How UMBC Ruined Sports for Me

UMBC vs UMass Lowell, March 3, 2018

Just two weeks before the greatest upset in men’s college basketball history, I took Mabel to UMBC to watch a first round game in the America East tournament against UMass Lowell. The new UMBC Event Center had just opened and it did not disappoint. There was enough seating in the roped-off upper deck for an entire other basketball game to take place. This felt a lot more like a big school than it did when I was pulling out the rickety old wooden bleachers in the Fieldhouse back in my working days.

I am not only a proud alum of UMBC, but a proud alum of the UMBC Athletic Department. I worked there for seven years after graduation, putting together intramural sports leagues and running the summer day camp. I also had many other side jobs – like running shot clock for men’s and women’s basketball games, running the scoreboard for men’s and women’s soccer games, doing public address for women’s volleyball games, coaching the men’s volleyball club team, and coordinating entertainment (I played music during time outs and signaled the band and dance team when appropriate) for all those events. So I have more of a stake in UMBC’s athletic success than most alumni. I could pick up the phone and call any of half a dozen people to get tickets for the UMass Lowell game. I also loved sports to the core, having literally made it my career.

Mabel picks UMBC to win it all!

Mabel picks UMBC to win it all!

Every year, I print out little sheets of paper with all 68 team logos and have the kids pick their own brackets. There were some years when it was pretty taxing and I had to keep them up past their bedtime because they had gotten tired of Daddy’s stupid little game after the first 50 picks or so, but they mostly enjoy it and actually look forward to it. Morris went with a heavy paw print theme this year, having Cincinnati, Montana, and Clemson in the Final Four. Mabel was actually excited to see UMBC in the field, having just been to a game, and picked them to win the entire tournament. I was beaming with pride and excitement as Morris and I sat with some college friends at a bar on Thursday afternoon for an hour or so, watching games with highlighter and Sharpie, playing along with my four brackets (Jenn also filled out a bracket). I picked up Mabel from school and she wanted to see how her bracket was doing. I took the kids right home and bounced back and forth between TNT, TBS, CBS, and a channel called truTV. I got legitimately excited to see Loyola Chicago’s last-second upset of Miami. All this is to say that I enjoy sports. This same level of enthusiasm continued into the next day, until the kids went to bed and I made my way to a friend’s house to watch the UMBC/UVA game. I never saw those brackets again.

Me, Drew, and Dan, on our way to Charlotte!

Me, Drew, and Dan, on our way to Charlotte!

As I stood there in Meatwad’s living room with two Grotto pizzas, watching history being made, I had really wished that I made more of an effort to get down to Charlotte, but that would have used up my entire relationship clout for the year – maybe more. Still, I wanted to be a part of it on some level, so I dipped down into my reserve clout and made it work. A few friends and I left Sunday morning at 7am, got to Charlotte in time to see some friends at the alumni reception, watched the UMBC/Kansas State game, and drove the 7 hours home in time to take Mabel to school on Monday morning. Perhaps I’ll get into the details of the trip later, but that’s not really what I want to talk about here. That second round game may be the last game I ever really cared to watch.

I was affected emotionally in a way I didn’t expect in the least. People said things to me like “Wow! First the Eagles win the Superbowl, and now this! That’s a great year for you! Which do you think is better?” Oh yeah. That’s right. The Eagles did win the Superbowl. I completely forgot. See, The Eagles’ Superbowl victory was big for Philly. This was big for EVERYBODY. We were minor celebrities down in Charlotte and have been for the month since. When I wore my UMBC visor, nobody shouted out “UMBC SUCKS!” Everybody (outside of Charlottesville) was a UMBC fan, or at least UMBC-tolerant. A few people on Facebook talked about their brackets. Nobody cared about your bracket before this, I certainly don’t want to hear anything about brackets right now. This is bigger than brackets. This is history, a mountain heretofore unsummitted has been crested, and the flag atop that mountain is quite literally the team I have the most stake in as a fan of sports.

Which is why I may be done.

I tried to watch the second weekend of the tournament, but I had only a passive interest. I didn’t care about my brackets anymore, I kind of rooted for teams I liked, but I really wasn’t interested. I just had my sports climax and I couldn’t get it up anymore. Even the day after the victory, I was on the phone for hours making plans, looking at StubHub, figuring out child care for two hours in the morning, and the kids asked to watch TV. I turned it on and saw that basketball was on. I had completely forgotten that other games were still taking place. Nothing interested me anymore. Nothing except being as much a part of this victory as I could. I tried as hard as I could to stay high for as long as possible. But eventually, I came down. So I started searching for that high in other places. I went back to campus to visit my friends that still work there. They were busy. I went on a tour of the new Event Center. I talked to fellow fans about getting together for lunch. I talked to the Alumni Office about organizing a showing of the game so that people who weren’t there could experience it better. I kept talking to the Alumni Office about stuff. I took Mabel out of gymnastics and went to the big on campus celebration of the victory. All I wanted was another hit. That nod. And I fear I may never get it again – not like that.

