clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Better Know a Commenter: Sweep_the_Leg

Getting to know one of Daniel LaRusso's victims, who grew up to be a barrister.

While we're all much more than just being Royals fans, it is the tie that binds us. What brought you to the Royals' front stoop knocking on the door to be let in? Perhaps more importantly, why did you stay?

Like many here, I was born and raised in the KC area, and if you liked baseball, then the Royals became part of your DNA. I was watching the Pine Tar Game live and still remember how upset I was at what happened. Of course, I was six at the time, so I really had no idea what was happening. But I knew that George F. Brett was pissed, so I damn well better be, too. Also like many others here, my fandom wavered at times, but never really left me. Continuing to be a fan of the Royals became sad, then depressing, then basically a joke, and then a badge of honor. And after the last two years we can all be more or less normal baseball fans again. We've come full circle.

What would you say was your lowest point as a Royals fan?

I think I'd have to say 2012. They just lost 72 games with Francoeur (still) and Betancourt (inexplicably, AGAIN?) on the roster. Getz was at peak, mistake-free Getzness. Moose hit his 20 dongs, but was otherwise terrible offensively. Hosmer OPS'd .663 on the year, which is, I would say, suboptimal for an allegedly ubertalented, savior first baseman. The rotation was horrific. And all this in Dayton's sixth year. Ugh. Things seemed pretty bleak.

And to top it all off, my wife was pregnant with our son. I remember thinking to myself on a number of occasions: "How am I going to handle the Royals with him? Am I really going to subject him to this sadomasochistic torture? Maybe he won't even like baseball. But I'll be his dad. He'll see me watching games, mumbling and bitching about the losses and the moves, and the condescending tone-deafness from the front office. What do I do?"

But then 2013 happened, and some legitimate hope sprouted suddenly, unexpectedly, like the first plant bud in acres of dead, gray soil from decades of nuclear winter. Then...well, you know the rest. Now, amazingly, I have no compunction about indoctrinating my boy into the Church of Royals.

Standard dating profile questions: Age? Sex? Height? Hair color? Marital status? Kids?

38, Male, Brown, Married (six years and counting), one three-year-old son (and, yes, we're done).

So unlike the Bradfords, one, not eight, was enough? What's your wife like? Does she suffer your Royals' fandom with a smile or enjoy them as well? Where did you meet?

My wife is fantastic. She grew up in the South but eventually ended up in KC. We met at a party downtown about 10 years ago. On my birthday actually. As Leon Phelps would say, it was a random occurrenth. I was meeting a friend and walked in by myself. She saw me come in, decided to make me a nice, stiff drink, and the rest is history (she instinctively knew the way to my heart). She's never really been into sports, even though her first husband was an agent. I'm pretty sure she's vaguely aware of the basic rules of baseball, knows almost all the key current Royals players, and has been watching some games with me. Assuming, that is, she's not too busy scouring Houzz for some of her favorite house porn (she's really good at decorating), or catching up on the latest godawful Bravo reality show in another room. Most importantly, she's been happy to watch the kid while I've run off to some playoff games over the last couple years. All of this is fine for me, as for many years tolerance seemed like all you could really ask of non-Royals fans. Besides, I've never been someone who believes that spouses, girl/boyfriends, etc. should have to enjoy and partake in absolutely everything the other person enjoys.

As far as the only child thing goes, we got started late. She's 43, and I'll be 39 in a month. So there's the whole higher-risk-for-problems issue at this point, which was also there for Matthias, although he turned out just fine. And look, I love my son more than anything, but man, sometimes... The last three years have been pretty brutal on my weight and liver. When you wait as long as we did, you just get used to living a regular, adults-only life, and it's tough to adjust to having a miniature, seemingly drunken man who doesn't speak English tearing up your house and breaking shit all the time. Plus, we both work, and even though we do pretty well, day care/preschool costs for two at the same time would have been kind of brutal.

While many choose not to define themselves by their job, what do you do to make ends meet? For how long have you been plying that trade?

I'm a lawyer. I have a (very) small firm (just my partner and I) in Overland Park. We focus more or less exclusively on business litigation. Basically, if there is money or a business or a contract that you may need to fight over, then give us a call. I graduated from law school in 2002, and moved back to KC, so I'm heading into my fourteenth year of practice.

Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?

I live in Overland Park, but grew up in Platte City. My house was probably a mile or so from the runway at KCI. My dad was an aeromechanic for TWA, so being that close to the overhaul base was convenient for him.

What is your educational background/area of study?

I graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in 1999 with a BA in Government (double minor in Criminal Justice and Spanish). Since I spent so little on my undergraduate education, I decided the best thing I could do would be to borrow as much money as possible to get a law degree. I had been to DC a couple times, loved it, and figured going to one of the big schools there would give me tons of different opportunities I wouldn't get at a Midwestern school.

