D. None of the above

Bill Murray and Angela Paton in a scene from 'Groundhog Day.'

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Yes, I borrowed the headline from the movie “Groundhog Day,” as Bill Murray’s Phil Connors, discusses the weather with Angela Paton’s Mrs. Lancaster in his hotel in the morning.

Weather has always been a potential safe and easy topic when bumping into a neighbor we don’t know well, meeting the parents of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or breaking uncomfortable silences in, say, the office of the school principal or the boss.

These days, however, weather discussions seem to have changed.

Some of that, whether you believe in or are concerned about global warming or not, reflects the reality of several consecutive mild winters.

We have become so accustomed to milder conditions that a sudden drop in temperature or the forecast for a few inches of snow becomes conspicuous, causing us to reach for our heaviest coats, gloves and hats, and to urge others to “stay warm,” even as newscasts often lead their programs with predictions of “as much as four inches of snow.” Heaven forbid!

Back in the day — okay, I wrote it and those words are like nails on a chalkboard (teenagers may need to look up what a chalkboard is) to the younger version of myself — we had long stretches of time when the temperature fell below freezing, or even below 20. We also had real snow days and not these virtual classes amid storms. Not a fan! Let the kids make snowmen and sled down the hills.

Sure, we get periodic bouts of colder weather, but they don’t seem to last as long.

This has lowered the bar and our tolerance for temperatures that threaten to dry out our skin, make our hands numb and freeze our exposed earlobes.

Even, however, when the weather remains mild for long periods of time and we don’t need to talk about something to fill awkward silences, weather has remained a topic of conversation. Why, for example, does a place like San Diego, which has relatively stable weather day after day, need a weather report? They could just run the same graphic each day, with an occasional break to signal a change. 

Weather, however, reminds us that we’re alive and we get to experience some of the conditions of today. Each day’s weather brings a unique backdrop against which we face possibilities, opportunities, and challenges. Two straight days of weather with the same temperature, dew point, humidity and barometric pressure challenge us to find unique parts of the day, as the changing cloud cover or a slight wind acts like unique whirls in the fingerprints of a day. We might be walking down the street when a subtle shift in the weather helps our brain consider a problem from a new perspective. And, even when the weather doesn’t lend a hand, it helps define the moment.

The way the soft early morning light casts a glow on the bare branches at the top of a tree, while the bottom of the tree awaits in flatter light, allows us to celebrate the gift of our senses.

Movie directors use weather not only to create a backdrop or to establish a man-versus-nature themed challenge, but also to reflect the mood of the moment. 

As a main character grapples with the worst of his shortcomings, he may trudge through a rainstorm. When the clouds slowly part, he can reach an epiphany that helps him become a better version of himself.

The weather, with its unpredictable elements and the effect they have on everything in their path, helps us experience the same trees, the same grass, the same car across the street in a different way. A column of light beaming through clouds can offer ephemeral inspiration.

The weather can be an antagonist or a companion, an enabler or a disruptor, and a headwind or a tailwind in our lives.

Then again, it’s also a safe topic when our potential future father-in-law asks us one of many possible questions we’d rather not answer truthfully, if at all. 

At that point, weather becomes a safe topic for chitchat.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Weddings are such wonderful, optimistic events, where people sometimes throw huge parties, while sharing the wonder of finding each other and committing to a lifetime partnership.

What if, amid all the planning for the big and small elements of a wedding — the original vows, the carefully selected flowers and walk up music, the tailor-made dresses and suits — the guests also thought about all the odd but realistic moments they will likely contribute to this wonderful celebration of the happy couple.

Let’s start with the obvious: really; it shouldn’t be called a wedding. It should be called Judgment Day. This is where guests, some of whom aren’t sure why they were invited or why they came, share their judgements about everything. People might rehearse a few lines or stare at themselves in the mirror, with skeptical faces, as they say:

“Really? The groomsmen wore black suits? Is this a wedding or a funeral?”

“What kind of food is this? I can’t tell, it’s tasteless and the portions are so small.”

“Wait, so the neighbor is performing the marital ceremony and he doesn’t know the full name of the bride? Who thought that would be a good idea?”

