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Nike!!!

Most sports-minded folks know the story of the Greek runner Pheidippides.  After the Athenians defeated the Persians at the Greek city of Marathon, he’s the gent who ran back to Athens to tell of the victory.  When he arrived, he yelled, “Nike!” and dropped dead.  Some 2500 years later, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight named a shoe after Pheidippides’ historic howl.

Sad part is, this “first” marathon most likely never occurred and is a myth.  Pheidippides’ earlier trip is more noteworthy and demonstrates that a 26 mile trip to Athens was a mere mosey in the park.  Pheidippides was one of many Greek messengers or runners who delivered news about the city-states of ancient Greece.  Before the battle of Marathon,  Pheidippides ran 140 miles to Sparta to encourage the Spartans to assist the Athenians against the Persians.  The Spartans couldn’t leave Sparta until the full moon for religious reasons (wouldn’t you know it) so Pheidippides ran the return trip, all 140 miles of it, back to Athens.  It was a 36 hour trip each way! It’s doubtful that a simple “marathon” would kill such a man.

At the turn of the 20th Century, a distance race commemorating the myth of Pheidippides’ run was born.  The first marathon distance run was 24.8 miles, but was lengthened to 26.2 miles at the 1908 London Olympics.  The distance had little to do with the distance between Athens to Sparta and more to do with the distance from Windsor Castle to London’s Olympic Stadium.

The marathon tradition continued throughout the Twentieth Century for many great hardcore distance runners, but as of late, say the last 10 years, the marathon is an”every man, woman and child” bucket list ambition.  Today, marathons and many other difficult sports events for amateurs are clogged with people who are satisfied with “finishing” the event with little interest in competing.  It never occurs to these so-called athletes to look at the clock and realize one simple fact–  it’s a race!  You are supposed to train, prepare, learn and compete.

Triathlete injured by "corinthian" biker

The boating industry uses a great term for someone to knows nothing about navigating waterways or boating safety–  corinthians.  These “sports” corinthians are as dangerous as those on the waterways with their blatant disregard of the rules and cheerful self-indulgence as they step on others or cut them off on the course.  Nice people, but not athletes.  They are an insult to true amateur athletes who train, learn the rules and compete with all the nerve and sinew humans can muster.  They push into starting corrals with faster paced runners or competitors clogging the course when the real athletes are forced to pass them.  They are a danger to themselves and others and many die due to overexertion and stress, or in the case of triathons, they drown during the swimming portion.

Marathons, shorter distance runs and triathons are full of corinthians as the number of participants swells each year.  The Philadelphia Blue Cross 10-mile Broad Street Run is one race that suffers this fate, as the number of runners now tops 40,000!  Because of this, many of the races now only allow admission by lottery, leaving many top-notch athletes out of the race.

If you’re not serious about an event, except to finish or show your friends “you can do it,” do something else.  Find a fun run, walk-a-thon or just sit on the couch where you belong!  Don’t dream about being an amateur athlete unless you’re willing to go the distance– learn the rules, train and practice sportsmanship.  Anything less and you’re a threat!

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Indiana Wants Me! Lord, I Can’t Go Back There!

Much the buzz at the Miss America Pageant this year as Miss Indiana sashayed across the stage during the swimsuit competition.  As contestants go, she was the veritable “chunky  monkey” of the group.  Twitter was alive with comments regarding the “normal” look of Mekayla Diehl.  Most complimented her on her normal body appearance and one woman stated it was nice to see someone was was not just “a bag of bones.”

The majority of the tweets, oddly enough, were from women and compared Miss Diehl’s average shape with their own.  Others quickly fired back that Miss Indiana was hardly normal.  According to Livestrong.com, the average American woman in 2010 was 5’4″ tall and weighed in at a hefty 166 pounds.  Miss Indiana wears a size 4 and the average American woman dons a 14.  Miss Indiana is a towering rail next to Jane Average.

So, are women deluding themselves when they compare themselves to Mekayla Diehl?  To understand this subject a little better, let’s consider the female form throughout the ages.  At the dawn of enlightenment, namely the Renaissance, women and men, weren’t concerned about a few extra pounds on a lady. In fact, voluptuous women were the order of the day and like a good pizza, men preferred their women with a little “extra cheese.”

When the Victorian age came into being in the early 1800′s, women became body conscious and cinched waistlines were born.  Of course, this didn’t mean that the body beneath the torturous gear was thin, but the look was there.

