When you're a parent, your own birthday becomes so vastly subordinate to the birthdays of your kids that, really, your kids' birthdays are the real event every year.
My second son Jonah turns 3 today. It started this morning with chocolate donuts -- a Shanoff family birthday tradition -- and will continue with a small pirate-themed party and a lot of presents over the weekend.
He's a sweet little boy -- it's amazing to see how different he is than his older brother. That's partly a function of being a younger brother, I'm sure, and not just because of sibling dynamics. For example, Gabe didn't watch much TV at all until he was closer to 3; Jonah has been watching TV actively since he was about one and a half. But Jonah is just a different kid -- more coordinated than Gabe at that age, but much less articulate. More polite but less patient. The year ahead is going to be exciting for him. When Gabe was 3, I took him to that college hoops game at St. Francis; I'm sure I'll do something similar with Jonah, who loves basketball even more than Gabe does.
Speaking of college hoops, it's the 40th anniversary of Midnight Madness -- which was invented about 20 minutes away from our new house, in College Park at the University of Maryland. I'd love to take the kids to see that -- it's all lights and noise and dunking -- but like every other sports event I've wanted to go to in the five weeks since we moved here (Stephen Strasburg starts, Redskins games, Capitals home opener, NBA player exhibition games), it hasn't happened yet. At some point, hopefully.
Meanwhile, like everyone else, I'm excited for the college hoops season that gets underway today -- there hasn't been star power like this in nearly 20 years, maybe longer. But let's take a cue from last year's NCAA Tournament -- if a team (or teams) look so dominant that their place in the Final Four (or championship circle) seems obvious, guess again. At least this season, there are at least a half-dozen teams that can't claim to be so much better than the others in the top tier. If I had to make a prediction today for a national champ, I'll fall back on my crutch and say UConn repeats, which I wouldn't have predicted unless Andre Drummond showed up to play this season before becoming a Top 3 NBA draft pick in the most loaded draft in a decade. (But, wow, UNC is going to be awfully good, too.)
A few other notes:
*NLCS: I kind of love Randy Wolf, who pitches like I would pitch if I had an MLB pitching career. Texas only needs to win one of two games at home to win the pennant? Take Texas.
*NLCS: Can the Cardinals win Game 5 in STL then take one of two in Milwaukee? Absolutely. But I think it's fair to say that Game 5 is must-win for them.
*CFB Weekend: Game of the Week? Hmm... not a ton of elite-vs-elite games. The big games between ranked teams -- Oklahoma State-Texas and Oregon-Arizona State -- feel like blowouts waiting to happen. I look forward to Michigan State delivering a dose of reality to Michigan (although I'm partial to Michigan being good)... Florida at Auburn? Sigh. Not quite. If I had to pick an upset special, it's the Spartans beating Michigan, but the game is in East Lansing and Michigan is overrated. Still, we'll take what we can get.
*My favorite NFL Week 6 storylines:
*Game of the Week: 4-1 49ers at 5-0 Lions
*Cam Newton Watch: Vs. the dodgy Falcons pass D
*SchadenPHreude: Eagles in DC vs. the Skins
*If the Giants got carved up at home vs. Seattle, what will Fitzpatrick and the Bills do to 'em?
*NBA Lockout: At some point, do the players get so dismayed at how badly they're being worked over by the league that they just give up? I think that's far more likely than them continuing to fight.