“Is that her extended family over there? They may be better looking than we are, but they are chewing gum. Who chews gum at a wedding?”

“Who thought it would be a good idea to have a wedding in Maine in February. Didn’t they think it would be cold? Who likes the cold?”

Okay, after the judgments, there’s the stories guests share. Older relatives, for example, might share anecdotes about the first poop they cleaned up from a bride or groom, that time they saw the bride or groom making out at a movie theater (“that Sheila sure was great. What ever happened to her? Oh, she’s sitting over there? Hi, Sheila, I always liked you.”) and that time they drove four states away to hear them play an oboe solo and weren’t they wonderful for putting out that effort.

Then, there are the comparisons to the guests’ weddings. Guests could prepare for this by looking through their own photo albums. Someone will explain how much worse they had it back then — “we didn’t have the option of Chilean sea bass: we just got tuna fish sandwiches on Wonder Bread.” — and will share details about how many guests they had, and may name-drop about the famous people the next generation doesn’t revere, but who took time out of their lives to attend their wedding.

These brushed off comparison discussions also may include references to things like “table photos” and “table cameras.” People don’t generally have table cameras anymore because almost everyone has a camera on their phone. The happy couple may ask people to share pictures from the event with them.

In addition to all the warm hugs and kisses the bride and groom receive, some relatives may continue the slightly amusing but mostly unwelcome cheek-pinching. That one probably isn’t as prevalent, but the ones who pinched cheeks back in the day must have been working out their fingers for weeks before big events, preparing to burst facial capillaries to connect/ inflict pain on the recipient.

And then some of the revelers may feel the urge to share every detail about the last day or so before this wonderful event, which could include a description of airport delays, the turbulence on the flight, the person who kept getting up from the window seat — “if they knew they needed to use the bathroom on a four hour flight every 37 minutes, why didn’t they get an aisle seat?” — and the lost luggage — “you think I wanted to wear this to your wedding?”

Finally, there are the inevitable “what’s next” questions, which often involves demanding an exact timing and head count for children, the names of future progeny (“you do plan to name at least one of your children after me, right?”), plans for future vacations when the happy couple can come and visit guests who absolutely insist they fly to their home town where they’ll “really show them a great time,” and, on a much smaller scale, what everyone is supposed to do for breakfast the next morning.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

My wife and I recently, chocolate, went out to celebrate our anniversary. We got married near Valentine’s Day, so we try to pick a date that’s, chocolate, a week or so before or after our anniversary, to avoid competing for a table. 

We picked one of the more romantic restaurants in the area, read the, chocolate, online menu, got dressed up for a romantic evening, and headed out. My digestion prefers an earlier dinner, especially when it’s a, chocolate, bigger meal, and my, chocolate, wife accommodated me, getting an early reservation for our celebratory dinner.

We chose a restaurant that’s further away than our usual search for, chocolate, food, while leaving the customary, chocolate, amount of time. Slightly concerned that the restaurant might give away our, chocolate, table if we were too late, we arrived at a nearby parking garage only about 10 minutes late.

Once on the street, we hurried down the block and entered the, chocolate, restaurant, where the hostess Jordan introduced herself and, in a silky smooth, soft voice that could also easily qualify her to work at a soothing spa, escorted us to a magnificent, chocolate, table filled with beautiful china, napkins held together in a fancy holder, and plush seats.

When she scanned the menu, my wife recognized that the fish dish we had picked when we checked out the, chocolate, restaurant wasn’t there.

“What are you going to eat?” she asked. Close to a quarter of a century of marriage together makes such, chocolate, shorthand possible.

I told her I’d find something. When we told the maître d’ about our food preference, she came back with alternatives that worked, but weren’t my, chocolate, preference.

“Let’s go,” my wife said, shrugging. “We can try somewhere else tomorrow night.”

My wife had put considerable effort into making this reservation and was excited about dinner in a quiet, romantic spot that didn’t have a single television blaring a sporting event and that had thick, lush drapes on the windows and picturesque framed, chocolate, scenery hanging on the wall.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

She told me we’d be fine. When we returned to the, chocolate, car, we ordered take out from a Thai restaurant and drove to the parking lot exit.