The roaring twenties brought the first skinny women of fashion onto the social scene, as “flappers” hid their curves, bobbed their hair and danced around waving a finger at everybody, but the following decades took a turn for the curvier.  Women were conscious of muscle tone and began lifting weights, besides laundry baskets, which accentuated natural curves in the hips and breasts.  Then tragedy struck!

In the 1960′s, curves went to hell in a hand basket!  One word sums up the worst figure in modern history– Twiggy!  A apt name and the antithesis of a healthy looking figure in a world full of food.  It was a turning point for the Madison Avenue look regarding models and other advertising figures.  Big name designers now preferred skinny women in their photo shoots as not to”distract” potential buyers from the product.

Since the 1960′s, many young women starve themselves, literally, to achieve that All American cover girl look, a look, unfortunately, that most others find displeasing.  Anorexia and bulimia ruin many young teen women’s lives simply because they wish to emulate this look.  Sadly for them, most men still prefer their women they way they like their pizza.  Hugh Heffner knew this when he cast Marilyn Monroe as his first cover girl in December 1953.

So when the average American women praises Miss Indiana as the new “normal” and compares herself to her, is it a delusion?  Or maybe, just maybe, women are becoming comfortable again with their looks, shape and weight.  And if you’re a guy reading this, go kiss your wife or girlfriend and order a pizza.

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To Thine Own Self Be True!

Magic Johnson and I have one thing in common–  neither of us is going to a Los Angeles Clippers game any time soon.  Los Angeles Clippers owner, for now, Donald Sterling and I also appear to share something–   neither of us likes Magic Johnson.  Not for the same reasons, however.  Although Mr. Johnson is a fantastic basketball player, I find him reprehensible as an athlete.  Why?  Because I feel that athleticism and sportsmanship are qualities that you don’t leave on the playing field, court, or diamond.  When Mr. Johnson contracted aids through one of his many sexual partners and endangered the health of his pregnant wife, Cookie, he ceased being anything that is good or applaudable in sports.  An athlete he is not.

Donald Sterling’s problem with Magic Johnson?  I’m not sure.  After listening to the infamous “unverified” audio tape released by TMZ, I’m more confused than ever.  In a private conversation, Donald Sterling told then girlfriend, V. Stiviano, that he was upset over an Instagram posted showing her with Magic Johnson.  The whole sports world and the National Basketball Association deems the taped conservation a racist rant and wants Sterling out as the team’s owner.  By what authority, I can only imagine.  However, it’s clear that being taped by your ex-friend while telling her you’d rather not see her in public with blacks, and who you are now suing for embezzling $1.8 million dollars from you, resulting in her saying she’ll “get even,” is a bigger crime than screwing a bunch of whores with STD’s, thus endangering your wife and unborn child.  Do the math:

Billionaire team owner + Chick with a tape recorder =  Racist bastard who loses team

Basketball star + illicit affairs with diseased sluts = Sports hero/wealthy businessman

Now, put aside for a moment, that the taped conversation sounded more like an interrogation, was almost studio quality and that Sterling said Magic Johnson should be admired, that Stiviano could hang with blacks, bring them “in,” or sleep with them, which, by the way, confuses the hell out of me, let’s assume that Sterling really, really thinks blacks are inferior in some way.  This qualifies him as a full-blown racist.

Black athletes certainly don’t want to work for a racist team owner, and I’m sure many whites prefer not to play or associate with any sports team owned, operated, or coached by bigots.  But, with the enormous salaries involved, I really can’t blame someone of any color for playing the game under the direction or ownership of morally bankrupt people.

The top three players for the LA Clippers are paid approximately $11 million to $20 million each.  Considering the Clippers play 82 games per season, a twenty million dollar salary is almost a quarter of a million dollars per game.  This is a big incentive to not piss off the boss, but in this case, no one could blame a black man for quitting a team owned by a racist.

The players didn’t quit the Clippers.  They didn’t even boycott one game.  They staged a silent protest. During the team warmup, they removed their warmup shirts showing the red Clippers T-shirts inside out! After the warmup, of course, they played the game in their regular uniforms– a game which they lost.  Wow!  Shades of the sixties racial riots!  What a protest!  That’ll show old Donald Sterling!

They didn’t walk off the team, they didn’t skip a game or two, they didn’t engage in a sit down strike or give back some the racist’s money–  they turned their T-shirts inside out, careful not to jeopardize those million dollar salaries.  Way to go, guys, to thine own self be true.

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Eugenics! It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore!

