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Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

When I was young, we used to play tackle football without pads and without helmets. A gang of us would get together on a Sunday morning on the high school field and go at it. We didn’t dislike each other; matter of fact, we were all friends…except when we were on opposite sides of the ball. Yes, ten yards gained you a first down, and you had four downs to do it. So far, everything – except the pads, of course – sound familiar? There were, however, some major differences. Our tackling techniques were not intended to hurt the ball carrier or to hurt ourselves. Oh, sure, we all got bloodied at some point, and perhaps there were a few twisted ankles, sprains, and once someone had to go for stitches. It had nothing to do with the game; some asshole had broken a bottle on the field and somebody fell on it with his arm…no big deal.

The point is that I don’t remember anyone ever getting knocked out in our games. We weren’t playing for blood; we were playing football for fun. Most of us were too skinny or too scared to put on pads and play football for our high schools. When I was a freshman, I played for the high school, but getting blocked once by Charlie Chalmes – his family owned the Greek restaurant in town – convinced me that pad, helmet, and high school varsity was something in which I would lose either interest or my life in a very short time. I opted for basketball, which at that time, was nothing like the contact sport it has become today.

While it may be difficult for younger people to understand, I’m not certain that soccer was even a word in our vocabulary. Oh, sure, there were hockey games at Reed’s Pond or in the flooded area down by Golleme’s Garage, but organized hockey at the high school level? What, are you nuts? Even in the pick-up games, rarely would someone be checked into a snow bank or intentionally tripped [wink, wink]. I remember George White telling the story of skating in one of those games and three times the same stranger – a bit older than George – stick handled the puck away from him. After the third time, when there was a break, George told this ‘man in black,’ that “You do that one more time you son-of-a-bitch, and I’m gonna shove my stick up your ass,” or words to that effect. Suffice it to say that George’s language was not that which could be used in mixed company. The man just smiled and skated away. Having overheard the comments, a couple of George’s friends came over. “Hey,” George, one of them said, “You shouldn’t talk like that to Father Heery.” Yes, George was embarrassed; yes, he skated over to the collarless man in black and apologized. The good Father responded that there were many times he felt as George did, but God was responsible for him keeping his cool. I have never forgotten that story, and while George and I talk or IM a bit, we don’t talk about that particular incident. Father Heery also coached the CYO basketball team on which this “Black Proddy,” as he called me, was allowed to play. Priests move from parish to parish, and the good Father was no different. He died in 1996 as The Very Reverend Cornelius J. Heery. He was a good person, and while I have digressed to speak of him, I will also tell you that I pray for his soul each evening

Getting back to the original point of this piece, I don’t recall any of the young men who played on the high school football team ever suffering ‘concussions.’ I don’t believe we knew what concussions were in those days. Of course, few schools had weight rooms or strength coaches. Today everything is different. Announcers talk about linemen who can bench 900 pounds, weigh 350, and can do the 40 in 4.5 seconds. The hits seem to be harder, more vicious and hurtful, and it appears that each play is viewed as an opportunity to put someone from the other side down and out for the rest of the game, the season, the career, or – with luck – in the ground permanently. You don’t have to agree or disagree; I’m merely telling you what it looks like to me. It used to be that, “kill the quarterback” was a figurative expression. From what I see today, it’s now used literally.

I wonder what would happen if we took away all of the pads that are used in football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, and any other sport that demands pads? How would the players react? How about the coaches; the alumni; the millions of viewers who tune in to vicariously participate in their favorite rock ‘em, sock ‘em, athletic adventure? At the very top of the collegiate level, fund raising would suffer tremendously. Winning teams mean development officers more easily get the $$$ that help them to keep their jobs. Raising money for academics is more difficult than raising it for athletics.

Our knowledge base has increased tremendously over the past fifty or sixty years. Somehow, when it comes to athletic competition, however, that knowledge has been used to teach us how to inflict greater pain and more violence than it has in improving actual skill level. We’ve learned that not everyone learns at the same rate, but we haven’t learned what happens to the human body and mind when it is subjected to repeated violent encounters on a regular basis…and that’s too bad.

