’ve ever held onto for a number of years or that have just recently washed over me.
For instance, I’ve had some free time the past couple of months, so I’ve dug into the pile of baseball cards I’ve collected over the years and started sending the cards out to the players pictured on them with a short note thanking them for playing the game I love to watch and, subtly, including in the note that I would like an autograph.
A couple of the cards were returned with notes from either a spouse or a child informing me that said player had died within the past couple of years; if I had been more careful, which I now am, I would have read their on-line bio to learn that, yes, indeed, he was dead.
Now I’m feeling guilty not only about embarrassing myself, but also reminding the survivors of their loss.
Then there was the time when I was about 10 when I took my brother’s BB gun and shot a bird, but not just any bird, a robin, a protected “state bird” here in Michigan. I don’t know why I did it — picking off a sparrow could have been an option — but as soon as I did I was asking myself, “Why did you do that?” Fortunately for me, or maybe because of God’s graciousness, all I did was wing the little critter. I knocked him to the ground, but after a few seconds he got up and flew away.
Now I know we’ve all got guilt with which we must deal, but I’m wondering why some guilg feelings stick around for a while. I’ll get over writing letters to dead people, but for some reason, thoughts of offending “Jim” and shooting a robin keep popping up.
I’m just wondering: When will they go away?

Hey, wrestling ain’t so bad!

I always tell my wife where I’m off to when I get an assignment to cover a sporting event for my newspaper, The Holland Sentinel. Frequently, I will tell my sons as well. They have been interested in my job/career choice since they were younger and when they were younger, one or more of them would accompany me to the local home games. They especially enjoyed going to the local Division III school, Hope College, where they were “hang” with the players and usually get some sort of life lesson from longtime (and since retired) men’s head basketball coach Glenn Van Wieren.
Then there’s wrestling, which I covered on Saturday, Feb. 21, when three local high schools — Hamilton, Zeeland West and Holland — each had some participants qualify for the Michigan Division 2 regional tournament for individuals. This is different from the team tournament which is coming up next Saturday.
When I’m headed out the door for wrestling meets, I usually just tell them I’ve got a game to cover, but over the years, my sons have seen through my reluctance to report my destination. It’s not that I don’t like wrestling; I find the guys who love this sport love it with a passion. And wrestling parents can be, um, shall we say, boisterous when their children are on the mat.
My sons love to give me grief, though. It all goes back to the exchange between a couple of characters from the film “The Breakfast Club,” a favorite of mine and of my boys: Geoff, Ryan and Corey.
It goes something like this:

Andrew: Look, you guys keep up your talking and Vernon’s gonna come right in here. I got a meet this Saturday and I’m not gonna miss it on account of you boneheads.
Bender: Oh, and wouldn’t that be a bite, huh? Missing a whole wrestling meet!
Andrew: You wouldn’t know anything about it! You never competed in your whole life!
Bender: Oh, I know. I feel all empty inside because of it. I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys.
Andrew: Ah, you’d never make it. You don’t have any goals.
Bender: Oh, but I do!
Andrew: Yeah?
Bender: I wanna be just… like… you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights!
Brian: You wear tights?
Andrew: No, I don’t wear tights. I wear the required uniform.
Brian: Tights.
Andrew: [short pause] Shut up!

So now, when I reluctantly admit to going to a wrestling match, my kids tease me: “Oh, you’re going to watch a bunch of high school boys in tights? Nice.”
Yeah, we love each other. Life is good.

Event highlights
Now that this event is over, and my story is filed, I’m looking back on my notes and noticing there’s some things the paper just didn’t have the space print.
For example:
• If there were a “Toughest Wrestler in the Tournament” award, this weekend’s trophy would have gone to Paul Douglas, a 140-pounder from Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High Schools. Douglas, according to his coach got head-butted in his opening match, opening up a gash on his left eyelid, the kind you often see when boxers have a cut opened up from getting hit in the same spot too often.
Douglas did not qualify for the regional individual championship, but he did win third place — after getting four stitches to close the would so he could continue wrestling! He scored an 11-1 decision in the consolation finals and will be wrestling at The Palace of Auburn Hills for a state championship in two weeks.
And you thought hockey players were tough.