Dan, Stryker, me, Mike, Big Mike, and Drew in the Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC.

Dan, Stryker, me, Mike, Big Mike, and Drew in the Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC.

But just because you’ll never again have the greatest piece of cake you’ve ever tasted doesn’t mean you should stop eating cake, right? I mean it’s still going to be good. But just before you bite into each piece, you know it’s just never going to be as good as that one piece. And as a big fan of cake for my entire life, that just sucks.

Listen, I’ll be honest. I don’t know what I’m saying here. I don’t really know that I have a point or an audience, but I have a lot to say and need to at least say something. Sorry if I made a mess of things. It’s been a month since the big game now, and I’m watching sports again. But just not with as much fervor. And part of that is on me. I kind of don’t want anything to be as important as that night was for me, and so I watched Villanova, but I rooted for them with my #RetreiverNation shirt on. I imagine I’ll be able to enjoy sports again when football rolls around in five months, because I’ll eventually have to put this down to allow myself to enjoy it. And seeing my 5-year-old hit a pitched ball will be a completely different drug entirely. But until then, or at least until July 29th, I will hold on to this feeling, even as it fades, as I have vowed to wear UMBC gear for 135 days straight. Why 135? Because they did what hadn’t been done in the previous 135 attempts. Why at all? I don’t know. To stay connected? To try to savor that feeling? Because I want to prove to people who don’t really care that I’m a bigger UMBC fan? Or maybe to remember what it was like to be in college? Like I said, I don’t really know. But I’ll keep you posted.


Upon me arriving home from Charlotte in time to take Mabel to school on Monday…


Quote of the Day 4/16/2018

“I’m sorry your team lost, Daddy”

  • Mabel


Me too, honey. Me too.


Chasing that basketball dragon,
Pointless Guard.


Still Standing Right Here…

The Strykers and The Fishers at the UMBC Event Center, after the celebration.

The Strykers and The Fishers at the UMBC Event Center, after the celebration.

The Microwave Song and The Big Hill

“Daddy, can you play The Microwave Song?”

That’s Mabel. We listen to a lot of music when I drive. And no, I have no idea what The Microwave Song is.

I try “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” one of her current favorites.

Not it.

I try “We Belong,” another current Mabel fave.


I try “The Chain,” one of my favorites.

“Daddy, I said THE MICROWAVE SONG!” Like I’m an idiot. Usually, the requests are fairly easy to interpret. Like “Daddy, play the song where they don’t cut people out.” I dig up Somebody That You Used To Know and everybody is happy. Not so this time.

Honey, how does it go? She hums some nonsense. Do you know any words? NO! Or else I would have TOLD YOU! Is it happy or sad? What key is it in? Anything at all?

This is one of the most frustrating parts of being a child. Knowing exactly what you’re talking about, and being sadly unable to convey it to the idiots that drive the cars and operate the CD player. I had gotten in the habit of recording CDs of MP3s – which fit around 150 songs on them – and using them as my car music. So there are a lot of songs that could be The Microwave Song. I thought long about my collection. I have 109 Billy Joel songs. It could be any one of them. I googled “The Microwave Song.” Trust me, that’s not it. I even outsourced it to Facebook. Not even the brilliant people on the internet knew. And still, Mabel kept requesting it and I kept coming up short as a father.

Until one day, when I was listening to Weird Al on my way to pick Mabel up from school. Put your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan. Finally! Victory is mine! I FOUND THE MICROWAVE SONG! Of course it would be by Weird Al. I don’t know why I didn’t start there. So when Mabel got in the car, I was overjoyed. Guess what I found…

“That’s not The Microwave Song!”

What?! Yes it is! He says microwave! Put your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan?

“No, Daddy. UGH! That’s not The Microwave Song!”

Idiot. How could I be so dense as to put forth as The Microwave Song what was clearly NOT The Microwave song? Why do I even bother waking up in the morning?

A year passes.

I have long forgotten about The Microwave Song, or at least I stopped actively searching for it a while ago. I’m in the car with Mabel and Tall, Tall Trees by Alan Jackson comes on.