I pulled incredibly close to the machine to make it easier to insert the credit card. When I put the card in, the, chocolate, machine rejected it. I tried another one, with the same result. 

I reinserted the first card and, when I took it out, it came flying out of my hand, landing under the car. I could barely squeeze out the door to search for the card. At this point, the car behind us drove to another exit. Continuing her string of practical advice in an evening of curve balls, my, chocolate, wife suggested I try to get through the gate and walk back to retrieve the card.

I pushed the help button and put another card in. At this point, the gate lifted. I parked by the, chocolate, curb and grabbed my phone to use the light to find the card. The car beeped incessantly, annoyed that I took the keys while the engine was running.

Fortunately, no other cars were exiting and I found the, chocolate, card quickly.

I walked back to the car where my wife awaited with a quirky, half smile.

“Can you imagine if this was our first date?” she laughed.

We picked up our Thai food and returned home to our pets, who seemed surprised to see us so soon. Usually, when we wear our nice, chocolate, shoes, we disappear for several hours.

The next night, we had a much more successful dinner at a local, chocolate, Italian restaurant. As a reward for my wife’s support of her food-limited husband, one of the main dishes included four ingredients she loves, covered in her favorite sauce.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about all the chocolate references? About a week ago, I stopped eating chocolate because the caffeine was keeping me awake at night and increased my, chocolate, heart rate.

So far, chocolate, I’ve resisted and I barely, chocolate, think about it anymore. Well, maybe I haven’t conquered the cocoa bean yet, but I’m getting there.

Image from Wikimedia Commons public domain

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I watch Jeopardy! and it’s a much more intellectual and challenging show than Family Feud, but, truth be told, I have watched several episodes of the Feud these days.

Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the show that entertains me or the fact that there just doesn’t seem to be much at stake. Sometimes, the questions seem ridiculous and, somewhere among the answers, is something about someone’s private parts, poop, or people’s mothers, almost as if I’m watching a game show version of an Adam Sandler movie.

Anyway, watching the show late at night, I have started imagining a farce, skit or just a show gone awry that I would enjoy watching, particularly when I’m in that time between mental focus and drifting off into an imaginary world where I am on skis and can jump over a mountain, land in a nearby ocean, communicate with dolphins and have dinner with a coed group of mermaids who particularly enjoy conversations about science, conservation and baseball.

In my imaginary episode, Steve Harvey starts with an apology, admitting that the word “theyself” isn’t a word. Then, as he meets the families, the first person in the family introduces their relatives.

“Hi Steve, I’m Joe and this is my wife whose favorite word late at night seems to be ‘no’ and who still hasn’t figured out how to bake chicken without burning it.”

Steve widens his eyes, takes a few steps back and lowers his jaw.

“And, next to her, is my sister-in-law Erica, who always knows better about everything and clearly thought my wife could do better when we got married. I have news for you, sis. Maybe she could have, but she chose me anyway, so get over yourself and show the world how smart you are.”

A little less shocked, Steve nods, looking past the mortified sister in law.

“Oh, that’s my brother-in-law Eric. If you were named Eric, would you date a woman named Erica? Eric and I share a beer once in a while, but he frequently has bad breath, so I wouldn’t get too close to him.”

Steve turns his head and makes a mental note.

“And, down at the end, that’s a neighbor of ours, Jessica, whom we’re passing off as a member of the family because no one else in our family could stand to be with us and because they didn’t believe we’d actually be on the Feud. So, hey, to the rest of the family, suck it!”

After an introduction from the other family, the two leaders come to the front of the podium for the obligatory hand shake. Joe refuses to shake hands and suggests that he has OCD and that he’ll tap feet instead.

Looking at the card, Steve shakes his head and says the top six answers are on the board.

“Name a time when you wish you were somewhere else,” he says.

Alex buzzes in first and Joe starts screaming that he’s sure he beat Alex and demands a replay review.

“We don’t do that here,” Steve says, frowning at Joe. “Have you ever watched the show?”