• For the sixth time this wrestling season, Zach VanValkenburg from Zeeland West High and Michael Visscher from Holland High met each other on the mat in the 215-pound class. And for the sixth time this season, VanValkenburg, a junior, beat Visscher, a sophomore.
“But they were all close,” VanValkenburg said after a 3-1 win with four seconds remaining in the FIFTH PERIOD. Yup, they’re that evenly matched.
“When you wrestle somebody six times you definitely get closer because you know what he does and he knows what you do and you kind of adapt to each other,” VanValkenburg said. “A lot of the stuff doesn’t work because they know what you’re doing.
“How I got him down … I got a reversal in the second overtime and that’s what sealed it for me.”

•There are good wrestlers and there are REALLY GOOD wrestlers. Hamilton’s Tate Knapp, a senior, is a good wrestler. He entered regional competition with a 38-3 record and won his first two matches, the first on a forfeit when a kid from another school with an 8-5 record pulled a no-show; the second with a 6-0 decision against a guy who had 36 wins before Saturday.
Then there’s Josh Colegrove from Lowell High School. He’s REALLY GOOD. Colegrove is a reigning state champion and he was undefeated in 30 matches prior to Saturday’s tournament. He pinned his first opponent in a minute-10 (1:10 if you prefer), the got his next victim’s shoulders to the mat in 1:30.
Tate Knapp fared a little better, getting into the second period with Colegrove before the match was stopped at 3:32 on a technical fall with the score at 15-0. That’s right, a guy with 40 wins couldn’t even score a point against Colegrove.
Knapp’s coach, Hamilton’s Gregg Stoel, called Colegrove “the best wrestler in the state at his weight in ANY division.”
Now, that’s REALLY GOOD.

The Blacklist takes a look at The Good Samaritan. Say what?!

The official summary of the Thursday, Feb. 12 episode of “The Blacklist,” titled “Ruslan Denisov,” reads as follows: “The task force must rescue an undercover CIA agent who was kidnapped by separatists in Uzbekistan; Red thinks they are up against a dangerous past associate known as Ruslan Denisov.”

After listening to our pastor deliver a message on the biblical “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” I saw a strong connection. As the story played out, FBI agents Keen and Ressler are sent to Uzbekistan to investigate and, perhaps, to rescue the undercover agent who, according to the CIA, “may or may not be” one of theirs. That, however, was just one of the subplots. The main event, as it were, involved Ruslan Denisov, a leader of a band of rebels who Reddington describes as “quite melodramatic, not to mention violent and entirely unreasonable.”
Seems Denisov has been kindnapping foreign representatives of American corporations and demanding ramsons “far about market value,” according to Reddington. As Reddington is describing Denisov to agent Keen, we see Denisov killing one such representative because “your company refuses to pay your ransom.”
Long story short, Denisov’s latest kidnapping of the CIA agent (posing undercover as a priest) is because of his claim that an American petroleum company is poisoning Uzbekistan’s soil and water with leaks from poorly constructed pipelines that, we find out, were authorized by a previous administration two years before “official” documents were signed and a second, more efficient, pipeline was installed.
We see examples of what the polluted water is doing to Uzbeki citizens: externally, they are getting skin lesions and/or having their skin separate from muscles and tendons. Internally, major organs are breaking down and hundreds have already died.
In essence, Denisov is trying to take care of the citizens of his country much the same way the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) took care of the traveler who was victimized by thieves on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
Reddington, who has absolutely no trouble working for one faction or another, all in the name of profit — “There are no sides, just players,” he tells Keen — gets involved because Denisov and others like him “have cost me and my partners considerably more than he is worth.”
Of course, when Keen and Ressler go to Uzbekistan, they are pressured by the government there to take their side. Only after they are kidnapped by Denisov and shown what is happening to the people are they convinced that what Denisov is doing is a good thing. A Good Samaritan kind of thing, but with a different approach.
Long story short: The head of the oil company announces that his company is pulling out of Uzbekistan, only to have, very soon, a French company move in, thanks, of course, to Red Reddington. But the bad guys and their bad motives are eliminated and things will eventually turn out well for the Uzbeki people.
In the end, the guy who granted the original, illegal contract is crated and handed over to Denisov (by Reddington), the CIA backs down from killing everyone involved, and Reddington walks away with a boatload of money for being the middle man between the FBI, Denisov and the French fuel company.
As Reddington said, “There are no sides, just players,” and he was the biggest player. A Good Samaritan, like Denisov, as it were. But with a bigger ego and different ulterior motives.