 

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As if this Congress wasn’t already as useless as balls on a priest –well, that used to be true, but one never can be certain nowadays – they have now taken it upon themselves to interfere with the names of National Football League teams? Please, give me just a bit of a break. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a national debt of trillions of dollars; we have a poverty problem that is damn near equal to  the Congo, Liberia, or Burundi; we haven’t found a cure for cancer; we have killers running amok in our schools, malls, and streets, and you’re worried about the Native American name of a football team? Are your collective heads stuck so far up your collective butts that you’re breathing through collective esophagi? Who the hell do you think you are, the NCAA?

Boy, did Donald Sterling open a can of worms or what? Sure, his remarks were way off base. They were beyond racist; they were disgusting. However, follow-up remarks by Mark Cuban were right on the money. Remarks that Bill Cosby has been making for years…right on the money. The Black family dynamic is not broken; it’s shattered. The condition of the Native American population in Alaska is crap as are the living conditions for Native Americans wherever they happen to be located in this country. Why the hell isn’t Congress doing something about that? Forget the friggin’ name of a god damned football team and start doing something constructive, you bunch of fools!

Several years ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association went after schools that used Native American terms for their mascots. The Stanford and Dartmouth Indian, the Fighting Illini of Illinois, the Florida Seminoles…oh, wait a minute; they still are the Seminoles. I wonder what happened there? The NCAA and the United States Congress…yep, a couple of hypocritical bodies if I’ve ever seen them. The NCAA  won’t go near any team that brings big bucks into their coffers and the US Congress doesn’t have a clue about resolving major issues so they assault the minor ones and tell America how great they are.

Several years ago, a group of women at one college attempted to have the mascot changed because they felt insulted by having a beaver as the institution’s pride and joy. For those of you who have been living under a rock, the beaver is a slang term for a woman’s vagina. I’d love to see the NCAA take the lead in eliminating that one from Oregon State, MIT, Cal Tech, Babson, or U. Maine-Farmington.

The United States Senate, half of whom wrote to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, don’t really give a damn about the Redskins name. It’s a ploy to direct criticism of their lack of productivity away from the Senate. Either that or these men and women are finally beginning to understand just how badly the tribes were mistreated by our white ancestors. I love the fact that Senator Bill Nelson of Florida was one of the writers to Goodell. Excuse me Senator, what have you had to say to Dr. Garnett Stokes, President of Florida State, about the Seminole name…whoops!

Have Native Americans been mocked and humiliated since the Pilgrims – hell, since DeSoto – landed on our shores? You bet your ass they have; if Native Americans, here long before invaders from other countries…we call them explorers and settlers; it’s so much more polite…if Native Americans got in the way of what others wanted, it was no problem…kill them! Stab them, burn their villages, shoot them; do whatever you wish to them; hell, they’re just ignorant savages. Ugly doesn’t begin to describe what we did to the original inhabitants of this continent. And now, 400 plus years later, we’re asking a football team to change its name because it offends some old white guys? Oh, puh-leze, don’t even try to explain that one. I wonder why the Senate hasn’t gone after the Kansas City Chiefs or professional baseball’s Cleveland, Indianapolis, Gulf Coast, or Spokane Indians or Atlanta Braves. Perhaps President Obama should write to the NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman and tell him to change the name of the Chicago Blackhawks. The extent to which this whole thing could be carried is ludicrous.

Maybe the Senate’s next move will be to ask people to change their names because those old farts in Washington don’t believe them to be politically correct. They would probably come after me – although I’m a ‘B’ and it would be Centuries before they got to me – and tell me that I’m too profane [or honest] to have the name, Bishop. Perhaps my son’s great grandchildren would be the ones to tell them to “Kiss my rosy red…cheeks!” Anyone with “Saint” in their name would be tarred and feathered at the very least or perhaps burned at the stake as a heretic. Hell, if we’re going to go back to our old ways, why not? Heck, Oklahoma is already heading back toward the old days with their “open carry” law on guns. The not-so-humorous part of that is that my Dad said that would happen shortly before he died. “It wouldn’t surprise me,” he said, “if before you die, you don’t see places where carrying a gun in public will be legal again.” Those might night have been his precise words, but I always gave Pop the benefit of the doubt!