Of course, as it turned out, borrowing that much money to go to a school like that actually limited the possibility of taking a lower-paying public sector job. I was accepted into American University's JD/MA International Affairs program, but once I actually realized what I had gotten myself into financially, I dropped the MA (and extra year of graduate-level tuition) like a hot potato. I left with a regular old JD in 2002, and without having a definite job lined up in DC, I came back home to live with my mom (rent-free) while I got started in KC.

With the benefit of hindsight, do you feel like the education you got was worth it, or if you had it to do over again, would you have elected to go to a less expensive law school? Are you still paying off the debt incurred? Were the opportunities afforded you at American better than you might have had at another school?

It was not worth it, and I absolutely would have elected to go to a cheaper school. I have no problem serving as a cautionary tale for anyone out there considering an expensive higher education. Here are the gory details: I have been paying $806.19 each month for at least the past several years. My loans were sold to a different holder/servicer, and I can't even remember exactly how long I've been making that specific payment. I have been paying my student loans off for about 13 years now, and have about 10-12 years to go (in the neighborhood of $70,000 remaining). WCL was, at the time, about $40,000 per year, all-in (tuition, fees, living expenses, etc.). Plus I had to take out a loan to cover bar exam prep and living costs for the summer of 2002. I got a small grant in there somewhere, but it barely made a dent. I also worked part-time at the U.S. Attorney's Office in DC my second year, which helped a tiny bit. My parents were not exactly well-off, so I had to borrow almost all of it.

I'm not really angry or bitter about it, as many others are in my position (or worse), and ultimately it was my (naive, ill-informed) choice. But I certainly regret it. I'm not going to get on a soapbox, but I'll just say it's crazy that we allow these huge, life-altering decisions to be made by 18-22 year olds. And the higher education industrial complex has, shall we say, not been shy about maximizing profits (even public schools). Has any other industry been able to increase its prices this much over the same time-frame? And there is just natural, built-in demand--the alternatives to NOT going to college are worse than ever for high school graduates.

Personally, I had always been told "oh, you'll never regret getting an education" and "you should try to get into the best school you can." I felt I had sort of "settled" in going to the cheap, regional state undergrad I did. Neither my parents nor I ever had to write a check to the school--scholarships had completely taken care of what was, looking back on it, an insanely cheap university. So, in my mind, I felt since I had no undergrad debt, the sky should be the limit on where I went to law school. I either was not proactive enough or did not care enough to research and calculate the huge, bottom line difference in my personal finances between American University and UMKC, MU, KU, etc. I just saw that a top 50 law school had accepted me, it was the best, most prestigious school to which I had been accepted, and I loved the thought of going to law school in DC, so that's naturally where I had to go.

I had considered the relative ranking/prestige and location of American to be a major bonus heading into things. But then, as the reality of how much money I was borrowing actually hit home, I realized a public sector job was likely out of the question. During my third year, I actually interviewed at the Manhattan DA's office. But I figured, on a prosecutor's salary, coupled with my student loan payments, I'd probably sharing a closet in some seedy neighborhood with 2-3 other people for quite a while. After about 22 years of education and hard work, that was not what I had envisioned for myself, notwithstanding any daydreams of becoming Jack McCoy.

Then, when I decided to move back to KC to start the job search from my mom's basement (literally), I learned that firms were skeptical of someone who grew up in town, then left, then immediately came back. I had no working experience with anyone locally. I hadn't been part of the typical summer associate channels. Had I simply gone to UMKC and done well, all sorts of opportunities in the area would have basically fallen into my lap. Decent-sized fish in a small pond, I suppose. Conversely, everyone and their cousin's boyfriend's sister was trying to get internships, jobs, etc. in DC, and my random, directionally-named state university pedigree and lack of any real contacts in the city hurt me far more than my naive 22-25 year old brain could process.

Setting aside the massive amount of debt you were undertaking, how well did you like living in Washington? Did you live near campus? Would you ever entertain the idea of going back?

I loved living in DC. My first trip there, I was 7 or 8. We did the typical touristy stuff and were riding on the Metro back to the hotel to grab our stuff and catch a flight home. Suddenly, at the next stop, a couple guys grabbed a man who had been standing next to my mom and pushed him out of the car. Another guy approached us, showed us a DC Police Department badge, and asked us to come with him. Turns out my mom had been the victim of a pickpocket ring operating on the train. We got to ride in an undercover police car to the nearest station, so my mom could give them a statement. I thought the whole experience was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Then I had an 8th grade "field trip" there one summer, which further cemented my infatuation with the city.

