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For the Love of the Dream

Arial view of Old Bachelor's farmArial view of Wildman farm on US 42

Growing up on a farm in Ohio, two miles from nowhere in a time when TV meant three or sometimes four broadcast channels, depending on the weather, I didn’t know how exceptional my life was. Like other kids I fantasized about growing up and, depending on whim and whatever was current in the news, I wanted to be a police officer, fire fighter, soldier, astronaut, cowboy or superhero. Sometimes, depending on the season, I wanted to be sports star as well.

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Now, in Ohio if you loved football and basketball as much as I did as a kid you were probably a Buckeyes fan. Because I was fairly tall for my age, come winter time, I dreamed of being the dominating center of the basketball team. That was after n entire fall of  pretending to be the star quarterback. But com springtime it was all about baseball and I was determined to be the ace pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

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My dad always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, right?

When I was old enough I played little league baseball, figuring that was the place to start. Trouble was that I was afraid of being bit in the face with the ball. It’s pretty hard catching a ball with eyes close and head turned away.In other words, I wasn’t all that good. I could occasionally hit the ball, though. And so the coach played me from me to time. The trouble with baseball is that besides hitting you have to do something else. Wanting to be a pitcher didn’t quite work out for me because I couldn’t seem to throw straight and even if I got the ball into he general vicinity of home place and the catch could mange to knock it down, when he threw it back to me it was a toss up whether or not I could actually catch it.  Anyway, the coach stuck me in right field which is, as every kid knows, where the worst player on the team usually ends up.

I never really gave up on becoming a pitcher though. I kept practicing, throwing a ball at a tree in the yard. I’d say poor tree, except usually I didn’t hit it so the tree and especially its bark were pretty safe. I got in pretty good shape though from chasing after my errant throws.

Around the time I was ten my family moved to a new house on a farm my father had recently purchased. The house set on a hill an so the back all of the basement was almost completely exposed, giving me a huge target at which to throw a rubber baseball. Even I could hit a whole wall, right? Using some chalk I drew a box on the wall to represent the strike zone. I worked on getting my pitches to hit the wall in that square. After a lot of tries, usually I could do it.

After three years of practicing and having my sister, whose bedroom was directly above my target, complaining about waking her up first thing on a lay summer morning, I was good enough to believe I stood a chance at making my high school;’s team. Anyway, I was determined to try out. Pitchers and catchers reported out a couple of weeks earlier than everyone else, though everyone wanting to be on the team was welcome to come to practice to work on physical conditioning. I was actually pretty good – just not good enough to make the team. But that didn’t diminish my love for the sport. However, it did resign me to the reality that I probably wasn’t going to ever make it into the Majors let alone start for the Reds.

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Kids dream big because that is what they do best. Everyday is a new adventure in a world of infinite possibilities. Most of us don’t achieve our wildest dreams, though. As we mature we realize we aren’t strong, fast or tall enough to be sports heroes. And so we wind up settling for something more grounded, better suited to our particular sets of limitations. Of course, our shortcomings are rooted in self-imge and what we have allowed other to convince us is our truth. I firmly believe that determination to overcome something trumps anything. There are countless examples of those who beat the odds and accomplish great things despite the barriers other have imposed. A lot of our inabilities come from what and whom we permit to control us. Sometimes its better not to know what’s possible until you’ve already learned how to do the impossible.

You see, the majority is satisfied to commiserate, consoling each other about their failures and how the odds are stacked against everyone. Misery loves needs a lot company and fortunately there are a lot of miserable people out there. Still a few succeed despite all he nay sayer in their lives  Some are gifted, perhaps, talented in some way that makes doing this thing or that easier. But for most who succeed the secret stems from their refusal to fail – or deny failure the ability to define the future. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, learn whatever lesson there is to be learned from their miscues and they move on about becoming successful.

A few of us retain the ability to dream and carry it forward into adult life. Sometimes that creates problems for us, though. You see, dreamers are not highly regarded in places where practicality reigns supreme like the business world. Many of those who never lose the ability to dream become artists, musicians and writers. We live out our fantasies vicariously through the pictures we draw, the figures we sculpt, the lyrics we pen and scores we compose or the characters we create to play out all the “what ifs” left over from our childhoods. We experience the contrived reality of our dreams vicariously through the magic of our creativity.

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And so, in my mind it was possible for a couple of eight year olds, a boy and a girl, who are best friends, to become the star pitchers on their little league team while learning about having superhero powers. Throw in a supposed haunted house, a vicious dog, and strange old man and his scary spinster sister who everyone in town thinks is a witch, season it with a lot of riding around on bicycles, playing int he park and exploring wildly vivid imaginations and you have the essence of what Becoming Thuperman, one of my soon to be released books, is all about.

#BecomingThuperman #Dreams #Sports #GrowingUp #Writing

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A Sport Becomes A Political Football

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You may have seen something about this in the news – political pundit calls soccer un-American – or something to that effect. Not wanting to get into the silly polarized political debate on just about everything that plays out daily on the 24/7 news channels (and spills over into broadcast and print media as well) I do have some observations that may help put a different spin on everything.

First of all, calling any sport un-American is patently absurd.