I’m beginning to think that maybe we don’t have to worry about being taken over by some foreign country a few Centuries from now. We’re doing such a wonderful job of messing up our own nation; we might’s well just continue to let the politicians screw us up. Hell, when less than half the eligible voters in West Virginia, Texas, or Oklahoma turn out to vote in a Presidential election, and when just over half of the nation’s eligible voters go to the polls, we deserve exactly what we get. But…by God and all that’s holy, we cannot have a football team in the nation’s capitol that bears the name, “Redskins;” no sireee, Bob, and if you don’t believe me, just ask the members of the Senate of the You Knighted States of America!

 

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Let’s talk about slavery. I’m not talking about slavery in America pre-1800s. I’m speaking of world slavery; of slavery that’s been around since the beginning of civilization; since man first rose up on two legs, found a weaker individual and turned him or her into their own personal property. Think about it; slavery has been with us for so long that most of us can’t even comprehend a time when there wasn’t a question of slaves, slave ownership, slave rebellion, slave emancipation and then, slavery again in some different form and by some different name.

Isn’t it strange to say that something so uncivilized has been around since the dawn of civilization, and yet if we are to believe the Bible, murder has been around just as long. According to Discovery Education, “…In ancient civilizations, slaves were usually war captives. The victors in battle might enslave the losers rather than killing them. Over time, people have found other reasons to justify slavery. Slaves were usually considered somehow different than their owners. They might belong to a different race, religion, nationality, or ethnic background. By focusing on such differences, slave owners felt they could deny basic human rights to their slaves.” In the Bible we read in Leviticus, “…you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” Therefore, we may assume that civilization has been built by strong backs controlled by stronger wills and minds.

Officially, slavery began in the America in 1619. A Dutch slave ship stopped in Virginia and traded 23 African slaves for food and drink. Many historians prefer to talk about indentured servitude where a craftsman or other person paid their passage to the New World by serving for a certain number of years until their debt had been paid. According to one of my late relatives, George Soule, one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact and a relative, came to this country as an indentured servant. Ironically, William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony is also part of the family. How the hell that happened is anyone’s guess, but that’s history for ya.

As an institution, slavery still exists. Although it is underground, few will deny the slave trade that exists in the kidnapping of women to be used as sex slaves. We have to look no further than Cleveland and Ariel Castro to see slavery in the U.S. and don’t bet the farm that there aren’t other people out there who aren’t doing the same thing…they just have yet to be caught.

It’s difficult to believe but slavery existed elsewhere in the world until 1981 when Mauritania became the last country to formally abolish it. However, even in this African country, it did not become a crime until 2007. It may be illegal in Mauritania, but the dictator controlled country still tops the slave list with nearly four percent of its people living in slavery. Despite the fact that slavery is now considered illegal the world over, The Global Slavery Index, published by Australia’s Walk Free Foundation, lists India as still having nearly 14 million people enslaved. They are followed by China with 2.9 million and Pakistan with 2.1 million. Globally, the Index says that 30 million people around the world are live as slaves.

Despite the Civil War, War Between the States, or War for Southern Independence – however you wish to label it – and all of the legislation that has followed to end slavery and allow everyone to have equal rights, slavery still exists in America in 2013. If you don’t believe me, ask the local prostitute whose master we call a pimp. Ask the migrant worker who picks peaches or harvests lettuce or whatever. They all know what slavery is and how bad it can be. They know because it’s better here than where they come from and that’s not saying a hell of a lot. Ask the victim of domestic violence who is terrified of leaving but remains as a slave because she doesn’t know how to get out of an abusive relationship. Ask the Division I college athlete who is a hell of an athlete but whose parents could never afford to send him or her to college. What, you don’t call that slavery? What the hell else would you call it? I recall one scholarship athlete at Penn State whose coach used to wave her scholarship papers in the air before this kid’s swimming event; in other words, “Win or else!” If the “or else” happened; if that kid’s scholarship had been pulled, no way could the family have afforded to keep her in school. Ask the immigrant who is working for less than minimum wage in a drudge job that “Americans” wouldn’t do for love or money. No, slavery is not dead. It lives on throughout the world, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave, as tragic as it is.