More on the W. Mich. Golf Show

For Day 2, I’m still being lazy. This came directly from the publicist via my e-mail, but it has all the necessary info:

The 27th West Michigan Golf Show on Feb. 13-15 in downtown Grand Rapids is an opportunity for area golfers to get in the spirit of the game without an embarrassing four-putt. Void of ice and snow and inside the spacious and warm confines of DeVos Place, winter-weary patrons will walk the Show’s aisles and receive a vicarious spring-like boost from all of the exhibitors, events and seminars. Here are some of the highlights about this largest winter gathering of golfers in West Michigan:
• Widely acclaimed for its headliners, the Golf Show welcomes the Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, the current National PGA Teacher of the Year, and Brian Manzella, a Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher. Both will provide free seminars.
• Ladies’ Night is Friday and offers special events, seminars and giveaways just for women. The first 500 women on Friday receive a goodie bag.
• The most popular attraction of the Show remains the Treetops Par-3 Challenge where patrons will compete for prizes at a fully landscaped par-3 and with a chance to win $25,000 while raising funds for Patriot Golf Day.
• “Try before you buy” at the demo club area where many top club manufacturers will have the latest equipment for patrons to hit inside the huge hitting net.
• Stop at the Bridgestone Golf Ball-Fitting Challenge booth and find out the best ball for your swing speed and game. The Science Eye Launch Monitor allows Bridgestone to enhance your performance in a free fitting session.
• Check out the new “Mizuno Iron Shaft DNA” fitting booth where patrons will quickly discover the best shaft and shaft flex for their swing. Only taking 5-10 minutes, the fitting process results in five key metrics about each participant’s “shaft DNA.”
The top golf courses and resorts in Michigan as well as destination courses in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida will offer pre-season values and tee times.
Got Kids? Get ‘em excited about golf in the PGA Family Fun Zone where they can take a swing at Golfzilla, and clinics from The First Tee, or play a round of Putt-Putt golf! Plus great info on PGA Jr. League Golf and the Drive, Chip, & Putt Championship.
Thanks to the Michigan P.G.A. and Boyne Resorts, golf pros are giving free lessons all weekend, providing patrons with golf tips to start the season right.
Sponsored by Gun Lake Casino, the $10,000 Longest Putt Challenge will also raise funds for the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
West Michigan is also known for quality & affordable golf and 26 local courses have booths.
Benefitting First Tee of West Michigan, there’s a Saturday morning pancake breakfast (for only $5) starting at 9 AM in the Grand Gallery at DeVos Place.
Sunday is “Junior Golf Day” with the first 100 kids receiving a free golf glove and a voucher for a free bucket of range balls— every day of the year!—from Maple Hill.
Produced by ShowSpan Inc. and sponsored by Treetops Resort, Gun Lake Casino, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts and the Michigan PGA. West Michigan Golf Show’s hours are 2:00 pm-9:00 pm, Friday; 10:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturday; and 10:00 am-5:00 pm, Sunday. For more information, visit http://www.westmichigangolfshow.com

Local Golf Show at a Glance

First post concerning the West Michigan Golf Show this weekend. It’s a lazy post — cut and paste style — but more will be coming.

