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Mac McKinnon

Tuesday, June 23, 1998


By Mac McKinnon

Women's basketball is

entertaining to watch

Women's professional basketball got underway earlier this
month. I don't know how many people are really interested
but I really enjoy watching the women play.

Their style of play, since none are really tall enough to
slam dunk the ball on a regular basis, is pure basketball
rather than just brute force. To be sure, it's a very
physcial game but it is what the men's game used to be when
I thought it was more fun.

The women stress shooting skills and ball handling
expertise. That's what makes it really fun. That's what
makes watching Michael Jordan so much fun because of his
shooting ability and how he handles the ball.

There have been a number of efforts to have women's
professional basketball but this time it appears it is going
to work.

In its first season last year, U.S. News & World Reports
noted recently in its database section, the WNBA drew an
average of 9,669 spectators to its games, more than double
what had been expected. Of course, television coverage helps
get the league publicity and this year there are two new
teams in the league.

Another statistic that shows why the league is successful
where others have failed is that there are now more girls
involved in sports. The magazine reports that between 1991
and 1997, the number of women playing hoops in the nation
grew to 9.4 million, a 26 percent increase. According to the
report, 25 years ago, only one in nine girls played in high
school sports. Now it's one in three.

Interestingly enough, a WNBA Barbie (knee pads included)
will be available by Christmas.

Another interesting part of the report was that every
official WNBA game ball passes through the same Spalding
factory in Chicopee, Mass., where the first basketball was
manufactured more than a century ago.

A machine breaks in the ball by bouncing it against a wall
50 times. I wondered when I read that if kids had been used
for that purpose before a machine came along to do the job.

Each leather ball is covered with 29,000 dimples - or
"pebbles" as they are called, and nearly two miles of
monofilament nylon is wound around its bladder for

The circumference of a WNBA ball is 1 1/8 inches less than
that of an NBA ball. Of the 12 million plus basketalls sold
yearly worldwide, three-fourths are bought in America,
according to the magazine's report.

If you haven't watched the WNBA, I'd encourage you to do so.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Mac McKinnon is the editor and publisher of
the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears each Tuesday. He
can be e-mailed at:

Critic's Corner

Potato ghosts are fun and delicious

Cook books for children are increasingly popular and a new
one on the market stresses cooking with children's love of
art. It's a real fun book that will make cooking fun and
tasty for everyone. Even adults might want to try it.

A press release that accompanied the book asks if you have
ever eaten a potato ghost or a cantaloupe canoe? How about a
banana snake or a star biscuit?

The book, "Cooking Art" is for ages three to 8 to create
edible masterpieces.
It's full of recipes with easy to follow step-by-step

One of two of the authors, Mary Ann Kohl, presents workshops
for teachers at early childhood conferences all over the
country. She is the author of a number of other books for
young readers including "Preschool Art," "Scribble Art,"
"Good Earth Art," "Mudworks," "Great Artists," and "Science

The other author, Jean Potter, is a full-time writer. She
has been a teacher and state coordinator of early childhood
education in West Virginia. In 1982, she was appointed by
President Reagan as acting assistant secretary of elementary
and secondary education for the U.S. Department of Education.

She is the author of "Nature in a Nutshell," "Science in
Seconds," "The Science of Toys," "Beach Science," and
"Science Arts" along with Ms. Kohl.

Illustrations in "Cooking Art" are by Ronni Roseman-Hall.

"Cooking Art" is published by Gryphon House. It has 180
pages full of 150 really yummy art activities and is priced
at $14.95. It can be purchased through Amazon Books

It's a great book to have to get children interested in and
to learn how to cook.


Investors are returning to load funds

Most people wouldn't tackle a car repair or home improvement
project themselves. They know it's worth the money to leave
those jobs to the professionals.

Now, more people are realizing the value of professional
investing help, too.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal revealed that a
number of traditionally "no-load" mutual fund groups are
adding load funds, or converting their no-load funds into
load funds. Loads funds are offered through financial
professionals, who charge a commission or fee for their
services. Investors can buy no-loads, however, directly from
the fund companies and avoid paying an upfront fee.

Why the return to load funds? One reason may be that
investors have larger sums to invest. According to the
article, this money is coming from inheritances, the long
bull market and distributions from 401(k) retirement plans.
In addition, many of today's investors are older and have
more complex financial problems. With more money and more
complicated finances, investors are hesitant to make
investment decisions completely on their own and are more
willing to enlist professional help.

Such help not only puts investors at ease, it may even
result in better returns, according to one study. Dalbar
Financial Services conducted a comparison of load and
no-load mutual funds and found that investors who bought
funds through financial professionals often achieved better
returns than do-it-yourselfers.

During the period studied (the beginning of 1984 through
Sept. 30, 1993), Dalbar found that the average sales
force-distributed mutual fund achieved an annual growth rate
of 6.82 percent, compared to 5.61 percent for funds marketed
directly to the public. This equates to total returns over
the period of 90.21 percent for the load funds vs. 70.23
percent for the no-load funds.

Part of the reason for this difference appears to be that
investors who use professional help are less likely to trade
in and out of funds. The more an investor buys and sells,
the lower the potential return.

Apparently, more people are discovering what successful
investors have known all along. An investment professional
not only can help you buy the right investment for your
needs, he or she also can help you stick to your long-term
objectives, hold on through short-term volatility and even
achieve better returns.