We’ve probably all heard someone say, “Oh, he’s a slave to his job,” or something similar. There are jobs where that’s not so far off. One definition of “slave” is “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person.” In addition, we’ve all known or had bosses like Simon Legree from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, those who manage by fear and intimidation. We call them bullies, but if they control whether or not we hold a job, receive a salary, continue to be able to feed our family and have a roof over our head, are they really less evil than the old slave masters?

Since time immemorial slavery has existed. Biblical references abound in both the Old and New Testaments. As unfortunate as it may seem, it there is not one country in this world that deserves to call itself ‘civilized’ as long as slavery exists in any form. How far we have come in so many ways; what a pity we’ve advanced in so many other areas of life.

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Two of the day-long workshops that I used to teach were Domestic Violence and Bullying. Both were quite popular, and while they were far from being ‘fun’ days, it was nice to at least believe the audiences left with a better understanding of what they could do to help prevent both from happening in their community. It also taught them that like the drug war that law enforcement faces on a daily basis, we will never wipe out either of these things. Someone is battered every 15 seconds in the United States of America. You think we’re going to stop that, let me tell you about the tooth fairy. How about the occurrence of bullying? During the course of a school year, it’s estimated that a child is bullied about every seven minutes. I don’t care how many courses or penalties or workshops or whatever, you cannot stop this phenomenon. The only thing that you and I can do is work toward the prevention of these forms of cruelty.

October seventh is “Stand Up To Bullying” day. It’s a day when, particularly in Southern Florida – don’t ask me why; I don’t have a clue – everyone is supposed to wear his or her blue shirt. The little kids who are wearing them will get punched out by the bigger kids who don’t give a damn and who will be bullies until somebody comes along, kicks the crap out of them and tells them to stop bullying younger kids…or the next time it will be worse! Get one thing straight…you cannot reason with someone who is a bully, particularly if he or she is a young child. You have a ball that I want and if you won’t give it to me, I will take it because I’m bigger than you are and I can knock you down. Six and seven year old kids don’t understand peer negation behavior, and if they get away with the bullying behavior, they will continue to use it to get what they want. There are people who go through life as bullies; they bully in the workplace and when they are called on their bad behavior, they either back off temporarily or they move on to a job where they can get away with it. Management by intimidation is not a myth, and that is a form of bullying.

I went off on a tangent in that preceding paragraph and I really didn’t mean to do so; it’s just that old habits die hard, and both of those topics really raise my blood pressure. By the way, October ninth is Domestic Violence day. They probably have a shirt for that, too, but I haven’t seen them on sale yet. It’s no laughing matter, and I shouldn’t make light of a situation that is just so repugnant to me, but it seems that the American way is to designate a day, week, or month to some cause or other. Many of these celebratory – if that’s what one wishes to call them – days are no cause for celebration at all. They are ongoing and bad things that we should be trying, with everything we’ve got, to eradicate them.

Depending on the calendar to which you adhere, October is Fair Trade, Pizza, Computer Learning, National Roller Skating, International Dinosaur, Hunger Awareness, and several other celebratory months. Personally, I look at October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is one of the cancers that contributed to the death of my wife so it makes October a pretty easy month for me to be more aware of that @#$%&* disease.

