Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wish Brandeis Wasn't Built on a Hill

Spring ball ended last week, so it's time to fix up the Brandeis baseball field.
Brandeis University is the fifth stop on my gas-hogging UAA road trip, and it feels like a marathon, now. I haven't hit the wall, but I know it could come around any turn.
Honey, my 1984 RV, and I left Atlanta on Monday, Sept. 27. Her speedometer read 59,584 (in 1984, the speedometers in Ford trucks only went as high as 99,999). Today, she's at 62,231. That's 2,647 miles -- so far.
That hill is steeper than it looks.
Honey's estimated carbon footprint, according to a woman named Katrina at the University of Rochester, is 4.1 tons per thousand miles. If I ever do this again, I'm getting the students of the UAA to design me a deep-fat-fryer-fueled green RV. Only obstacle will be eating all those french fries, but I think I can do it.
Brandeis was founded in 1948 and is named for Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Brandeis is on a big, big, BIG hill in Waltham (wall-THAM), Ma., just outside Boston. From the perspective of my 59-year-old overworked legs, its most significant architectural feature is long sets of steps, most of them going up.

Here's a rundown of my visit:

Sunday, Oct. 18
• Arrive at 7 a.m. after Honey blew a tire on the Mass Pike.
• Attend UAA soccer matches against Emory University, which is in Atlanta, which is where I have a comfortable bed and two sweet, but totally untrained dogs named Claire and Leia. (Lisa, my kindly neighbor lady, has been wrestling with them since I left.) The Emory women won, the men's match was a tie.
• Check the number of page views on my blog. 
• Sheryl Sousa, the Brandeis AD, tells me about the UAA's commitment to academics first and to providing a first-class athletic experience for its D3 athletes. Events are run with professionalism and precision. (Sousa is a Brandeis grad, and played volleyball here with Karen Farrell, the current volleyball coach at Case Western Reserve University. There's a lot of in-breeding in the UAA, but the gene pool is so deep that it seems to strengthen the conference.)

Monday, Oct. 19
• Check the number of page views on my blog. 
• Meet the guy whose regular parking space I took. "You better have pancakes," he says.
• Attend an American Studies class about the '60s, with Mia DePalo, a basketball player from Rumson, N.J. Jacob "Jerry"Cohen is a legend here. In fact, some students are known to "minor in Jerry Cohen." He has played basketball with the Celtics of the '70s and tennis with his friend the late Howard Zinn. (I assume Zinn was a southpaw, but I didn't get to ask.) Zinn once taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, where Emory University is located, and he graduated from NYU, one of the eight schools in the University Athletic Association.
An evening with Jerry Cohen.
Cohen dramatizes the events in his lectures, doing the voice of the chancellor of Berkely who ordered students out of Sproul Hall in 1964 and doing the voice of the student who responded "Blank you!"
• Check the number of page views on my blog. 
• Visit the Goldfarb and Farber libraries, where the librarians I meet are as funny and loose as a soccer team eating a pre-game meal. When I ask what collections are the most prized and most popular, Sarah Shoemaker reels of a list so quickly and so long that I pray my digital recorder is working.
• Interview Luke Teece, leading scorer this season for the men's soccer team. His father went to Brandeis and played soccer for the same coach as Luke, Mike Coven, who is in his 38th year as head coach and won the D3 national title in 1976. This has been a turn-around season for Luke, who only seemed to hit the post last year.

Tuesday, Oct. 20
• Check the number of page views on my blog.
• Cook pancakes for the guy whose parking space I took. He turns them down. "I hate pancakes," he says. "I was just joking yesterday. I'm like that."
• Eat 16 pancakes.
• Check the number of page views on my blog.  • Talk to Mike Coven, the soccer coach, who is actually shorter than I am but who has lifted a lot more weights and pedaled a lot more miles on the stationary bike. Mike is a very funny guy with a Boston accent who stays loose but takes the game seriously, very seriously. In a non-conference match Wednesday afternoon he came unglued when his team gave up a meaningless goal at the end on a corner kick. Brandeis 3, Springfield College 1.
Anita Hill was on campus Wednesday. So was local TV.
• Talk to Pete Varney, briefly, the legendary (did I use that cliche earlier?) Brandeis baseball coach who as a tight end caught the two-point conversion pass in 1968 for Harvard's 29-29 win over Yale. Varney played in "The Show" for several years and his nickname was "Big Fella." About being known for the catch, all he would say was, "It's better than being known as the guy who dropped it." (According to Wikipedia, Tommy Lee Jones played OT for that team.)
The players I talked to are in awe of Varney for his baseball knowledge and coaching skill. I got the impression that when he tells a kid to do something, they do it.
• Interview Jessica Johnson, the "newest" Brandeis coach who has coached softball for five years. In her fourth year, she took the team to its first NCAA tournament. She's unashamed about having been an English major at Wheaton College, one of Brandeis' local rivals in many sports.
• Get fuse replaced in Honey at the repair shop on the other side of the tracks of the commuter rail line parking lot where I am parked.
• Watch Manny Vasquez and his crew from Wagon Wheel Landscaping replace the raw clay bricks around home plate on the baseball field and rework the pitchers mound and third base. The bricks have to be special ordered. They lay down something called "stone mix" on the base paths and "infield mix" around the bases, home plate and the pitchers mound.
• Talk to Francine Kofinas, sophomore goal keeper for the women's soccer team from Long Island. Next Thursday, Francine will make her first plane trip ever when the teams fly to St. Louis and Chicago for the next round of UAA play. Like all the UAA athletes I have talked to, she seems unconcerned about her first flight.
• Check the number of page views on my blog. 
• Decide with the counsel of my dog sitter that I should take the girls with me for the last leg of my trip.