“But they do it in sports. Why not? It’s unfair. Don’t I get at least one challenge? I brought my own red flag,” Joe protests.

“I don’t care what you brought,” Steve says, forcing a smile on his bewildered face. “You don’t get a challenge. Let Alex answer.”

Steve turns to Alex.

“I was going to say ‘at the dentist’ but I’m changing my answer to ‘now.’”

Steve doubles over with laughter, holding the podium and shaking his head.

“Why is that funny?” Joe demands. “Besides, I have a better answer.”

“Let’s see where ‘now’ lands on the list,” Steve says, pointing to the board. It’s the third-most popular answer, which means Joe gets to speak. Steve turns to him, waiting for a reply.

“7:57 am on most mornings,” Joe says, smiling.

Steve doesn’t dare ask, repeating Joe’s answer, which gets the familiar red X.

“But it was a great answer,” Joe demands. “Can I challenge that?”

“No, you want to play or pass?” Steve asks, turning to Alex.

After Alex’s family clears all but one answer, Steve returns to Joe.

“Okay,” Steve says, treading carefully. “Name a time when you wish you were somewhere else?”

“When we first auditioned for the show?” Joe replies.

Steve laughs, pats him on the back and wishes him well.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The number of Advanced Placement courses has expanded dramatically since parents were the age of their high school children.

Whereas we could have taken, say, four or five APs, the modern high school student can graduate with considerably more.

Current students can and sometimes do take as many as eight, nine, 10 or more AP classes, in the hopes of knocking the socks off college admissions counselors, guidance counselors and future prospective employers. All those AP classes can also give students enough college credits to help them graduate in under four years.

I’d like to propose my own list of AP classes for future generations.

— AP Listening. So many people love to talk, to hear their own voices, and to tell others how they’re wrong even before people can share a fully formed opinion. In this class, students would be required to listen to new ideas, to consider them and to react and interact with others. Speaking would be considerably less important than listening carefully.

— AP Conspiracy Theory. We all know that conspiracy theories are as ubiquitous as “Welcome” signs in corner stores. This AP class would look deeply at some of the most detailed conspiracy theories, giving students a chance to question everyone and everything, including those people who create and pass along conspiracies.

— AP Saying No. To borrow from former First Lady Nancy Reagan, saying “no” to drugs, among other things, is a healthy and important part of growing up and making the most of the college experience. The class could provide students with a wide range of situations in which students say “no” without damaging their ego or social status.

— AP Social Media Etiquette, or SME, for short. Some seniors get into colleges well before their colleagues. When they do, they post pictures of themselves on campus, their parents wearing gear from the school that admitted them, and the school emblem or insignia with confetti coming down from the top of the screen. Yes, you got into college, and yes, that’s wonderful, but other members of your class are still applying and don’t need to feel awful because they haven’t gotten in anywhere yet.

— AP It’s Not About Me (or, perhaps, INAM). Yes, this is a bit like a psychology class, but instead of studying theories and psychology legends, these students could explore real-life scenarios in which, say, Sue becomes angry with John. John may not have done anything in particular, but Sue may be reacting to someone else in her life, like her parents forcing her to take AP It’s Not About Me instead of going to soccer practice.

— AP Take Responsibility. When something goes wrong at school, work or in the house, it’s far too easy to point the finger at someone else. In this class, students can learn how to take responsibility, when it’s appropriate, and demonstrate courage, leadership, and initiative in accepting responsibility for their mistakes.

— AP Personal History. Each of us has our own story to tell. Colleges urge prospective students to find their authentic voice. That’s not always easy in a world filled with formulas and scripted and structured writing. In this personal history class, students could take a microscope to their own lives and to the lives of their extended family, understanding and exploring characteristics and life stories. Students might discover family patterns they wish to emulate or to avoid at all costs.

— AP Tail Wagging. While the world is filled with problems, students could explore modern and historical moments and ideas that inspire them and that give them reasons to celebrate. This class could blend a combination of historical triumphs with small daily reasons to celebrate or, if you prefer, to wag your tail.