We are a nation that seems to love sports and competition. Some things we watch I might personally feel are quasi-sports. I may like some more than others. But it is a matter of personal preference not national interest or patriotic support. All you need to do to confirm Americans’ love affair with athletic endeavors is channel surf on any given weekend. It’s there, all there, and in a variety that will astonish you. For most Americans I think a favorite sport depends on the season we are in. I love baseball, for example. There’s nothing more American than that, unless it is the middle of football season. Then there is basketball.  I also like tennis. I’ve been known to watch bowling and golf but usually I end up taking a nap at the same time. But that’s just me. A lot of people watch racing events. Some people question whether that is a sport. Controlling a car that does;t have pose steering while it is doing a couple of hundred miles per hour takes some strength and skill, especially when it is in close proximity to other vehicles. So, I have never personally questioned where professional racing drivers are athletes.

Let’s conclude that Americans like to watch sports.

Some people participate in sports at some point in their lives. Whether it is in a youth league, during high school or college or in adult leagues, we have all dreamed of making the winning play or being the fastest or strongest  or most skilled at something on any given day. Those who don’t participate directly in a sport can always be a spectator.

You see, Americans like to watch competition. That’s what we do. We pick a side and support the team or individual. Maybe the competitive nature of sports spills over into our domestic politics at times as well. National championships teams and star world class athletes usually get invitations to the White House. But that’s all about photo ops and publicity, not really about politics per se. By the way, publicity is what all the comments about soccer being somehow un-American is all about, promoting some agenda and calling for support of some cause whether real or contrived.

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How can anyone think that soccer is un-American? Maybe it’s because the sport wasn’t invented here. That is the only somewhat valid reason I can think of for having that point of view. Its the old us against them, isolationist mentality. Americans enjoy being different and doing things our own way – even if at times it proves inconvenient or wrong over the course of time. We have our own set of weights and measures – even though those are borrowed from our English heritage. We have our own special variety of football, which is why we call a sport, which is known to the rest of the world as football, soccer. But I think millions of soccer moms across America are scratching their heads over the pundit’s comments, though. How is it that soccer is not American enough to meet anyone’s standards?

Politicians and political pundits seek publicity. They will leverage anything to advantage, even something that should be as politically neutral as a sport. While we should all be supporting an American team participating on the world stage and taking pride in the successes and advancement in a prestigious tournament, the politicization of the sport has for a moment drawn attention away from the real competition, which contains is national pride.  It is dangerous to associate politics with any sport and it needs to be avoided in the interest of maintaining the purity of of competition and the sense of fairness.

Sport should be about competition at the highest level possible, pitting sides against one another chosen on any basis other than something as crass as political agendas. Sport should be purely about athletic excellence and endurance, pushing the limits and showing heart and courage to put forth one’s best effort. It must never be about left verse right or being somewhere in between on the ideological scale.

Promoting one sport over another as a national pastime is advertising not reality. As Americans we can all get behind a national team and show enthusiastic support as one people divided on everything else but united in at least one thing, that we are all Americans. Suggesting that love of one sport in some way diminishes our love and support of other sports that are, for whatever reason, traditionally called American sports is wrong. Soccer is a sport, for God’s sake. A lot of patriotic people enjoy watching it. So, just let them enjoy watching what they choose to watch. As always, if you don’t like it you can change the channel. There is always some other sport you can watch. Just don’t tell any of the rest of us what we can or should be watching or attempt to limit our freedom to do so.

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#soccer #football #American #politics #sports

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No Superbowl L

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Wait! Before you have a panic attack, there will be a fiftieth playing of the world championship pitting the surviving and hopefully best teams of the two football conferences again one another. It’s just they won’t call it ‘Superbowl L’. After forty-four years of using Roman numerals for designating the particular edition of the annual Superbowl game in American football, the National Football League (NFL) has decided to break with the tradition established inn 1971 and not to use the the letter ‘L’ to designate the fiftieth one. Instead the game will be officially called Superbowl 50.

I suppose they could call it Superbowl 5-0 but that would be confused with the TV show Hawaii 5-0. Perhaps if they held the game in Hawaii that might have made sense in a cute sort of way. Also, there is the stoma associated with the letter ‘L’ standing for ‘loser’, something popularized int he 90’s by someone holding up the thumb and index finger of one hand to his or her forehead to indicate that someone else was a ‘Loser’. We can’t have something like that associated with the most watched sporting event in America, now can we?

Do they intend to to return to Roman numerals after this coming Superbowl, designing it LI? Well, I’m concerned that could be mistaken for a reference to Long Island. The game will not be played there. It was a gamble wight he weather and all playing it at the Meadowlands in NJ last year. I think most people in the league feel they dodged a bullet as a snow storm was bearing down on the east coast at the time and hit the event site the day after.

Maybe they should just scrap the Roman numerals altogether. After all, how many times have you had to explain to a kid what the letters meant. And then there is the whole matter of how Romans added subtracted multiplied and divided those crazy looking numbers and why western civilization adopted Hindu-Arabic numerals in lieu of the Roman ones. Who wants to go through that explanation? Eventually the roman numerals will be so long and complicated that it will be difficult to immediately decipher.  Superbowl MCDXCII is a few hundred years away, but every American football fan hopes there will still be games then so we can continue watching them from the grandstands in Football Heaven.

My suggestion is to just start calling the games by their serial number in standard, commonly used and understood numeral like 51, 52 and so on. It’s not like you see Roman numerals on that many things any more, some analog clock faces, volumes of books, the copyright script at the bottom of some movies. Yeah, I think we could officially just do away with them. Let them go the way of cursive writing, forever forgotten and no longer taught in school. We have more important things to teach. Who cares about tradition and cultural identity?

It’s all a little silly anyway, isn’t it? Although I love watching American Football it always struck me as being rather odd that they used roman numerals for the Superbowl anyway. It was only for appearances, so it seemed more official or important in some way. Appearances is the real reason Superbowl L will be designated Superbowl 50.