The term eugenics conjures visions of evil in today’s world.  Literally meaning “good birth” from the Greek words eu (good) and genos (birth), eugenics is study of improving the human race, particularly through selective breeding.  Images of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during the 1930′s fill our heads as history reminds us of Hitler’s fallacy of creating a “tall, blue-eyed, blonde-haired super race of Ayrans” by eliminating those people with unfavorable characteristics.  That whole idea was off to a bad start, since “Aryan” describes prehistoric Iranians.  The characteristics Hitler was describing are “Nordic.”  More fascinating, however, is how a short, bombastic, dark-haired, brown-eyed Austrian convinced the German people that he was the man qualified to build a master race.

Fictionally, eugenics never fared any better than in real life.  Armed with the belief that human beings are imperfect and can be improved, the fear of the end result caused writers and playwrights to “throw a monkey wrench” into any story involving the improvement of humankind.  Whether it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Homunculus, The Island of Dr. Moreau, or Frankenstein, the message is pretty much the same–  don’t fuck around creating the perfect being!

Of course, all these writings were based on creating soulless creatures and were prior to the little skit put on by the Nazi’s in the 1930′s and 40′s.  Most “eugenics” based writings were considered wild science fiction that could never happen or dealt with the new theory of evolution and natural selection as described by Charles Darwin.  After World War II and the atrocities of the Holocaust, much novel writing and movie producing of fresh or derivative works were tailored around the Nazi model.

Not until after the Watson and Crick model of the DNA molecule was presented in 1953 did fictional stories develop based on the mechanism of eugenics–  the DNA molecule itself.  As the boundary between fiction and non-fiction started to erode, stories took an eerie course through the land of make believe and reality, as for the first time, we realized we can change the way we look, feel and act without sewing, cutting or breeding.

This new knowledge allowed Dr. Bruce Banner to screw up his DNA with gamma radiation and for Khan Noonian Singh to nap in a sleeper ship for 300 years before taking over the Enterprise.  But true to the liberal arts, we all know that the Hulk won’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it and that Captain Kirk will eventually slip a control rod from an engineering console to beat the shit out of Khan.  Why?  Because we fallacious, imperfect humans win in the fictional, fantasy world; Bruce Banner’s compassionate soul and James Kirk’s fiery, if not flawed, determination or “inner madman” protects us from a world of superior beings.

More frightening than any Hollywood production is the notion that eugenics and the sterilization of human beings was not a Nazi invention, but was imported by Germany from none other than the United States.  Decades before Hitler’s antics, the U.S. practiced ethnic cleansing by restrictive marriage laws, “segregated” colonies and sterilization.  Laws for forced sterilizations, forced segregation and restrictive marriage laws were enacted in over 27 states in the union, and nothing prohibits the practice of eugenics today.

The idea of ridding the world of unfit humans was funded by some of the world’s leading financiers, such as the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman Railroad.  Scientists in noted institutions like Stanford, Harvard and Yale all studied and supported race theory and race science.  In fact, the Rockefeller Foundation funded several eugenics programs in Germany before World War II, including one that with Josef Mengele just before he went to Auschwitz.

California’s eugenics kingpin and founder of Sacramento State College, C.M. Goethe, grabs the all time 20th Century Adolf Award in eugenics.  Besides establishing a program that helped California lead all states in forced sterilizations (over 20,000 before 1964), Goethe proudly told a colleague:

“You will be interested to know that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought . . . I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life, that you have really jolted into action a great government of 60 million people.”

Naturally, California is not going to let a little Nazi history get in the way of staying in the lead as the state prison system spayed 148 unwilling women inmates between 2006 and 2010.  So pull up a chair, grab your knife, fork and a cold glass of orange juice any time of the day– it’s not just for breakfast anymore!

Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune – See more at: http://hnn.us/article/1796#sthash.oO6Ur1QS.dpuf
Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune – See more at: http://hnn.us/article/1796#sthash.oO6Ur1QS.dpuf
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The Sum Of All Fears . . .

You looked relieved when the doctor handed me your 8 pound daughter.  Her small pink, blood-smeared body wiggled and squirmed as I headed out the door to the nurse who would weigh her, measure her and pinch her skin.  I returned to find you hovering over a cereal bowl and grinning because you could drink tea again.

Each day, as that little girl grew, you played, nurtured and loved her as if nothing else, or no one else, mattered. Each night, you read her to sleep, a habit that serves her to this day as she consumes a veritable library of books. You’re proud of her accomplishments and all her academic milestones.

