Excited About New Jersey Scholarship

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I was born in New Jersey, raised in New Jersey, started a business in New Jersey and still live in the great state of New Jersey.  We have been kicking around various ways to give back to the community and today we would like to announce that we are offering a scholarship opportunity for New Jersey High School students.  There is no greater joy than helping others, and I specifically enjoy looking after the next generation.  The state has been great to myself and our business, and if we can offer a small gesture to help high school seniors as they approach college, all the better.  All of the details and the entry form for the scholarship can be found at the Choice Home Warranty 2016 Scholarship Page.

What we are asking is for New Jersey High School Seniors to complete an essay of at least 750 words describing what they are doing to make New Jersey, and the world as a whole, a better place.  Whether it is volunteer work, saving energy, or any other community action, we would love to hear from the next leaders of our state.  The contest is running through May 2.  Please pass this along to anyone you may know in New Jersey that would be a good fit.  After the scholarship is announced, we would love to have the winner down to the office receive a tour and take some photos.

We offered a scholarship last year to to college students which was great, but this year we would like to stay closer within the community.  The goal is to offer this scholarship each Spring and then keep in touch with the winners as they progress with their secondary education.

We look forward to reviewing the entries and seeing all of the interesting ways that high school seniors helping our communities.

-Victor Mandalawi

Strange Story Regarding Workplace Visitors

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A story came out this week that a player on the Chicago White Sox, Adam LaRoche decided to retire less than midway through Spring Training.  It should be noted that LaRoche is 36 years old, so retirement wasn’t that big of a shocker.  That said, he was scheduled to make $13M during the 2016 season, which is generational money, so quite a few eyebrows were raised.

As the story progressed, it became much more strange.  It appeared that LaRoche had retired in a bit of a protest.  LaRoche had been bringing his 14 year old son, Drake to each and every day of Spring Training.  The General Manager of the White Sox, Ken Williams approached LaRoche about the situation.  He asked that LaRoche bring Drake around less often.  The quote was as follows:

I asked Adam, said, ‘Listen, our focus, our interest, our desire this year is to make sure we give ourselves every opportunity to focus on a daily basis on getting better. All I’m asking you to do with regard to bringing your kid to the ballpark is dial it back.’

“I don’t think he should be here 100 percent of the time – and he has been here 100 percent, every day, in the clubhouse. I said that I don’t even think he should be here 50 percent of the time. Figure it out, somewhere in between.

That seems to be a relatively normal request.  It wasn’t seen that way by LaRoche, who was so offended that he literally left the team that day, and elected to forgo his 2016 salary.

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Many players on the White Sox were quite upset that Williams would turn away Drake LaRoche and want as far as threatening to boycott their Spring Training game March 16, angry that management turned away a well respected player.  It was also rumored that Chris Sale, the star picture with the Sox got into a heated confrontation with Kenny Williams over the situation that nearly became physical.

It brings up an interesting conversation, and frankly puts everyone in a bad position.  It’s hard to think of many jobs out there where you can bring your child to work with you every single day.  Many baseball players consider the locker room their save haven of sorts.  The old mantra of ‘Whats said here, stays here, when you leave here.’  I’m sure there are some players who felt they had to be extra careful with their language, or topics of conversations around a 14 year old.  You would have to think that Ken Williams was trying to do the right thing by having a face to face meeting with Adam LaRoche to express his feelings.  By no means was Williams saying that Drake should never come around, but just limit the time.

Along those lines, the question that I haven’t seen asked yet, is whether or not this 14 year old goes to school?  Wouldn’t going to school eliminate this issue?

Regardless, it’s a tough situation for the General Manager who has to be looking out for what is best for his team to succeed.  You would like to think that a veteran player would understand that.  Professional sports are a business, and it’s difficult to fathom bringing your child to work every day in another situation, while it seems that everyone has nothing but respect for Adam LaRoche, and it takes a real man to walk away on principle from $13M.  However, at the end of the day, the workplace should be just for those who are actually employed by said company, and you can’t fault Kenny Williams for putting himself out there to make that point.

The Youth Sports Landscape is a Bit Scary

"FA Respect - Ray Winstone 23/02/2009 - Ongar Sports & Social Club - Love Lane - Chipping Ongar - Essex - 23/2/09, Ray Winstone  (Photo by Football AssociationThe FA via Getty Images)"

I grew up playing plenty of sports.  Yes, I played in leagues, but I can remember being outside from dawn until the streetlights came on each summer day.  Whether playing basketball, baseball or touch football, my group of friends were always competing.  We would get on our bikes and ride to the local park and easily find 10-15 kids to get a baseball game going, and would be there all day.  With Xbox, iPads and all other technology, kids are spending far too much time in front of a screen than out in a field.

While that may be seen as negative for this generation from a social standpoint, they are more than making up for it from a specialization standpoint.  Whereas, when I entered first grade, I joined the T-ball team for our local little league, today’s youth are starting as early as age 4 and getting involved in ‘elite’ or ‘select’ teams as early as age seven.  While introducing a child to competition is a great thing, I’m nervous that all of this specialization could be sucking the fun out of the sports and even causing burnout at a young age.  Peter Berg and HBO did an excellent documentary on this subject called Trophy Kids, that is a must watch for any parent.