— AP Get to Know Your Parents. High school students who are well ahead of their time emotionally and intellectually may come to the conclusion many others reach before their mid 20’s: that their parents are, big shock here, people! Yeah, we do ridiculous thing like send them in the wrong clothing to school, miss important dances, and embarrass them by kissing them in front of their friends. This course could help accelerate the process of seeing parents for the imperfect creatures who love them unconditionally.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Some historical phrases help shape and define the country the way landmarks like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty, and Mt. Rushmore provide a distinct national identity.

One of those expressions, for me, is “rugged individualism.” The combination of the two words suggest independent thought, an ability to decide for ourselves, and a willingness to eschew tradition in favor of something more personal, practical and self-directed.

We don’t need kings and monarchs to tell us how to behave or to dictate from on high. We favor the stories of Americans whose humble origins offered hope to anyone born in a log cabin, a la Abraham Lincoln, or whose compassion inspired them to build houses for others, Jimmy Carter, perhaps, long after they were no longer the most powerful person on the planet.

We think for ourselves, we live with the view that we have unlimited potential and that we don’t need to have the right name or address to realize our dreams. Our self confidence allows us to imagine that we can become the next “Cinderella Man” or “Working Girl.”

And yet, we the people of the United States sometimes appear to be living lives that are filled with paint-by-the-numbers decisions and that involve following other people’s footprints in the snow.

Why? Have we and our children become so accustomed to group think that we don’t want to separate ourselves from the pack? Are we living in a world where we are desperate to conform?

Part of our collapse in independent thinking comes from corporate America. That faceless, nameless, profit churning machine, with its fake wooden boardrooms and its army of handlers and focus groups, has encouraged us to believe that buying their products, supporting their stores and following the trends is a way of asserting our independence.

It’s a clever ploy, my friends. They convince you that eating what everyone else eats, saying the same words everyone else says and wearing what everyone else wears helps you realize your potential.

The argument is an easy one to make, especially as you drive through Anytown USA. You see the same collection of franchised stores, with their predictable food and products and their well-oiled experiences, where it takes 5.6 minutes from the time you entered the store to get exactly the same soggy french fries in Dubuque, Iowa as it would in Setauket, New York.

We resist risk. Going into a restaurant with an unknown name means we might consume food that doesn’t taste familiar or good to us and that might give us indigestion as we move, like cattle, to the next predictable destination and engage in an echo of the same conversation we had last week, last month and last year.

I get it: it’s hard to decide to go to a unique store or restaurant in a town, particularly when the parking lot in the franchise chain next door is packed with people driving the same model and color cars we see on our roads back home.

Well, it’s 2024, and not 1984. We can and should make our own decisions. I would encourage you, your children and your friends to decide who you are and what that means. Yes, it’s hard and yes, people might hide behind the cloak of conformity to encourage you to do as they and everyone else does. They might even peck at you verbally, uncomfortable with differences and unsure of how to react to “the real you.”

If we fit in too well everywhere we go, we run the risk of disappearing. As Frank Sinatra suggests, it’s time to do things “My Way.” Yes, we might hate tuna fish with peanut butter, but at least we’ll be listening to our own voice and getting off a nonstop conveyor belt of conventional thought in which we follow the same roads, the same thoughts, and the same routines. Different? Different is good and, best of all, it’s up to you to decide what that means.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The reality of aging is that we sometimes wake up feeling like we’ve got less than a full tank of gas, or, for those of you driving electric vehicles, a fully charged battery, with which to maneuver through the day.

Maybe our ankles are sore from the moment we imagined we could still dive across the grass to catch a foul ball. Perhaps, less ambitiously, we twisted our ankle when we took a bad step on a sidewalk as we did something much less heroic, like texting an old friend or playing a mindless video game. Or it hurts because it, like our jobs, our cars, and our homes, inexplicably needs attention.

What’s the antidote to the numerous headwinds that slow us down and make us feel exhausted earlier each day?

The start of a new year can provide that energy and inspiration. We get to write 2024 on our checks, if we’re still writing them, we can imagine a blank canvas on which we can reinvent ourselves, find new friends, get new jobs, travel to new places, live our values and contribute meaningfully to the world.