I had spent my entire life in the KC area, so by the time I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to get away for at least a few years. And I knew DC would be my top choice.

I actually lived in Northern Virginia all three years: Falls Church, then Arlington, then Alexandria. I had a functioning car, rent was cheaper on the Virginia side, and it was still fairly close. The law building isn't really a part of AU's main campus. It's probably 3/4 mile down Massachusetts Avenue,and was right in the middle of an insanely nice, expensive residential neighborhood called Spring Valley. WCL might as well have been a brothel as far as the local residents were concerned. Parking was a major issue, as the building was originally an office/professional/medical building with a VERY small garage. First Years had to park in a huge surface lot up the street and take a shuttle bus to the law building. The school actually started issuing parking tickets for cars parked on the street that they suspected were law students. Even if they had the proper DC zone sticker. Of course, it was questionable whether the school had the legal authority to issue tickets (and charge people fines) on DC's public streets. It became this whole thing because it was a law school with law students, and legal action was considered. By the time it all blew up, I was a Third Year who was paying to park in the garage, so I didn't have to worry about it.

Oh, and the other cool thing about the AU/Spring Valley area is that it used to be the place where the U.S. Army dumped all its leftover chemical munitions after World War I. So it has that going for it, which is not very nice. I actually developed a weird/rare eye condition during my first semester there. I played some flag football on a field that was apparently directly above a big stash. I'm not sure, and I'll probably never know if the two are related, but it's fairly coincidental. Oh well, I just have tons of floaters in my field of vision for the rest of my life, so no biggie.

I still love the city, as I've been back a number of times since graduating. But now that I've got a family, I'm really glad I'm in a much cheaper, more convenient area of the country. Real estate prices have gotten batshit crazy since the time I lived there (1999-2002) when I thought they were high already. And of course, I've built a good practice here in the KC area with a great partner, so I couldn't imagine uprooting ourselves to go back at any point.

With regret surrounding your choice of school, have you ever second-guessed your vocational decision? When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer? What else might you have done if you had chosen another path?

I'm not sure what else I'd be doing right now. During high school, I had been told I was a decent writer. I entered college as an English major, was told/figured out that would get me nowhere, switched to Poli Sci, was told/figured out that wouldn't get me much besides a life of low-level political/bureaucratic drudgery or funneled directly into graduate school, and decided I might make a decent barrister. Northwest had a couple constitutional law cases taught by Dr. Jerry Brekke (since retired), which he conducted just like a law school class (i.e. Socratic method). They were interesting and challenging and helped solidify my decision.

I've played the "what if?" game at various points. I had visions of joining the FBI, or the CIA as a case officer, but I probably would have needed a very different, more cosmopolitan childhood to pull something like that off. I did actually send a resume to Langley at one point, but I don't think I ever heard back from them. (Or did I? Maybe Al Pacino came by to surreptitiously recruit me but I just missed my chance.) It might have been fun to go a purely business route, get an MBA, maybe try to break into the alternative energy industry in some way. I bet it would be fun to work for Tesla. I never had enough of the science/engineering acumen for something like that, though. Numbers are hard. And scary.

Aside from your father being an aeromechanic and your mother being a pickpocket victim on the Metro, what was your childhood like?

When she wasn't having her pocket picked, my mom worked as a teacher. She ran a Montessori-style preschool out of part of our rather small house for a number of years. I spent plenty of time with phonics workbooks and other assorted preschool-aged learning accoutrements, which I believe really helped give me a head start on my schooling. Eventually, she shut the school down and went back to get her masters. Then she joined the local school district as an Early Childhood Special Education teacher. Basically, any kid who couldn't handle a normal classroom environment ended up in my mom's classroom. Needless to say, she has the patience of a Buddhist monk and a heart of gold.

My childhood was idyllic in most ways, but also unsatisfying. I'm a city guy at heart. I'm not sure whether that was because of or in spite of where I grew up. Even though I lived in what would now be considered a suburb of KC, our closest neighbor was at least a half-mile away. I envied the kids who lived in neighborhoods, areas where they could just hop on their bikes and assemble an impromptu crew to play some pick-up games or cause some general havoc. Every time I left the house it was either on a school bus or for something that had to be organized (BEFORE cell phones, mind you) with other parents to pick up or drop off. Further contributing to my sense of isolation, we lived too far out of town to have cable (they didn't run the lines that far), and my parents certainly did not have the means to purchase one of those old school, gigantic satellite dishes (like my rich friend, whose dad was a TWA pilot, had). I relished the chance to rent a few movies whenever we stopped by the local video store. Also, given our location, babysitters were difficult to come by and logistically inconvenient. So, most of the time, if my parents wanted to see an R-rated movie in the theater, they said screw it and just took my sister and I while we were out shopping or whatnot. Despite my arguably too-early exposure to such Restricted content, I have grown up to become a relatively well-adjusted adult.