It seems that every day of the year has some kind of recognition. For example, my birthday, September 1st, is also Emma M. Nutt Day. ..don’t laugh. While Emma may have gone the way of the dinosaur because of technology, she was the world’s first telephone operator…sort of a patron saint of those switchboard wonders of yesteryear. It’s also Calendar Adjustment Day, and I don’t have a freakin’ clue what that is. As I was growing up, my parents seemed to take great delight in letting me know that on my fifth birthday, Hitler invaded Poland. Somehow, I never thought of that as being something of an accomplishment…although I have mentioned it to a few grandchildren as they were celebrating their fifth. They invariably let me know my age by responding, “What’s a Hitler?” Lovely little shits! September is also Chicken Month which could, in part, explain why I never became a boxer or a football player in the NFL, although I believe it actually means we are celebrating that fine bird that can be eaten in so many ways. If we begin the month with Emma Nutt, we end it with National Mudpack day. “Make yourself beautiful for Mud Pack Day by plastering your face and skin with (safe, ‘clean’) mud! Keep your skin supple, your pores clear and your face looking youthful and clean – just don’t forget to wipe the mud off!” Thus endeth the month of September.

You and I are living in a time when there is too little humor in our lives. Between the gun violence that is taking place not only in our country but throughout the world, the fear of our own government having to shut down, a staggering national debt for which there really is no cure, unemployment, and an economy that is moving ahead at what seems a snail’s pace, it seems easier to walk around with a grimace rather than a grin. Hey, don’t take life too seriously; what the hell, you ain’t gonna get out of it alive!

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Becoming a member of a high school, college, or professional athletic team does not mean that one must get sodomized by other members of the team. Having a pine cone, a pencil, a broken flagpole, or a baseball bat or hockey stick stuffed up your butt is not “what everyone else goes through,” nor is it an appropriate rite of passage. Having to drink urine or actually get raped by a teammate’s penis, or in the case of women, a dildo, does not contribute to one’s maturation process. Drowning while attempting to walk across a swollen river does not prove you are a man; it proves you’re an idiot.

These are a sampling of the hazing procedures that have taken place…in 2013. These aren’t historic cases from eons ago. These are now. In a number of cases, police have become involved and some of the more senior team members are facing sexual battery charges. In a case at Virginia State University, charges of manslaughter are being sought against several students after two freshmen were swept away attempting to cross a river that had been engorged by unusually heavy rainfall.

It appears that hazing, rather than losing its luster after the death of a marching band member at Florida A & M, has actually been gaining in popularity. At Towson University (MD), the entire girls cheerleading team has been suspended from competition for a year after discovery of a hazing incident. “Hazing in any form will not be tolerated at Towson University. We hold high expectations for all of our students and their conduct as leaders, both on and off campus,” Deb Moriarty, Towson University’s vice president for student affairs, said in the statement. “Out of concern for students’ privacy and their rights to due process that includes their right to appeal the suspension, it would be inappropriate for the university to comment further.” Meanwhile, the executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators appears to feel that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Since the school is in ‘no comment’ mode, as it should be, perhaps the head of the cheerleading association should have no comment at all.

Sodomy with their fingers seems to be a favorite hazing technique for this academic year. Five Plano (IL) high school students are facing criminal charges, including criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery and unlawful restraint after finger-fucking a younger basketball player. What I really don’t understand is the attitude of Eric Weis, Kendall County State’s attorney…”It wouldn’t meet the legal definition of what we consider hazing but it’s as close as you can come.” What do you want, Mr. State’s attorney, to have the kid butt-fucked by the entire team as halftime entertainment?

More and more institutions have adopted a zero tolerance policy when it comes to hazing during initiation for any kind of club, athletic or not. The problem comes when hazing is reported and the reporter becomes the victim. Such was the case at Milford, MA when a football coach saw what he considered to be hazing and blew his top. He was fired for yelling at the boys doing the hazing. The superintendent of schools – who was not in the locker room, by the way – has described the incident as “inappropriate rough-housing.” Can you say “cover my ass?”

There is no place for physical assault of any kind on any individual for any reason…ever. When I pledged a fraternity many moons ago, sure, I got my pant-covered butt slapped with “the paddle,” but my pants were never down to my knees nor was my butt ever exposed…and ours was one considered to have a pretty tough initiation process.