When: Friday, Feb.13, 2 pm-9 pm
Saturday, Feb.14, 10 am-7 pm
Sunday, Feb.15, 10 am-5 pm

Where: DeVos Place, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, downtown Grand Rapids

Tickets: 410 for adults; $4 for children ages 6-14; children 5 & under free.
Tickets at the door and online at http://www.WestMichiganGolfShow.com

Parking: Best place to park is under DeVos Place. Enter off Michigan St NW or Lyon Ave. NW. The Rapid line 11 bus stops in front of DeVos Place

Seminars: With Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, ’14 National PGA Teacher of the Year
Brian Manzella, Golf Digest’s Top 50 Teacher in the U.S.

Specials: Friday is Ladies Night with special events and goodie bags for the first 500 women. The $10,000 Putting Challenge — one putter might sink a 50-foot putt for $10,000. Free golf lessons c/o of Boyne Resorts & Michigan PGA. Sunday is Junior Day when the first 100 kids receive a glove.

Sponsors: Treetops Resort, Gun Lake Casino, Golf Association of Michigan, Boyne Resorts, Michigan PGA

Other: Check out the Local Golf Loyalty Card, free with every admission, that rewards local golfers. Saturday: To benefit First Tee of West Michigan, apancake breakfast for $5 at 9 AM @ Grand Gallery. Other Show charities: Patriot Golf Day, Folds of Honor

Info: Produced by ShowSpan Inc., 800-328-6550

Sports and the eternal bond

I work for a smallish newspaper in West Michigan, so imagine my surprise one summer night in 1998 when I walked into the office after staffing a sports event and the managing editor hit me with “How would you like to go to Europe with the Hope (College) men’s basketball team?”
Needless to say, I couldn’t turn my body quickly enough to allow my arm to be twisted.
Oh, there were arrangements to be made. I had to cancel a family vacation with my wife and three sons to Pittsburgh and I had to find someone to take five tickets off my hands for an anticipated visit to watch the Pirates.
I had to coordinate coverage of local events while I was gone while making sure anything I filed from “over there” would get back home in time for publication.
Most importantly, since the date of the trip was only about a month away, I had to arrange to get my passport updated. Yeah, it cost an extra $80 for expedited processing, but how often do you get to go to Europe on the company’s dollar.
Specifically, I was joining 12 players, three assistant coaches and one grandparent, the father of the college’s Admissions Director, on the 11-day trip to The Netherlands. It was called a “Homeland Tour” since Hope College, located in Holland, Michigan, has nicknamed its men’s athletic teams The Flying Dutchmen, a reference to the founders of the school being from “the old country.”
The trip had its share of adventures. On the flight over, for example, one of the players swiped my wallet out of my tote bag while I was sleeping and noted that the final three numbers of my driver’s license were 007.
To make our relationship more memorable — we were going to be spending 11 days together, remember — one of them, Brandon Goodyke, immediately tagged me “Lambo,” a reference to a combination of James Bond (007) and Rambo, a reworking of my last name. To this day, players still mention that nickname when I talk to them following their games.
Also on the trip, I got to be very close with the “grandpa” who joined us. As he and I were the only two travelers who were not directly involved with the basketball team, we took time during practices and meetings and such to do some sight-seeing together. And we would meet every afternoon in the hotel lobby for “warme melk en koekjesor,” better known to us as “warm milk and cookies.” Almond cookies.
During some of our daily conversations, I learned that Jim Bekkering, forever to be known by me as “Papa Bekkering,” was college friends with both my father, Peter Lamberts, and my uncle Jack, Jacob Lamberts. “Papa Bekkering” told me some of the misadventures experienced by my father that I planned to share with him when I returned home.
On the night of August 20, I stayed up until 2 a.m. to call my sister’s house back home at 8 p.m. to wish my mom and dad a “Happy Anniversary,” their 63rd.
I’m glad I did because it would be their last. Dad died a couple of months later, on October 30, from complications due to a stroke. Twelve years earlier, on the way to watch his grandson’s high-school football game, dad suffered a massive heart attack. My oldest sister, Ann, told me some years later, than the EMTs had to stop the ambulance twice on the way to the hospital to keep him alive, so we treasured every day, every year, we had dad with us.
I was feeling sorry for myself after the funeral when I mentioned to my other sister, Joan (who has since passed away), that I regretted missing mom’s and dad’s final anniversary together because I was enjoying myself along with a college basketball team on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Joan, who was walking alongside of me at the time, stopped in her tracks, turned around and got as close to getting in my face as she could despite being about four inches shorter than me.
“Look,” she said, her eyes burning and her nostrils flaring, “I don’t want to hear another word. You will never know how proud your father was, walking around telling his friends that ‘My son is in Europe. On business.’”
I hear those words in my head every time I think of my dad, which, all these years later, is still a lot. And I am just amazed how a single moment in time, “arranged” as it was because of God and sports, could create a bond between a father and son over such a long distance.
I miss my dad, but I can take comfort in the fact that both of us were glad that I did not miss that trip to Europe.