Really? Tall, Tall Trees by Alan Jackson is The Microwave Song? Well, of course it is. It all makes sense now.

Well if it’s lovin’ you want, then I’ve got it. If it’s money you want, then I’ll get it. I’ll buy you tall, tall trees and all the waters in the seas, I’m a fool, fool, fool for you.

Mystery solved. On to the next case.


Once you get to within a half mile of our house, there is a small variation in the way we can go home. There’s “the way,” and then there’s this other way that adds maybe 30-45 seconds to our drive time. It’s great for songs that I know are 30-45 seconds too long. Mabel started requesting on her own once in a while to go this way. She called it “the big hill,” and I have no idea why. I didn’t prompt her to call it this or anything. “Daddy, I want to go down the big hill.” And if I already passed the big hill and couldn’t turn around or if I just didn’t want to go down the stupid big hill – which, incidentally, isn’t a hill at all – there would be screaming and tears and screaming. (There is another way home that is less of a variation and only adds about 5-10 seconds. She named this “the little hill.” That one is actually a pretty big hill.)

Anyway, she called this way “the big hill,” and when requested, I knew what she meant. This went on for years. Her brother, who is now the age she was when she started calling it the big hill, also calls it the big hill. Recently, I asked preemptively if they wanted to go down the big hill, because I didn’t want the burden of figuring out how to stop them from screaming when I didn’t go down the stupid big f@#*ing hill when they REALLY WANTED TO. To this, Mabel asked a very interesting question, which I always figured I’d have to answer one day…


Quote of the Day 3/10/2018

“Daddy, why do we call it ‘the big hill’?”

  • Mabel


Great freakin question, honey. Great question.


Putting my head in the microwave and getting myself a tan,
Weird Dustin.


Still Standing Right Here…

Weird Al, singing what is clearly NOT The Microwave Song

Weird Al, singing what is clearly NOT The Microwave Song

Before I Begin


A while ago, I read something on the internet that was so damn hilarious, I wanted to find out who wrote it so I could read some other stuff they wrote. Turns out it was by a guy named Dustin Fisher. Well that can’t be right. That’s my name! And this isn’t the internet at all!!! This is a crumbled up Bennigans napkin from 2003!

D Rec, circa 2005

D Rec, circa 2005

It sucks when you realize that you aren’t as funny as you used to be. I can handle not being as fast or limber – I don’t really run or squeeze myself into lockers anymore. But through some politically correct jobs, a lack of regular adult interaction, and a quinoa-heavy diet, my comedy muscles seem to have atrophied in the last decade. I was reading some of my old blog posts (which were originally emails, back when people read emails) and got jealous of that guy. He was free, sharp, and damn funny. But I also see no reason I can’t be him again. So in an effort to recapture these glory days of humor writing, I have decided to recreate my blog in the image of my old “Quote of the Day” daily email humor column (see The Dangers of Day Camp, Rating Street Signs, or Review of Memento for reference). Hence the moniker “Quote of the Dad.” Hopefully it works. If not, there are still over 100 movies on my Netflix queue.


I turned my column into a blog back in 2005 and I was already late to the party then. Why reboot a blog now that everybody else has left the party and moved out and got jobs and kids and mortgages? Because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I need to do something. There is a very subtle and mostly overlooked line in Big Fish when a young Edward Bloom is leaving Spectre and the mayor tells him “You won’t find a better place” and Edward says “I don’t intend to,” basically forgoing paradise because he feels the need to do something. In my case, paradise is sitting on my couch and blazing through my Netflix queue, and doing something is writing a blog no one will read. Perhaps I will turn this into a podcast in a couple years. With any luck, that will be obsolete by then.


I have taken over I say “taken over,” because I want to sound bold and confident, not sheepish and full of regret, like a guy who forgot to renew his domain and let a squatter swoop in and scoop it up for his junk drawer. Sorry. I suppose it could have also been her junk drawer.


March 3rd is a special date in Dustin lore. I started the original Quote of the Day 23 years ago today, and I auditioned for Last Comic Standing on March 3rd in 2008. I think I did something else recently too, like I bought a TV or something. Anyway, it seemed fitting to roll it out on a March 3rd. Especially since I can’t afford another TV right now.


Well, me. And the kids. And occasionally my wife, though she doesn’t like it when I air out our actual dirty laundry, so I’m not sure how she’ll take to the metaphoric dirty laundry. But I will do the writing. They will just provide the content. You’ll see.


