Thursday, January 29, 2015

Men and Their Flying Machines...

First order of business on January's final Thursday is a shout-out to members of the CU community, including Athletic Director Rick George, and members of the Boulder community, including Kyle Ringo of the Daily Camera, for helping pay it forward for young, battling Buff Kyle MacIntosh and his family.  

In this space on Sunday, I wrote of Kyle's present battle.   I used Twitter to impose upon a number of folks - none of whom I know (including the aforementioned Messrs. George and Ringo) with a simple - yet invasive - request, which was to retweet what I wrote in this space about Kyle in an effort to spread the word even further.  To a person, they obliged my request, for which I thank them. If you want to help the MacIntosh family, you may do so here, here or (if you want to look incredibly stylish as you do so) here.  

Something extraordinary - and for my money wholly extraneous - happened in the State of Concrete Gardens on Tuesday.  When the blizzard that had been predicted to wreak havoc from one end of the state to the other failed to live up to its hype, meteorologists apologized for having predicted significantly more snow than most of us received.  One never needs to apologize to me for less-than-anticipated snowfall.  If they had predicted a blizzard and the day had instead dawned as eighty-five and sunny then perhaps I would hold them accountable for me flop-sweating while wearing my mukluks and parka.  But on Tuesday, while no one in New Jersey received the several feet of snow that had been feared to be heading our way, there were areas that received anywhere from six to ten inches of snow.  

From 11:00 PM on Monday the 26th through 7:00 or 7:30 AM on Tuesday the 27th, a Statewide travel ban was in effect.  Thanks to it, the hard-working men and women who spent their Monday night plowing, salting and sanding Jersey's highways and byways were able to do so with scant interference by the "civilian" population.  And since it appears as if the overwhelming majority of Garden State motorists complied with the ban, when I motored out of 'NTSG at about 5:00 AM on Tuesday morning to get to the office thirty-plus miles away, Route 287 was delightfully empty.  

I may be in the minority on this point - and if I am you can find me in the Crayola jumbo box in the slot reserved for the color "Could Not Give One Rat's Ass" - but I never take any issue with those of us we elect to govern us erring on the side of caution.  By preparing as they did - and perhaps in your area over-preparing - they did not strip us of our free will.  They simply did what they thought - based upon the best information then and there available to them - was necessary to protect us from ourselves.  Had they pooh-poohed the likely impact of this storm and Mother Nature had kicked us squarely in the nuts, then a significant number of the very same people who spent Tuesday venting their spleens about the over-preparation would have been cast in the role of insufferably whiny bitches, bemoaning the fact that our elected leaders let us down.

Proof  - even if of nothing else - that irrespective of the weather conditions, some airports are always open...

...the Captain has turned off the "Seat Belt" sign.  Please feel free to move about the cabin. 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

And I Really Used To Like Eating at Dairy Queen

I am into Week Four of my training program for this year's New Jersey Marathon (now less than three months away) and I continue to have what my brother Bill would refer to (and with just cause) as a decidedly "First World" problem.  The weather in these parts has been, well it has been January in Jersey, which has forced me to make each and every one of my four "long runs" to date on the treadmill in the basement.  

'Round these parts we have spent the past thirty-six hours or so dealing with some fairly lousy weather - although not nearly as dastardly as predicted or originally feared.  I went to law school to stay away from hard sciences such as meteorology.  Thus, I do not pretend to know where the line is drawn separating a very bad storm from a blizzard.  All I know is that for all of the technological advancements we have made to date in the 21st Century here in these United States we have yet to devise a way for snow to remove itself from my driveway and sidewalk.  And if we did have such a device, I would ship it north to New England so that the Connecticut branch of the Kenny Family Bramble Bush would have a far better chance than they do presently of seeing asphalt or macadam at some point earlier than Spring.  It appears as if every flake of snow that managed to miss us here in the State of Concrete Gardens descended upon Connecticut.

Given the less-than-spectacular performance of global warming this week (sorry, could not resist poking a little fun at all of my favorite Republican climatologists), I presume that I shall spend a part of my Super Bowl Sunday trudging ten miles on the treadmill.  Given how little interest I have in the game itself, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that those miles might be lodged shortly after 6:30 PM Eastern Time. 

I kid of course.

As if I would miss a single Super Bowl TV spot by running on the treadmill in the basement where I have no TV.

A basement with no TV.  Now there is a First World problem if ever there was one. 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The High Cost of Ignorance

Nescire autem quid antequam sis accedrit, 
id et semper esse puerum. 

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."  So said Marcus Tullius Cicero.  And so said University of Colorado President George Norlin, in words deemed important enough that they are etched in stone above the west entrance to the library on the CU-Boulder campus that bears Norlin's name, "Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always A Child".

Seventy years ago today, soldiers of the army of the Soviet Union liberated the approximately 7,000 remaining prisoners being held at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  In expectation of the Soviet army's arrival, the Nazis had spent the previous days and weeks forcibly evacuating thousands of prisoners from the camp and marching them to their deaths.  