The divorced dad's burden is heavy

The cliche is the Deadbeat Dad. The newer reality is the
Deadbolted Dad - locked out of his children's hearts after

It isn't a happy Father's Day when dad has to return his
progeny by 6 P.M. on Sunday, like rented videos, knowing
that his next chance for "take-out fathering" won't be for
two weeks. Most of us still assume that divorced dads come
in only one variety - those who walk out, ignore their
children and balk at paying child support orders - and more
than a million women can attest to this painful reality. But
for many men, the situation is just the opposite.

Close to four million divorced fathers in the United States
do pay child support. In many cases, these are men who have
fought for joint or full custody, and lost. Even when they
demand more time with their children, they find that little
attention is paid to enforcing or honoring their visitation

On a recent cross-country book tour I was struck by the
numerous stories I heard from such men - post-patriarchal
New Men who are deeply attached to their children - about
the biases they face in the courts, day care centers and
their children's schools, not to mention from punitive
former wives. A Southern talk show host said he has
nightmares that his former wife is "padlocking" his
children's hearts and that when he tries to "come home
again," he will find the locks changed.

That nightmare came true for Mike, a 36-year-old financial
planner from Virginia. He found a surprise message from his
wife on his office phone: "I've taken our son and gone back
to my parents' place."

Mike made the 800-mile round trip to see his wife and infant
son every few weeks and was led to believe they would
reconcile. Six months to the day after she left, his wife
sued for divorce. Because she had established residency for
their child in another state, she now had a more sympathetic
environment in which to demand full custody.

"My life has been a nightmare ever since," Mike told me.
This Deadbolted Dad has traveled 15,000 miles in the last
year to see his baby son, compelled by court order to limit
his "contact" to 29 hours a month. It's not anger one hears
in Mike's voice; it's agony.

His child did not choose to have only one parent. Growing up
with a "hotel father" is bad enough, but his son has also
lost half of his extended family. "There are 30 other people
- grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins - who
could have a positive impact on my son's life," Mike said.
"I'm not a Deadbeat Dad, but I am getting close to being a
Beat-Dead Dad. It's heartbreaking."

The political posse that began chasing Deadbeat Dads in the
1980's did achieve major social reform. According to the
most current Census Bureau data, 76 percent of the nearly
five million women due child support receive at least a
portion of what they are owed, a total of nearly $12 billion
a year, according to the most recent figure.

The greater role fathers are taking in raising children is
one of the strongest shifts in the manly ideal. "There has
been a fairly consistent increase in the proportion of
fathers acting as primary child care providers during the
last decade, among both married and divorced parents," said
Martin O'Connell, chief of fertility and family statistics
at the Census Bureau.

More and more men whose wives work and who have preschoolers
are now acting as the primary caregiver - 22 percent in
1994, up from 17 percent in 1988, Mr. O'Connell said. Think
about it: a quarter of the men in this category - 1.4
million fathers - are taking up much of the responsibility
for dressing, feeding and diapering their babies. And many
more men who don't label themselves as Mr. Mom still
shoulder a significant share of the responsibility.

It sounds like the sort of sensible role fluidity that
progressives have long advocated, right?

But what happens when the traditional dialogue between the
stay-at-home mom and fast-track father is reversed - when it
is the working wife who says, "I've grown and you haven't -
sorry, but I want out"?

These Mr. Moms may be stunned when they face courts still
operating under old stereotypes about the inviolate
mother-child bond. Their claims to custody are seldom
recognized - even joint custody is not easily won. To shut
men out of their children's lives as a consequence of
divorce not only robs the child and parents, but it also
fails our society.

Larry Pollack, a New York matrimonial lawyer for a quarter
of a century, described a typical case in which his client
is the husband. When the wife received a hot-shot job offer
in New York, the couple moved up from the South, where the
husband had made his living buying and selling real estate
and fixing up houses. She became the breadwinner, while he
took on the role of soccer dad.

When the wife asked for a divorce, Mr. Pollack said, the
husband believed the courts would recognize his wish to
continue being the hands-on, day-to-day parent. Mr. Pollack
is trying to persuade the father not to fight, because he
won't win. Even though the mother intends to continue her
demanding professional life by hiring nannies, she will
almost certainly win custody, Mr. Pollack said, because it
is seen as a social disgrace for a mother to lose custody of
a child.

Some courts do recognize fathers' rights when both parents
are reasonable. The phrases "shared parenting" and "time
sharing" are gradually entering the legal lexicon, promoted
by groups like the American Coalition for Fathers and
Children. But the key to making such arrangements work is
not the courts; it is parents who are grown up enough to
sacrifice their revenge fantasies for the greater good of
the child they created together. Some, at least, can manage
to clear this difficult emotional hurdle.

A Massachusetts research scientist named Roger, divorced at
50, was furious at having to give up his rights as a
full-time father. In spite, he planned to move to
California, get a condo, dye his hair and start dating. The
children could visit when it was convenient.

"But I forced myself to think long term," he told me, and
that meant sticking around the same neighborhood and
convincing his former wife that allowing him to continue
fulfilling the father's role was essential. He sees his
children several times a week, not in a hotel or at
McDonald's, but driving them to the dentist or doing
homework together.

"It grounded me," Roger said of the approach. Otherwise, he
said, he might have done a lot of silly or self- destructive
things to make up for the emotional hollowness.

So much of the concern previously shown by courts in
deciding the lives of divorced parents and their children
has focused on monetary connections. That neglects the
long-term issue of maintaining the continuity of a child's
relationship with both parents.

Roger's solution, while a compromise, suggests a new model -
and a reward that is priceless. After seven years of
involving himself in the daily details of his children's
lives, this unbolted dad says proudly, "They really like to
see me - and now I'll never lose them."

Gail Sheehy is the author of "Understanding Men's Passages."

A crisis hotline number has been set up to offer more
information. For more information call (800 978-3237)

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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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