My 3-year-old son has an impeccable bargaining technique that does all the work for his opponent, often times shouting things like “Well if you won’t let me watch Mickey Mouse, I’m not watching ANY TV EVER!!” Like it’s a threat. When “OK” is a sufficient comeback, your opponent’s argument game needs work. One night, he was bargaining with time. He gets it right about half the time, but the other half, he doesn’t do himself any favors. But a few nights ago after waking up around midnight, he caught on to his mistake…

Quote of the Day 3/3/2018

Me: “OK, Morris. You have to go back to bed in 5 minutes.”
Morris: “No. 2 minutes.”
Me: “OK, fine. 2 minutes.”
Morris: “No… 40 minutes.”

Well, damn! That’s a hell of a jump! And a very specific and somewhat reasonable time, almost exactly the length of an episode of Monk. I’m starting to think he may be slow playing me.

Blogging like it’s 1999,
Daddy Dustin.

Still Standing Right Here…


After a 3-year absence, I am about to reboot my website. Why? Because I tend to enjoy starting things just as they are becoming  unpopular (I’m also in the market for some used DVDs). But before I get going on the reboot, there’s something I need to do first.

I tried to write this 3 years ago – in fact, a lot of this comes from a journal-ish thing I wrote to get my feelings down on paper – but every attempt was clumsier and less focused than the last, and every good thing was already being said by people with much better words than I had. This attempt is no exception, but this big rock needs to be moved so everything else can start to flow again.

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Saturday, 2/28/15

In late February 2015, I read on Facebook that Oren had stopped his chemo and he spoke about his life in terms of weeks or perhaps days. On the morning of Saturday the 28th, I finally worked up the courage to send both Oren and Beth text messages to tell them I was thinking of them and I’d love to come for a visit. Regrettably, I had talked myself into believing that he should spend his final days with his family and those close to him, convincing myself that I was not one of those people and so much as a text message from me would just be a burden to their grieving. Yes, typing it now, I feel as stupid as it sounds. Beth wrote me back within the hour saying Oren wanted to see me and asked me to come. My daughter was already in the car and we were on our way to a birthday party she had been looking forward to all month. For a moment, I considered skipping the party to go see an ailing friend. Instead, I opted to go to the party, but leave early. After all, if Oren was too tired to talk when I got there, I’d be able to come anytime on Sunday.

In the hour-long trip to Oren’s place, I had no idea how to talk to him. Would we ignore the elephant and talk about how Boyhood was robbed at the Oscars? Maybe he wanted me there to provide a distraction from the cloud. Or would we look the elephant in the eye and tell him what kind of a bastard he is right to his face? Maybe he’d want me to work on getting all his best blog posts and essays together into book form, like the one I self-published last year – to which he attended the release party the week before he got the news. Heck, I’d be honored. I’d even offer up Brent to do the artwork. I had settled on coming out and asking him directly what he wants to talk about. But in a funny way, to lighten the mood. That’s probably why he wants to talk to me.

By the time I got to his place, he was asleep. Family and friends were there. Over the next hour, it became apparent that this was the end. I would not be coming back to see him tomorrow to talk about Boyhood. Beth told me that Oren wanted to see me because he wanted someone from the Dad Blogger group to speak at his funeral. Damn. Gut punch after gut punch.

I took solace in helping clear the driveway of a fallen tree and chip away at the ice for an hour or so with the others who were there. I hoped he would come out again, that the prognosis was wrong. But I also felt like I was inappropriately making this about my guilt for missing whatever window I was given to see him. There will be other birthday parties. I should have come right away. And why did it take me so long to work up the courage to text him? These are questions I’ll work on later. For now, there is a grieving family that could use support, however I can manage to give it to them.

Oren passed away before I got home.


Sunday, 3/1/15

I called Brent to talk about the eulogy. On every level, it made more sense for him to give it. I would be happy to say something in his stead, should he have felt, for whatever reason, that he couldn’t do it. Brent then wrote and later delivered the most beautiful tribute to a person that there has ever been. But please, don’t take my word for it. I did recommend that we have some of Oren’s quotes in a collage for people at the reception to see. I did the same for my dad. It was a bunch of pieces of paper taped to a piece of wood, which had been covered in green paper. Pretty ghetto, but also, very fitting for my dad. Before I knew it, Brent was suggesting we make a video tribute for him. He assembled five of his closer dad blogging friends and put it out there and before I knew it, I was downloading video editing software and creating a video for his funeral. It was an honor to be able to help in some way. Honestly, Jeff Bogle did the heavy lifting, gathering 95% of the pictures that I used from family and other dad bloggers, but I was happy to have helped.