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   As part of the marking of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a group of roughly two hundred survivors shall return to that place.  Most of them are in their eighties and nineties.  A considerable number of them are accompanied by a child or a grandchild - an individual to whom they have entrusted the responsibility of keeping alive the memory of what happened to more than one million human beings there, more than six million total, and the fact that it was other human beings who visited those atrocities upon them.  

Whether a member of our family was killed as part of the mass genocide that was the Holocaust or not, each of us alive today carries with us the responsibility of ensuring that what happened only seventy years ago on the continent of Europe is never permitted to occur again.  And not only never permitted to occur on the European continent but, rather, on any continent and anywhere in the world.  


Monday, January 26, 2015

Every Day is Doubleheader Day

I've never worked a day in my life.
- Ernie Banks

I awoke early Saturday morning to the news that Ernie Banks, the legendary Chicago Cub, had died.  Mr. Cub - as he was deservedly and affectionately known by one of the best fan bases in all of sports - was eighty-three.  

Ernie Banks played nineteen seasons in the big leagues.  He was a Cub from mid-September 1953 until the final out on the season's final day in 1971.  In his nineteen years as a Cub, he never had a chance to play a single post-season game.  The team's lack of success was in contradiction to Banks' own.  He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959.  He had four seasons in which he hit forty or more home runs and eight seasons in which he drove in one hundred or more runs.  He retired with 512 home runs and 1,636 runs batted in.  

No player in Major League history has played more regular season games than Banks did (2,858) without playing a single post-season inning.  If, however, you are of the opinion that made him something other than a stone-cold winner, then you are mistaken.  One has to search long and hard to find an American athlete as beloved in the town where he played his games four and one half decades after he last played as he was when he said his goodbyes as a player.  Ernie Banks was the one.   

As a betting man, I am more than a little tempted to put down a bet on the Cubs to win the 2015 World Series.  The Cubbies have improved themselves substantially this off-season (something that my Yankees have curiously opted to not do).  And now?  Now they shall play not with a chip on their shoulder but with the smiling visage of Mr. Cub.  


Sunday, January 25, 2015

K-Mac Strength

In the event you awakened today - as I admittedly do every now and again - feeling less than 100% and are contemplating not putting your best foot forward or - perhaps - are wallowing ever so slightly in a puddle of self-pity, then I have the cure for what ails you. 

His name is Kyle MacIntosh.  Although I have never met him in person, I am more than a little partial to this young man.  In the interest of full disclosure, a percentage of my good feeling about him stems from where he attends college.  Kyle is a Buff, a student-athlete who is a member of the CU Track and Field Team as a sprinter and a hurdler.  A significantly higher percentage of that good feeling, however, stems from who he is.  Kyle is a fighter.  

Cancer fucking stinks.  There is not a goddamned redeeming thing about it - irrespective of the type or the form in which it appears.  It is an invasive and insidious foe.  In a just world, it would not come for anyone.  It most assuredly would not come for twenty-three-year old college kids.  But it does.  And in the case of Kyle MacIntosh, it has. 

Kyle was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma on December 12, 2013.  It was first discovered in his hip and subsequently spread to his brain and to his lungs.  As a young man who spends a lot of time on the track, he has learned to run in only direction - and that direction is most certainly not "Away".  Cancer came hard after him and he, with the love and support of his family and friends, went back after it with a vengeance.  Today, spend the slightly less than four minutes needed to watch him document a day in his fight, which he did one day last summer.  

In the half year or so since he made that video, his condition has gotten perceptibly worse.  On December 26, 2014 he suffered an aneurysm and a stroke.  He had to be re-admitted to the hospital. He remains there still

This is one tough Buff.  Kyle completed work for his undergraduate degree and graduated in May, 2014, participating in the ceremony hours after completing a chemotherapy treatment.  The NCAA had granted him a sixth year of eligibility (secondary to a medical red-shirt), which enabled him to be enrolled at CU for the Spring semester, taking classes and planning on achieving his goal of reaching the finals in the 400-meter hurdles at the Pac-12 Championship.  

In the University of Colorado fight song, those of us who are Buffaloes sing of standing "Shoulder to Shoulder".  Words without deeds are mere gossamer.  That is not how we roll at CU.  Kyle's fellow Buffaloes have married actions to those words.  A web site has been set up to donate money to the MacIntosh family.  100% of the money raised goes to them to help them deal with Kyle's medical expenses.    On Thursday night and last night, as Coach Boyle's hoops team hosted Washington and Washington State directly, Kyle's fellow student-athletes had tables set up at the Coors Events Center at which a $10.00 donation netted the donor a white Colorado Buffaloes K-Mac Strength T-Shirt. 