4-5 Grand Valley State football team displays plenty of pride

Midway through the third quarter Saturday night, November 8, Grand Valley State University quarterback Heath Parling fired a pass about 40 yards down the field.
Jamie Potts was the intended receiver, but as the play developed, it appeared as though Potts and the ball would not arrive at the same place — near the 25-yard line — at the same time.
So, like any wide receiver worth his salt, especially a preseason Division II All-America pick, Potts left his feet, stretched out and attempted to catch the ball.
Not quite. The ball caromed off his fingertips and skidded several more yards down the field as Potts picked himself up.
It was a valiant effort indeed, but one that needed not be so valiant. You see, Grand Valley already had a 42-0 lead against visiting Tiffin University at Grand Valley’s Lubbers Stadium, so the yards and the (assumed) ensuing touchdown would have been more of a formality that a necessity.
Ah, but for a team that had been embarrassed at home a week earlier by a lesser foe, for a team that had muddled its way to a 4-5 record after reaching the postseason tournament’s national semifinal game a year earlier, a sub-.500 season was a disappointment.
On this particular night, which ended with Grand Valley winning 42-7, pride was on the line for a number of seniors who were playing their final home game as Lakers.
Parling was one of them. He responded by passing for 254 yards and four touchdowns while running for 40 yards and two more touchdowns, the first two rushing touchdowns in his five-year collegiate career. Parling was red-shirted in 2012 when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third game of that season.
Parling joked about his first touchdown, a 22-yard scamper, the longest run of his career, that ended when he dived over the pylon at the front-left corner of the end zone.
“I kind of scrambled out to the left and I thought there was a guy behind me so I was like, man I’ve got to run faster, I’ve got to get the jets going, I’ve got to oil up my brace a little bit,” Parling said with a winning smile on his face.
“When I saw the corner I told myself I was going to dive in. I’ve never done this at Grand Valley, so it felt good. I had that planned from about the 10-yard line.”
Yeah, right. You can joke after winning 42-7.
Senior runningback Chris Robinson had a great ground game, rushing for 126 yards. He also caught a 49-yard pass from Parling for a touchdown, one of two catches he had Saturday for 62 yards.
“It’s definitely huge to go out with a win in our last home game,” Robinson said. “We have a very competitive team here and just because things didn’t go our way this year, we’re not going to put our tails between our legs.”
Grand Valley coach Matt Mitchell, who guided the Lakers to the Division II playoffs a year ago for the first time since his first year as head coach (2010), said he didn’t think there was a need for extra motivation just because Grand Valley entered the Tiffin game at 4-5.
“I think, basically, if you’re a competitive person, every time you head out you want to play and compete,” Mitchell said. “I would think these guys have a passion for football and they want to play the game.
I understand our record isn’t what we wanted it to be, but that doesn’t matter; if you’re a competitive kid, you want to go out and play. They weren’t going to not go out and compete because of the record.”
And the Lakers didn’t as they rolled up 572 yards of offense and controlled the ball for one second shy of 30 minutes.
Now THAT is Grand Valley football. And that’s why a guy like Jamie Potts was diving for an uncatchable ball with a 42-point lead.