Today, it appears that there is no regard for a person’s dignity during the initiation process. The New England Patriots have a tradition of cutting the hair of the new players after they’ve made the team. It’s looked on as a part of the welcoming process…and some of the haircuts are pretty weird. This is a far cry from holding a younger high school football player down while an upperclassman rubs the younger one’s face with his genetalia. That is just plain sick.

Hazing has become humiliation. It has no place in high school or college. It’s about time that more colleges and universities joined places like Towson and say, “We will have zero tolerance for any form of hazing and will suspend or expel anyone so charged with that offense.” In other words, grow a pair Mr., Ms., Dean, and Doctor; grow a pair and stand your ground. You may lose your popularity, but you just might prevent a suicide or a murder.

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I’m a New Englander, born and bred. I’m also …correction…I have been at different points in my life, an ardent Boston sports fan. I remember when Pumpsie Green became the first Black man to play for the Boston Red Sox, and the Sox were the last major league team to have a minority on their roster…I said, “sports fan” not sports fanatic. It had been twelve years since Jackie Robinson had broken baseball’s color barrier, but hey, what can I tell you?

I’m old enough to remember going to a National League game at Braves Field on Commonwealth Avenue to watch Earl Torgeson, Tommy Holmes,  Sam Jethroe, Sibi Sisti, and the whole crowd. Compared to the stadiums of today, that was like a Little League field; no wonder they left Boston. While I never did get to wherever the hell the Boston Patriots were playing at the time, I was wise enough to realize that football is played in weather that is generally fit only for mad dogs and Englishmen. George Pyne, an old friend from the Cape (Cod, that is) played for them; then got traded to San Diego. He hung up his cleats when they wanted to ‘shoot up’ his knees for every game.

The Boston Bruins – pronounced “Broons” if you’re from around here – had the Kraut Line of Bobby Bauer, Woody Dumart and Milt Schmidt and later a couple of hotshots named Bobby Orr and Derek Sanderson. I was never a huge hockey fan, but everyone in Boston became a fan in that 1969-1970 season when Orr took a pass from Sanderson to beat the St. Louis Blues to win Lord Stanley’s cup.

These were all tough people. From Ted Williams and Walt Dropo, of the Sox, Tommy Heinsohn and Jim Lusctucoff of the Celtics, any member of the Pats and Bruins, these were hardened competitors. The thing is that I don’t recall one of them being hauled into court on domestic violence, armed robbery, drunk driving, or murder charges. What has happened? I’m not talking about Boston professional sports teams only; I’m speaking of professional sports teams everywhere. Steroids and drug use, lying to Congress and expecting to get away with it; committing acts of mayhem and violence, are these the heroes we want our kids to emulate? Thankfully, my Little League catcher son had Carlton Fisk as a role model!

There are still plenty of heroes in professional sports. Unfortunately, these are the same people whose names never appear on police reports. These are the people who don’t believe they’re bigger than they truly are. These are the folks who know that they’re not above the law and act accordingly. They go to practice or to a game; they do their job…well or not so well, depending on the game, and then they pack it in and move on.

Then there are “the others;” These are the people who believe they should be allowed to do any damned thing they wish and get away with it. Since the last Super Bowl, 28 players from the NFL have been arrested. Few can rank up there with Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots who has been arrested for one murder and may find himself facing additional charges. Ausar Walcott of the Cleveland Browns found himself charged with attempted murder after punching a man in the head outside a club in New Jersey. The Browns, as did the Patriots with Hernandez, released Walcott from their roster immediately.

The list goes on and on. There’s no need to recite the arrests, allegations, or suspensions. What these idiots fail to realize or more likely don’t give a damn about, is that they are – like it or not, Charles Barkley – role models for young kids. It’s just something that goes with the talent and the territory. When hockey players drop the gloves on the ice, everybody cheers. If those same hockey players beat someone to death, the cheers would turn to jeers and questions of why that happened. Fights are a part of hockey. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Do that in college and you’re suspended for one game or more. Basketball players get into fights on the court; emotions run high; there’s big money at stake. Off the court, for the most part, you hear comparatively little about them. The steroid scandal in baseball is bad but the guilty are now being punished. They may never be heard from again, but should we do so, you can bet your boots they’ll behave a bit differently.