This old alumni was happy to learn that for those of us who live a couple of days' drive from the Events Center, the very same shirt is for sale through the Athletic Department's web site with 100% of the proceeds going to the payment of Kyle's medical expenses.  This proud, three-decade (to date) member of the CU family - and my Missus - have put our money where my big mouth is above and beyond my t-shirt order.   I know that among those of you who come by this space on a regular basis there are several who are members of Buff Nation as I am. If you are and if you find yourself today in a position to lend an assist to this one, young member of the herd, then please do so - even if the assistance you are presently positioned to offer is measured in good wishes and positive thoughts as opposed to dollars and cents.

The Poet Laureate of Freehold once declared that we take care of our own.  If you bleed Colorado black and gold, then K-Mac is one of our own.   And taking care of him is part of our CU-Boulder DNA.  It is who we are.  It is how we stand.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Tick-Tock People & The Inescapable Psi Of Boredom

I have stayed in the toy department my entire career 
because sports is a barometer of our society,
not a respite from it. 
- Jerry Izenberg 

We the people of these United States are - far too often for our own health and well-being - something akin to cats obsessed with a laser pointer with our attraction to whatever is bright and shiny and, by extension, our inability to prevent it from distracting us from the more important issues of the day.   At the risk of punching your ADD squarely in the face, among the things that might have sashayed right on by you while you were concerning yourself about PSI and other fraternities, was this minor piece of business.  

Only in America could a story about under-inflated footballs and their effect upon the outcome in which one team defeated the other by thirty-eight points be the #1 topic of conversation.  Had the pundits and the talking heads simply consulted George Costanza - THE acknowledged expert on the subject of the effects of cold and wetness on ball size - this entire inane debate would have been disposed of in a matter of minutes.

Then again, given that the Super Bowl is going to be played next Sunday evening in Glendale, Arizona, which is an area well-known for its bitter cold temperatures and its perpetual rainfall (scratch here for the inescapable whiff of sarcasm), and it is going to be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium (because every on-line university needs its own 72,200 seat football stadium), which has a retractable roof, how much concern is there exactly that weather conditions (a/k/a "Conditions that Cause the Patriots' Balls to Shrivel") shall be a factor?  


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Well-Earned Rest

While it is never a good thing when someone you know experiences a death in his/her family, Evan Peterson's journey to New Jersey this week for the wake and funeral of his mom permitted me an opportunity to pay my respects to - and to catch up with - an old friend.  

I was pleased to hear him say that he is retiring at school year's end.  I was pleased not because I believe for one moment that he has lost even a hair of velocity off of his fastball.  Rather, it pleases me because he feels good, Gayle feels good and they shall now have more time to do whatever non-work things it is they enjoy doing - such as visiting their two adult sons and their respective families.

He told me the other evening that upon his retirement he shall have completed forty-one years in education.  I remember a lifetime ago when he started his career at W-H as a physical education teacher and as the coach of the Varsity Swim Team.  He left W-H for Texas not too terribly long after I graduated in 1985 although my graduation has little effect upon his decision, I assure you.  By the time he saw Inman Avenue in the rear-view mirror he was the #2 man at W-H.  While I do not recall if his official title was "Associate Headmaster" or something else altogether, the job he was doing at the Upper School was the job that Dad did at the Lower School right up until the day he died. 

My father loved Evan Peterson like a son. Truth be told, there were times he loved him better than one of his own.  My old man was not short on ego.  Nor, however, was he a pie-eyed dreamer.  He had a very firm idea as to who - thirty-plus years ago - represented W-H's future.  He knew damn well it was not the fifty-seven-year-old curmudgeon who stared back at him in the bathroom mirror every morning.  Had he lived to see it, Evan's departure to Texas all those years ago would have come damn close to breaking my old man's heart but the path that Evan carved for himself once there would have brought an ear-to-ear grin to Dad's face.  It probably still does. 

Dad died in the wee small hours of Sunday, May 31, 1981.  To this day, I have no idea how Evan Peterson knew what had happened but by not later than 8:00 or 8:30 that morning, his Chevrolet Caprice station wagon - with the "GATOR" plates - was in the driveway of our home in Neshanic Station and he was making sure that anything and everything Mom needed was done.  In the immediate aftermath of Dad's death, he looked after Mom as if she was his own mother.  If I live to be 100, it is a morning that I shall never forget.  

He was also instrumental in ensuring that my 9th grade year at W-H was not, in fact, my last.  I had some difficulty adjusting to life in the year following Dad's death and not being one who suffers in silence I quickly earned less-favored person status with the school's first-year Headmaster, Mr. Ayres.  So much so that a decision was made - at year's end - to inform my mother IN WRITING that I was not being invited back to W-H for 10th grade.  My attitude apparently was deemed to be insufficiently "Wardlavian".  Evan Peterson - and Doc Rud - spoke up in my defense.  Mom used to have the letter at home among her papers but since this June shall mark thirty Junes since I walked across the front field at W-H at Graduation, it long ago was moved to the circular file. 

It was nice to be reminded on Wednesday night that not only can nice guys finish first, when the stars align just so they can finish on their own terms.  

And where better to do it than in a place where the stars at night are big and bright...