As an example, my nephew Charlie started playing basketball at age 5.  By age seven he was playing on a team that he had to try out for.  This past winter, as a 4th grader, he played on two separate teams and for one of the teams he had to drive at least 30 minutes each way for practice three times a week.  He played 50 games over the winter, and when his Winter season ended March 1, his Spring team started March 5.  How much is enough?  Charlie is also a very good golfer, and has playing since he could stand up and hold a club.  As a 4th grader this year, he made his middle school golf team and actually won the first tournament of the year, beating the 8th graders.

Spring is now in the air, which also means baseball season.  Speaking with Charlie’s parents, this could be his last season playing baseball.  He tried out and made a select team.  It should be noted that he played for his school the last two seasons and the team didn’t win a single game in two seasons, so his Mom and Dad felt he needed to attempt something more competitive to determine if the sport was right for him.  Now they are driving him 45 minutes each way to practice.  They have specifically said to each other that if this baseball season doesn’t go great, that it may be the end for him.  Let’s think about that, the kid’s baseball career would be over at the age of 10!

When I heard this, at first I was mortified, but once they laid it out for me, there aren’t many other options.  Basketball has practices on Tuesdays, games on Sundays.  Baseball has practice Monday & Thursday, and games Wednesday and Saturday.  When does that leave time for golf, and far more importantly, when does that leave time for his studies or for the rest of his family to have a life?

At the end of the day, the world has evolved, we are all smarter people, we want what is best for our kids, and athletic specialization is inevitable.  However, is having your children play sports year round what is actually best for them?  The toothpaste is already out of the tube, so we aren’t going back.  That said, it does make me reminisce about playing home run derby with my buddies at the local baseball field.  Ten year olds should be doing that, and not spending 45 minutes in the back seat of a car being dragged from one practice to another.

Comedy Still Running Strong in an Era of Political Correctness

THE OSCARS(r) - THEATRE - The 88th Oscars, held on Sunday, February 28, at the Dolby Theatre(r) at Hollywood & Highland Center(r) in Hollywood, are televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. EST/4 p.m. PST. (ABC/Image Group LA) CHRIS ROCK

Times change, there is no question about that.  Our world has become a much more politically correct place, and while some people may have a problem with that, it isn’t the worst thing.  I vividly remember around the age of 13 watching the Eddie Murphy comedy special, Delirious which was filmed in 1983. If you were go to back and watch the first 15 minutes of that special in 2016, you would be mouth agape shocked with how offensive it was.  There is no way in the world a comedian could get away with that kind of material these days.  That doesn’t necessarily make it a bad thing, but we are in an interesting time when it comes to comedy.  We are more politically correct that ever, we have instant analysis tools like Twitter to judge everything and everything people say, and lastly there is a cottage industry of sorts built around public shaming people.

Last Sunday, Chris Rock hosted the Oscars.  I’m not sure I’ve ever set aside the time to watch an Oscars broadcast, but I was there in front of the TV strictly to see how he would take on the cloud that has been hanging over the Academy Awards since the nominees were released.  There were so few African Americans nominated that the hashtag of #OscarsSoWhite has been used frequently over the last month.  There were people who boycotted the Oscars, and it was unsure as to whether Rock would do the same and step down as the host.  From his standpoint, it would have been a terrible idea.  This was his stage in front of more than 80 million people to give the most important stand up comedy routine in recent memory.  He sure didn’t shy away from the controversy, laying in line after line after poking at Hollywood, with his one line of

Yes, Hollywood is racist, but in more of a ‘sorority’ type way, and not in a ‘burning cross’ way.

I sat there wondering if the stars themselves rehearsed their facial reactions at home waiting for what Rock was going to say?  He gave a biting commentary, but also put some levity to it.  It was a great example on how comedy could be used to open up our eyes to real issues in the world.  There wasn’t a person who watched that broadcast that came away from it not thinking about the injustice of no African Americans being nominated, and at the end of the day, that was Chris Rock’s job, and he accomplished it well.

The best piece of television I have watched in a long time was the Triumph Election Special that ran on Hulu.  It was 90 minutes of pure uncomfortable comedy genius, and is highly recommended.  The best segment was a meeting with a group of college students speaking about ‘Micro Aggressions’ and how what we call people now should be updated.  It is a perfect snapshot as to where we are as a society, and made me laugh like I haven’t in a long time.

At the end of the day, we are constantly evolving as a society, we can go back to when women weren’t allowed to vote, and now a woman is a favorite to be elected to the White House.  We went from the insanity of slavery to President Obama.  Even something like the Eddie Murphy special, 33 years later you won’t find anyone speaking like that.  It is all progression, and our society and country moving in the right direction.  All of that said, comedy is an important tool to make us face the issues out there, and I have to hand it to both Chris Rock and ‘Triumph’ for taking it head on.