We can start jotting activities into that new calendar, smiling as we imagine seeing friends we haven’t seen in years or decades or fulfilling long-held desires to shape our lives, our bodies or both into what we’ve always imagined.

On a more immediate scale, we have other ways to boost our energy. We can grab a steaming hot cup of hot chocolate or coffee, loading our nervous system up with caffeine, which can wake us up and help us power through the next few hours.

We can also grab a donut, a cookie, or some other food loaded with sugar, knowing, of course, that we run the risk of emptying that short-energy tank quickly after the sugar rush ends.

I have discovered plenty of places I can go, literally and figuratively, to feel energized and inspired. My list includes:

Our children: Yes, they are draining and can be demanding and needy, but their youth and energy can be restorative. They take us to places we hadn’t been before, give us an opportunity to share books we might have missed in our own education and offer insights about themselves and their world that amaze us. Their different interests and thoughts keep us on our toes, focused and, yes, young, as we try to meet them where they live. As we relate to them, we can also imagine our own lives at that age.

Our pets: Watching a dog chase a ball, its tail or a frisbee, or observing a cat push a ball of string across the floor can be invigorating. If we threw that ball or tossed that string, we become a human partner in their games, giving us a role to play even as they expend considerably more effort in this entertaining exchange.

Nature: Energy surrounds us. Water lapping on the shores of Long Island at any time of year, small leaf buds responding to the cues of spring, and birds calling to each other through the trees can inspire us and help us feel alert, alive and aware of the symphony of life that serenades us and that invites us to participate in the evolving narrative around us.

Science: I have the incredible privilege of speaking with scientists almost every day. Listening to them discuss their work, when they don’t travel down a jargon rabbit hole filled with uncommon acronyms, is inspirational. The insatiable curiosity of scientists at any age  and any stage of their careers makes each discovery a new beginning. Each of their answers raises new questions. Scientists are always on the verge of the next hypothesis, the next great idea and the next adventure. Their energy, dedication and unquenchable thirst for knowledge invites listeners to participate in the next chapter in the evolving knowledge story.

Sunrises: Okay, if you’ve read this column often enough, you know I’m a morning person. I try to be quiet in the morning, for my family and for anyone else who stayed up late into the night. Sunrises, however, bring a welcome introduction to something new and original.

History: reading about or studying history puts our world into perspective. We not only can contrast previous time periods with today, but we also can enjoy and appreciate that we have the opportunity to share in and shape this moment.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Here we are, poised on the precipice of 2024, or, if you’d prefer, at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at the year ahead.

What a privilege to start 2024 together, to share the same air, to enjoy or brace for the same weather, to root for or against the same teams and to revel in the miracle of our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and neighbors.

As we venture into the days, weeks and months ahead, we can all see certain patterns continuing because, let’s face it, we know the familiar playbook people use. I would love to figure out how to capitalize on some coming certainties. If, for example, we had a dime for every time the song “Jingle Bells” came on in department stores around the country in the last few weeks of each year, we’d have enough money to buy our own one-horse open sleigh and fill it with presents. With that in mind, I’d like to consider certainties or near certainties in various realms.


Let’s start with former president Donald Trump. A dime for every time he insulted someone could pay for an enjoyable and deluxe vacation to Europe or, if you prefer, a week or more at a Disney resort.

A dime for each time he uttered the words “rigged,” “witch hunt,” or “socialist,” would also net some nice cash.

Collecting money when he referred to himself in the third person, as in “only Donald Trump can fix that” would also prove profitable.

President Biden, of course, has his go-to approaches and idiosyncrasies as well. Collecting money when he misspoke or stepped in the wrong direction would turn gaffes into cash.

Or, perhaps, adding money each time he became angry or annoyed with someone would also provide considerably more change than the typical back of the couch.

Collecting cash each day that goes by without the president taking questions from the Press Corps or reacting to unscripted moments would also build wealth.

A dime for each time Chris Christie insults Trump would help build a college fund.