Wednesday, Oct. 21
Rick Sawyer signs banner.
• Attend  a business class about marketing with Alex Tynan, who toes the slab for the Judges baseball team, pitches from the port side, and reveres Coach Varney. Class this day is a guest lecture by Jeff Freedman, CEO of a small and very successful marketing company called Small Army. Jeff lost his business partner to cancer two years ago, and it still breaks him up. One outcome is a fund raising event called Be Bold Be Bald, so if you see someone on Friday with a "bald hat," you'll know it's from Jeff's effort.
One point he stressed in his lecture was the importance of story telling in marketing.
Jeff: Say hello to Jerry Cohen and Mike Coven.
• Check the number of page views on my blog.
• Receive an email from David K., commissioner of the fantasy college basketball league to which I belong, that our draft will be Nov. 12. I'll be home by then.
• Find out Anita Hill, a professor in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, is teaching that day.  Local TV stakes out campus hoping for a shot of her in a car. That'll make some dramatic video. Hope she's not traveling in Honey.
• Drop off Honey at Hogan Tire Service in Waltham to have two new tires put on the inside rear.
• Interview Rick Sawyer, the Brandeis vice president in charge of student affairs (All UAA athletics departments report to Student Affairs and the president's office). Rick was briefly interim AD in 1983 when he first got wind of some schools wanting to start a unique athletic conference. The charter was eventually signed in 1987.
Brandeis, Rick tells me, is immensely proud of its membership in the UAA and shows it by hanging a huge blue banner in the atrium of the student center.
• Check the number of page views on my blog.
• Pick up Honey from Hogan's. Pick up my busted generator from the repair shop. They replaced a six inch plastic tube that burned out because the exhaust from one generator was pointed at the housing of the other generator.
• Attend midweek, non-conference soccer games. The Brandeis men beat Springfield College 3-1 (Yes, Luke scored) and the women beat Bowdoin (Yes, Francine had another shutout).
• Post on my blog a list of songs that are blasted during warm-ups for UAA soccer and volleyball teams. Post a poll to vote on the best list and notice that no one is voting. (Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn't.)
Yet another guy jacks up Honey.
• Get an email that a story about my road trip is posted on
• Think to myself how clever I am for including a picture of JayZ and Rick Lackner, the Carnegie Mellon football coach, with the play lists from UAA teams.
• Receive another email from David K that our fantasy basketball draft will be Nov. 9, because of a scheduling conflict. OK. If Honey makes it, I should be home by then.
• Buy a six pack of Long Trail Ale brewed by the Vermont brewery Long Trail (I think it's important to sample local brews along the way. Order a pizza from Cappy's, the pizza parlor that I can see from my living room window. Drink a couple of ales and eat two slices of pizza (OK, maybe it was three).
• Arrange to attend physics, advanced calculus and developmental psychology classes with Luke.
• Talk to my sister Melanie, who paid for the two new tires about meeting in Chicago. She concurs on taking the dogs with.

Thursday, Oct. 21
• I'm late for physics, and you know how the professor likes kids to be on time. But first I need to gas up my generator which just ran out, and then I need to check the number of page views on my blog.

Whom am I leaving out?
That's one of my favorite lines from Johnny Carson, a popular TV host back in my day.
There's a lot more folks at Brandeis who made this stop the best one yet on my odyssey (I write that about every school).
Eat 16 pancakes. Check.
But Adam Levin has been the most patient and helpful. He's the SID at Brandeis, and he hasn't blinked at my intrusive requests or annoying presence. And he has a seven-week-old baby boy named Drew who is beautiful and has a great head of hair. Being an SID at a UAA school keeps you busier than a one-armed paper hanger with hives.

Other stuff
I need a brave soul to drive with me and my two dogs from Atlanta to Chicago next week. No way I can make it without help. Leaving the ATL on Friday night after soccer matches at Emory and arriving in the Windy City by 11 a.m. Sunday.
I left out some of the times that I checked the number of page views on my blog, but I think you get the idea. Janice Quinn, the former women's basketball coach at NYU whose team won a national championship and is the Quinn-essential UAA coach, might want to call a timeout and reassess her conclusion that I have no ego. Or maybe even T me up.

This blog post has been corrected to reflect that Anita Hill is a professor in the Heller School of Social Policy and Management.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Kevin my name is Melissa Siegel and I cover Brandeis women's soccer for The Justice, the Brandeis student newspaper. I actually think I saw you at the Emory women's game- I was the short girl sitting next to the table where Adam and the stats people were. I also was in the 60s class you attended Monday. I was hoping to meet you in person since I am a writer myself but I assumed you were a parent in the 60s class and I was too cold to go walking around during the Bowdoin game. Oh and just so you know, Anita Hill actually is a professor on campus at the Heller School (which is mostly for grad students) so she wasn't just there the day you saw her. Oh and if you ever come back to campus you should definitely check out Professor Cohen's class on Sports in American Culture.