Given my socioeconomic background (lower-middle class), one unique aspect of my childhood was the traveling I got to do because of my dad's chosen occupation. All TWA employees had the opportunity to get non-revenue (i.e. free or extremely low cost) boarding passes, which would allow them to fly standby with their families. Because my dad was an aeromechanic and not an executive, however, we had really low priority amongst all the KC area TWAers. Most of my childhood, TWA's hub was at Lambert International in St. Louis. Given our low priority and the logistics involved for most trips, this meant that every (flying) vacation we went on required us to get up at, like, 4:00 AM even though we lived 5-10 minutes from KCI. Why? So we could try to catch the 6:00 AM "Non-Rev Express" across the state in an effort to start our trip early enough in the day to allow for connecting flights, the inevitable bumping of one or all of us, etc. I spent many pre-Internet vacation hours twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next flight from St. Louis to (hopefully) our eventual destination. Most times, we would be spread out all over whichever plane we managed to get on. Sometimes my mom and sister and I would even go ahead on a flight when there were only three open seats, and my dad would follow whenever he could get a seat on a later flight. Despite these difficulties, I was able experience places I otherwise wouldn't have. By the time I got to high school, I had visited New York, Boston, San Diego, Rhode Island, Miami, San Francisco, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Orlando, DC, and Germany (Munich and Frankfurt). The travel experiences I had a young age really opened my eyes to the world and some possibilities I might not have considered for my life.

With the understanding that obviously baseball and the Royals are an area of interest for you, what other hobbies and interests do you have?

Sadly, not much. Between the firm and the kid the last few years, my leisure life is pretty boring, limited and repetitive. Is Netflix and Booze a hobby?

I'd qualify Netflix and Booze as a hobby. What have you been watching?

I was, of course, sucked in to Making a Murderer like everyone else. Narcos. And The Two Escobars, which was a great, natural follow-up or lead in to the former. Some random flicks. And a ton of BBC dramas. The Brits have been churning out some insanely good shit that I guess I've just missed in recent years. Sherlock. Jesus, that show couldn't have been cast better. Luther. Idris Elba is a force of nature. Still need to get to Broadchurch. I also made my way through Daredevil, which was good, but the overall plot arc for Season 1 seemed vague and somewhat juvenile. I mean, I know it's a comic book series, but it's supposed to be one of the dark, gritty ones geared toward adults. Couldn't you have come up with a little more specific scheme for Kingpin? I still have no idea what his master plan supposedly was. Hopefully it picks up in Season 2, and I'm looking forward to Bernthal's version of The Punisher.

What have you been drinking?

Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero is my staple Daddy Coping Juice, and for the aforementioned Netflix and Booze sessions. The Sailor is good enough to sip, too, but The Kraken is a nice, different sort of rum to drink straight. The occasional Boulevard brand brew will take up residence in my fridge. Tank 7 is a natural go-to, but I also love the Bourbon Barrel Quad. My partner and I always have a few Obans whenever we have a good result on a case or otherwise hit a milestone. The wife has transitioned from almost a strictly wine-drinker to Hendrick's and grapefruit juice or margaritas (just about any tequila will do).

What's the best thing you've read in recent memory? Describe it as though you were trying to convince someone else that they should read it.

I read pretty much all day, every day at work. The best thing I've read recently is an petition for review to the Kansas Supreme Court on a big case we've got. I fully realize this is pathetic. Pretty sure the last book I read is Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. Perry was the first black basketball player in the SEC. My wife randomly heard about it on NPR and got it for me last Christmas. It's a pretty amazing coincidence--Perry eventually became Professor Wallace and was my Business Organizations professor in law school. She had no idea.

We all have a long list of stupid shit that we've done. What's the dumbest thing you've done?

Besides the aforementioned ridiculously expensive law school decision? I lost to Daniel LaRusso in the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament. On a freaking crane kick I should have seen coming a mile away. I don't want to talk about it.

Can I assume that you've seen this [at the bottom]? I think the world is coming around to your side on this issue.

I have definitely seen that and it's obviously great. Ironically, I had never really considered Johnny's side as intently until I saw that video. Shows you what a good advocate can do in offering a different interpretation of the same facts.

Describe yourself in three sentences or less.

I'm a guy who tries to never get less than 12 hours sleep. I never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city. And I've never gotten involved with a woman who has a tattoo of a dagger anywhere on her body.

What Royals Reviewer would you be most interested to meet in person? Why?

Coach Feb. I really need some advice on my calves.