Oh, and some change for each time Jim Jordan (R-OH) takes off his coat, MTG scowls, Ron DeSantis uses the word “woke” or attacks Disney, AOC insults NYC, or Nikki Haley smiles when she’s insulted would also make real money.


Ah, yes, the world of sports not only is filled with cliches, but also has predictable patterns.

Fans and sports talk radio hosts always know better. Monday morning quarterbacking has become something between a religion and a profession.

The next day, everyone else always claims to have known exactly when to take a pitcher out of a ballgame, when to run the ball and when to take a time out. 

The pundits on the sidelines always know better about the Big Game than the people who are paid to make the decisions.

And, of course, with the Olympics coming in Paris this year, we can anticipate the back stories about athletes who are competing in memory of a cherished dead relative who inspired them. If we the viewers had a dime for every tear shed during these serious and melodramatic moments, we’d be able to afford the plane ticket to Paris to watch the Games in person.

I’m not minimizing the inspiration these athletes take from their relatives, coaches and friends. I’m reflecting on the types of stories, with their sad, moving slow guitar background music, these networks share, combining loss and grief with determination and the quest for glory.

Random but predictable moments:

As a coach for many teams, I am sure parents throughout the country are convinced that their children are being short changed. A dime for each parent complaint could provide a down payment for a new field.

I’d also like to collect money each time someone who talks all the time “breaks their silence” on something. It’s amusing when headline writers suggest that, say, Britney Spears or one of the Kardashians breaks their silence on anything. I thought these non-stop celebrities shared every thought in their heads. Ah yes, a dime for each deep internal secret of people who would do well to be more discrete would also build wealth.

Shohei Ohtani. Photo by Mogami Kariya/Wikimedia Commons

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know when you were younger and your parents, grandparents, teachers and adults in general urged you to “make every second count.”

“A second,” you’d scoff incredulously. “How much could I do in a second? It took me longer than a second just to say those words, and those, and those, and they don’t seem to count for much.”

While that may be true most of the time for most of us, it’s certainly not the case for sport’s best paid athlete, the baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani, who signed a $700 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the next decade.

To borrow from the Tom Cruise movie “Jerry Maguire,” the Dodgers showed him the money!

Wait, don’t go if you’re not a sports fan. This isn’t about baseball. It’s about money!

Just for fun, let’s take a closer look at the approximately $33.5 million Sports Insider Andrew Petcash estimates Ohtani will earn per year after taxes and fees.

Assuming he’s paid for every second of each year, that means, he earns $1.06 each second. That’s what he’ll earn each second he sleeps, eats, sits in traffic, brushes his teeth or waits for an announcer to say his name so he can run on the field.

Assuming he has a healthy 60 beats per minute heart rate, that means each time his heart goes “lub-dub,” he earns about a dollar.

According to a website called covers.com, the average time to sing “The National Anthem” is 115.4 seconds, which means Ohtani makes $122.32 each time he listens to the national anthem of a country where he’s earning much more than a living.

Extending the math a bit, Ohtani clears $3,824.74 per hour.

As for each day, he’ll make $91,780.82. At that rate, it will take the star pitcher and home run hitter (yes, he can do both) 11 days to make a million dollars.

Each month, his after tax take home pay will be $2.79 million. Assuming Ohtani, who is single, follows the General Rule for engagement rings, namely, that he should spend at least two months of salary on the ring, some lucky future partner may be in line for a ring that costs $5.58 million. That assumes the value of the ring comes from what he’s taking home and not his overall salary. If he chose a ring based on his gross pay, he’d spend a whopping $11.7 million, which is the equivalent of 16 average priced homes in Setauket.

So, speaking of cash, what does $33.5 million look like? If you stacked dollar bills, which are 0.0043 inches wide, one on top of the other without any extra space between the bills, the pile of money would reach 12,004 feet. That would stretch 2.3 miles into the sky. 

Now, if he were to try to hold that money — and no one uses cash anymore, so why would he – he would need more than a few teammates. There are $454 dollar bills in a pound, which means that $33.5 million weighs 73,788 pounds. 