It’s time that professional athletes be informed once more what they mean to their fans. David Ortiz’s outburst the other day was totally out of line. By his actions he has given permission for everyone who roots for him and the Red Sox permission to blow off steam by destroying something in the immediate vicinity. I didn’t happen to see where that “called strike” was, but I certainly have never seen the emotional Ortiz lose his cool that way. Remember what you mean to Boston, David.

I suppose it’s easy for professional athletes to believe they’re something special. In point of fact, they are; great talent; great ability; great paychecks…that does not give them the right to humiliate themselves, their teams or their fans. You’re not gods, guys; get over yourselves.

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Jihadists appear to hate America for any number of reasons. The two that stand out to me is that we’re trying to establish a government in their country that is foreign to their own and many of them don’t want it. For over 2500 years, they’ve been tribal cultures. They fight with other tribes over anything; they seem to like fighting and killing one another and struggling to survive. There are other people in those countries who’d like to change that and become more modern, and the jihads don’t appear to want that. I would compare it – if I wanted to really stretch a point – to the slaves before the Civil War stating that they really didn’t want to be free; that they liked getting beaten and raped on a regular basis. Certainly, it’s an invidious comparison at best, but that’s exactly how it sometimes appears. Another reason the jihadists appear to hate Americans is that they believe we have so much and they have so little. They appear to believe that all Americans are rich which, as we all know is total bullshit.

Everything that we have in America we have because we fought for it. We fought for our freedom against the British – not once but twice. We fought our fathers and brothers and cousins for the freedom of people who are of a different color. We fought for world freedom in two wars and have attempted to settle disputes between groups in so many other countries, I probably couldn’t even name the entire set. We have fought openly and courageously since the beginnings of our country. We have fought for freedom, and it has cost us dearly.

The key word in all of this is “freedom;” it isn’t kill or jihad or Allah vs. God; it’s freedom, and too many goddamned good men and women have sacrificed everything to ensure that you and I have that freedom. The problem is that too many Americans don’t truly appreciate their freedom. Gold Star mothers and fathers do. Wives with kids who will grow up without a dad do;; Fiancées who’ll never walk down the aisle with the one they love do, But if it’s never hit you right in the gut that Harry Hunt will never walk down Belmont Street in Rockland one more time; that Ed Hurtig will never set foot on Sandy Beach in Cohasset again; that Willie Jordan won’t watch a Friday night football game in Austin again, ever, then you really don’t know what it’s like. I don’t; I admit that; on one level, I’m not really sorry that I don’t know that feeling. I can’t imagine the pain that Mrs. Hunt went through. I saw the agony on Ed’s brother Carl’s face as he unveiled Ed’s portrait, and I did know Carl. Willie is just a kid I heard about and about the call his Mom made to another mother when Willie was killed in Vietnam. On another level, I know that it would make me much more appreciative of what I have if I had experienced that sacrifice first hand…but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

Too many of us think of Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and the Fourth of July as a time for parades, a day or two off, and fireworks. They are those things, but they are so much more. They symbolize sacrifice for a reason; they symbolize fighting for our freedom, the freedom we have today. Perhaps I’m being too selfish by writing about this from an American point of view. Certainly, if you’re English, French, Belgian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, or a citizen of any other ‘free’ nation, you know what I’m saying.

Tomorrow, July 4, 2013, would have been our 56th wedding anniversary. Joan always wanted to get married on a holiday, and I think we picked one of the best. It’s the day we lost our independence from one another, but it’s the day we gained our dependence on one another. It’s also the day our nation gave up its dependence on another and became America, a place where freedom reigns. There will come a time – soon, I hope – when every American can celebrate our freedom and independence on our own soil; a time when moms and dads won’t have to keep looking out the front door, afraid of seeing some soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines walking up to the front porch to deliver the bad news; a time when relatives won’t gather at an airport to watch a son, daughter, cousin, father, or mother carried off in a coffin. Until that time comes I urge each and everyone to remember the true meaning of the holidays we celebrate.

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