Playoffs in present offer glimpses of future

By Mark Haskell | Jun 09, 2010

Playoff time is by far my favorite time of year.

Not just at the professional level, though the Boston Celtics certainly gave us something to cheer about as Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo went absolutely bonkers in game two of the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night. But at a more local level, as the boys and girls tennis playoffs are winding to a close and the baseball and softball postseasons are set to begin later this week.

Working for a small town newspaper and website, it's exciting to see these youngsters that you cover for the majority of the regular season move on to the playoffs where they earn the opportunity to showcase their talents at the conference, regional, and perhaps even state levels.

It's not uncommon in that situation to build a little bit of a bond, a kinship if you will with some of the players and coaches from those respective teams. Covering a team that extensively over the course of a season and through the playoffs, it's a natural progression that takes place.

While maintaining objectivity and professionalism, you start to get to know these people a bit better and the lines of communication tend to open up a bit more, much the way a "beat writer" often functions for a team in the professional ranks.

After a while, in a way, it's almost like rooting for a member of your own family.

Which is fitting for me, because just over a month ago, I began a family of my own.

My first-born son, Beckett, came into the world on April 30 and has already changed my life profoundly.

As I'm sure you can imagine, I named him after Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who is currently on the disabled list and in the midst of one of the worst starts of his professional career. I've gotten plenty of people that have chimed in that perhaps "Jeter" might have been a better choice in hindsight, but whether or not that might have gotten the Yankee shortstop off to a slow start or not, I couldn't do that to him. Not my son.

Anyway, everyone seemed to understand whom I named him after except for my mother, who was certain that I must have named him after Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. This led to her insisting that I watch the movie Becket, based on his life and interaction with King Henry II, portrayed by Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole.

I respectfully declined, citing my boredom for the topic and given the fact she had tried to make my sister and her then boyfriend watch it twice in the past, them having both fallen asleep during the movie.

"But you have to watch it," she said. "It's one of the best movies ever made and one of the best stories and ..."

So the next time I went to her house, I brought up on her computer a YouTube clip of Beckett, then a member of the Florida Marlins, tossing a complete-game shutout against the Yankees in the clinching game of the 2003 World Series.

"But you have to watch it," I said. "It's one of the best moments ever and look how miserable all the Yankees are and ..."

She said she wasn't that interested. I told her we were even.

Regardless, Beckett has changed my life exponentially thus far on the home front. The biggest being that since he was born, I have yet to sleep more than four hours in succession. This is a fact. So if you see me covering a baseball game, softball game or tennis match in the coming days and I appear to have a certain glaze about me, you'll know why.

Second, it takes us forever to go anywhere. The other day my wife and I planned a trip to the grocery store and, when before we would have let the dogs out and skipped out the door in 10 minutes, now is nearly a three-hour ordeal that involves changing the baby (clothes and diaper), feeding the baby, calming the baby down as he begins to cry, getting him into his car seat, taking him back out of his car seat before we leave to change him again, having him throw up on you as you're trying to get him back in the car seat so now you have to change and so on.

But to be honest, thus far, those are really my only two gripes. Everything else, while trying, both my wife and I have taken completely in stride.

And I figured out the secret.

It's not a secret really, but just something that new fathers need to come to grips with. If you can get a grasp on this lone concept, you will be fine. It's only six words but for some of us, it can be difficult to vocalize or even type. Here it is.

"It's not all about me anymore."

Instead of thinking about getting a new game for my Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii, I will likely be thinking about getting him some new toy he really wants. Instead of going down to visit my many friends in the southern Maine area and making plans with them, we will be likely making plans to take him to Funtown, Six Flags or even Disney World.

And instead of thinking back to when you used to play high school sports, you get to look forward and hope that he will maybe someday do the same.

I can't wait to go play catch out in the yard with my son, teach him how to shoot a jump shot or show him how to swing a bat. I can't wait to go to a game my son is playing in and cheer him on from the sidelines.

And just as I've seen many youngsters in the area raise their state championship trophies over the past few years, whether it was Camden Hills basketball team, the Belfast wrestling team or the Georges Valley softball squad, I hope that one day my son might get to experience something like that for himself as well.

Good luck to all our local teams participating in this year's postseason.

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