Realistically, dollar bills aren’t the most likely currency for someone who earns over $1 for every second. Maybe you’d prefer to stack $1,000 bills? That would still present a pile of money that’s about 12 feet tall. Imagine how much money you’d make if you were standing downwind of that pile during a sudden gust? That sounds like the winner’s circle for a future game show. 

Of course, you say, the first player since Babe Ruth to demonstrate proficiency as a pitcher and a home run hitter is not getting paid for every second, but, rather, for the magic he works on the field.

If we want to break it down just to the time he’s paid during games, the average time for a baseball game in 2023 was two hours and 42 minutes. The season has 162 games. Let’s throw in 19 additional games, assuming his Dodgers win each series in the maximum number of games and become World Series champions. That means, he’s a part of 29,322 minutes of baseball or 1.8 million seconds. Assuming his paycheck covers games and not all the practice time and spring training, he clears $38.88 per second. So, depending on how you look at it, he earns somewhere between $1.06 for every second of each year and $38.88 for each second he plays. 

Yeah, and you thought your lawyer was charging you a pretty penny!

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

We have friends who live close to us who are pregnant. Okay, that sounds weird, right? She’s pregnant, and he looks sheepish, like he’s not sure what’s coming.

That’s not entirely fair. He was socially awkward before he brought his small package of genetic material to the pregnancy party. Why would anyone imagine he would be any different in the months before he makes a head first dive down the rabbit hole into the wonders and challenges of parenthood?

Now, if their families are anything like others I’ve known, they are bound to have a wide range of pre and post delivery discussions.

“Are you going to name the baby after my side of the family?”

“Make sure you put sugar, spice and everything nice in the crib or the baby will become colicky like your Aunt Michelle. She was one of the most miserable babies we’ve ever seen and that’s because her mother forgot about the sugar and spice under the crib.”

One of the most fascinating and sometimes confounding parts of the baby discussion, which can extend well into the years that follow, is the family credit for various traits.

To wit, “He’s incredibly serious and focused just like his Uncle Oswald. That Oswald was a man with a purpose from the time he was born, just like your little baby Joey.”

Or maybe, “Morgan has the same broad smile, laugh or sense of humor as her Aunt Carol.”

Each family can dig in, sharing ways that the developing child has characteristics they are convinced come from one side of the family, often from the speaker who has a proprietary interest in propagating the enduring myth of a family heritage.

Such talk suggests somehow that heredity is much more important than environment. The credit can go beyond physical characteristics such as long eyelashes, rounded shoulders, or sparkling eyes: they can include artistic talent, an ability to relate to other people, or a proficiency for languages.

That somehow seems un-American. After all, we the people generally believe that hard work can help people become proficient in any area, developing the kind of talent that differentiates them in their field and allowing them to control their destiny.

Such strong genetic links, while providing an appealing way to connect to ancestors and to those who aren’t around to smile and play with their descendants, is akin, if you’ll pardon the pun, to linking someone’s last name to their profession.

“Oh, the Jones family? Sure, they all became teachers. The Berringtons went into the clothing business, while the Shimmers all became dentists. They all have such gifted dental hands.”

Such blanket statements about where someone’s exceptionalism originated also throws the other sides of the family into the shadows, as if their only role were to ensure the ongoing survival of the dominant and more important family tree.

Family trees, however, like the trees that people decorate around this time of year, have bilateral symmetry, with people decorating each side in popcorn, cranberries and/or holiday lights.

Rarely does anyone do a deep dive into the other side of a family, learning whether the Jones family had faster legs, a quicker wit, better grades or a stronger work ethic.

Then again, the point of these claims isn’t to be scientific, thorough or even fair. It’s a way to connect the children of today with those who came before. Even if people don’t believe in reincarnation, focus on genes, or contemplate the enduring qualities of any family culture, they might feel tremendous joy and comfort hoping that this person’s unwritten life includes future chapters that reflect a familial past that need not be exclusive to one branch, one side or one person.

Story weaving may help give a developing life context and meaning. Ideally, those attributes and connections may remind the family and this new person about the kind of strong and accomplished roots that can help him or her develop into the kind of person he or she chooses to be, which would be a win for everyone.