I took a break from the video for family movie night, a tradition recently started in an effort to bundle most of the TV we allow Mabel to watch into a controllable and predictable time period. I had gone most of the last couple days without shedding too many tears, despite being the kind of guy that cries at the end of every episode of Monk and many Subaru commercials. I sat and watched my two-year-old girl and two-month-old boy and imagined what their movie night would be like without me. And that’s when I lost it. I had to leave the room because I didn’t want to have to explain to Mabel why I started sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of Madagascar. Maybe Up or The Lion King, but not Madagascar. Shortly after the movie, I got back to work, which was a good distraction from the sadness, even if it involved looking at over a hundred pictures of Oren and his family.


Monday, 3/2/15

I arrived at the funeral about 45 minutes early to set up the video. This was not the first time I was at this funeral home. A few years ago, when Mabel was only a baby, I was here for a college friend’s funeral. I did not appreciate having a sort of familiarity with a particular funeral home. I set up the video, adjusted the volume 47 times, and looked desperately for Brent or somebody I knew. I sat with Brent, Chris Bernholdt, and Jeff Bogle, together as the four representatives of the Dad Bloggers group that Oren started and ran all the way up to yesterday.

I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t family. I had met Oren a few times, but I wasn’t even a real blogger. I was sitting with these three larger than life characters, who also coincidently all happen to be 6’3” and above, listening to them talk about monetizing stuff, sponsorship, and paid trips to go somewhere they could blog about later. I pay a web hosting site a few bucks a month and post stuff I think is funny. We are not in the same world. I didn’t have anything to say to them. And boy, do I have no idea what to say to Beth or certainly the kids. I was a phony and I was crashing a funeral because of my own guilt. What an ass. I looked around for any other imposters. Nope. Just me.

You know who I need to be here right now? Oren. He was my bridge from me to these rock stars. He got me. He understood these insecurities. Stupid as it sounds, I was really wishing he was there to sit between me and these other three guys. He stood squarely in both worlds and when he was there, I was on equal footing with the others. He made me feel comfortable. He made everyone feel comfortable. He talked about me in his blog once. I felt honored. We met IRL when I first joined the group to talk about blogging, SAHDing, and Facebooking. He actually – and I shit you not – had to explain to me what a thread was. I didn’t know. And he didn’t judge. It was largely his influence that kept me both an active member of the Facebook group and a blogger at all. In the three years since he passed, I have only posted once. Saying that Oren’s passing was the only reason I stopped writing would be overdramatizing the past – it was a ton of things, as it always is – but I didn’t feel a part of the group like I did before. And the motivation just wasn’t as strong.

Brent stood up to give his eulogy. It was moving and perfect. He sat back down and some other people spoke. I still didn’t know what to do. I wanted to show my support, but I started questioning why. And then it was time to go to the cemetery. They were calling the pallbearers up to the front to help them. A few of the people I had met on Saturday started moving to the front. And then they called my name. Dustin Fisher. Why? I mean, I was surely happy to help but why me? I was sitting with three men all at least 6’7” and much stronger and my name was called? Perhaps it was a thank you for the video montage. Maybe the other guys would have been too tall and strong. Or maybe Beth needed one more person and I was the only name she could remember at the time. Regardless, I was shocked. Maybe I wasn’t a phony after all. Maybe I did belong here. Maybe I was better friends with Oren than I thought.

After the service and the cemetery, we collected back at Beth’s house for Shiva, yet another chance for me to feel insecure and phony. Only I now felt a little more like I belonged. I still didn’t know why I was chosen as a pallbearer for this incredibly important moment, but I was. This gave me a little confidence to talk to these people as a real friend of Oren, regardless of how many times I had seen him in the real world or how many hits my website got last week. Suddenly I found some common ground with these 7-foot behemoths of the dad blogging industry. I even felt comfortable enough to bring Mabel to Shiva the following day. Mabel is always a good icebreaker. Unfortunately, she is also an adept Lego breaker. Sorry, Liam. Thank you for taking that in stride. And then I had a thought. I think I know why I was chosen as a pallbearer. It was Oren. It was him, sitting between me and these people and things that intimidated me. He was – maybe one last time – making me feel like I fit in. He was my bridge yet again. And so even at his own funeral, he was able to reach out and do for me what he had done many times before with regard to my writing and my dadding. He told me that what I was doing was enough. That I had no reason to doubt myself or my intentions. That I deserved to grieve and show support as much as anyone. Thank you, Oren. I’m sorry it took me three years to say it.

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world