You dressed her as if she were royalty, never taking time to fit something for yourself.  You scrubbed her and cleaned her as if she was a fine diamond, taught her manners and did not tolerate sloppiness.  You traveled miles so she could partake in anything she wanted.  You were, and are, always there for her, watching, hoping for the best.  And when she left for college, you cried because you thought she would never return.

You worried that you were not a good mother and that some day your daughter would forget you.  You followed her for what seems to be your whole life.  Now, you face a late-stage incurable disease, but your first thought is of your daughter.  You’re glad you spent all those hours with her.  There is no remorse for the path you took.  Today you ask yourself, what of her painWill she forget me when I’m gone? No denial or anger on your part; just acceptance– acceptance and the willingness to fight– fight for each day and more.

Yesterday, you sat and thought how much you wanted her here with you on Mother’s Day, but you know she’s a young woman with a busy schedule and much responsibility.  You tell yourself you understand when really you’re not sure.  What you didn’t know is that later that afternoon when you walked into the kitchen, she would be standing there.  Your quivering chin and tears tell the tale.  You are still in awe of the daughter you wrought.  She hugs you and tells you she wanted to be with you on Mother’s Day.  She will never forget you and will always be with you.

Happy Mother’s Day . . .

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The Eyes Have It!

Thank God for college surveys and studies!  Without them, life is not worth living!  Harvard is the leader of such copious investigations and once such work is released, well, the world is a much better place.

The Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study (CAS) was started 1992 and continued for 14 years.  The conclusion?  Ban beer kegs at college dormitories and fraternities and the general matriculating student body will sober up.  It also coined a new term, binge drinking, so that if you really aren’t an alcoholic, but drink up to four beers at a sitting, you too, can be saddled with a pejorative label like real drunks.  Problem solved!

Now students buy cases of beer, tape black trash bags over the windows, and slosh down the cans or bottles with a couple of friends in a couple of hours as not to get pinched by an undercover cop.  They’re sloppy drunk, but at least they don’t get caught.  And as a bonus, if someone stops by with a “drinking questionnaire,”  they won’t remember a thing, so after the next “alcoholic survey,” statistics should dramatically improve.

But what of the little children of the world?  Can’t we do something for them?  Well,  Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab (yes, a Food and Brand Lab!) is saving the little tykes from the monstrous marketing techniques of cereal advertisers.  So what’s going on here?  As James Doohan of Star Trek fame would say, “It’s a ploy!”  Of course it’s a ploy, Scotty!  That’s what cereal makers do; they sell cereal!  And,by golly, Cornell caught them in the act!

To expose the crafty black art of breakfast food advertising, click the graphic on the right.  You’ll notice that Cap’n Crunch is staring a hole through the middle of your child just like Mom did you she caught you drinking milk from the carton.  Everyone in that drawing is ganging up on your kid– Mr. T, Trix the Rabbit, Papa Smurf, 3CPO and more.  You do see it, don’t you?  ‘Cause I can’t.

Cornell’s “Cereal Box” crew would have us believe that, like Leonard da Vinci or Thomas Gainesborough, industrial cereal box artists can reproduce a cartoon character whose eyes stare at you as you stroll down the supermarket aisle with your little one.

The Director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, Dr. Brian Wansink, calculated the angle of the listless, two-dimensional gazes down to the tenths!  Grocery store stock personnel are apparently trained in trigonometric functions as they carefully place the cartoon characters strategically on the shelves so that it catches the attention of your little precious at an exact angle of 9.6 degrees.  Huh?!?

Pretending for a moment that such eyeball-o-metric guesstimation is accurate, consider the eyes of Trix the Rabbit below.  Take a good look at those iris-less, flat-black peepers and ask yourself which one invokes 16% more trust.  I thought so.  I don’t know what the hell this stupid rabbit is looking at and neither does your kid.  And should one of the these goofy caricatures catch the conscience of the kid, tough!  Cereal’s too expensive, too sweet and too unhealthy.  Let them eat cake.  Until next time, here’s looking a you, kid!

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I’m Sorry! That’s What I Meant to Say!

She was very pleasant on the phone!  Her smile and courtesy reflected in her voice as she sweetly explained the whole procedure to a customer.  Then young receptionist said, “You’re quite welcome!” in response to an obvious hearty “thank you” from the customer.  As she reached out to hang up the phone, she began to grimace.  It then tightened into a scowl as the phone grew ever closer to its cradle.  When the receiver was two inches from the phone, she slammed it into place and growled, “Die, you ungrateful bitch!”  She looked up to see me smiling at her from the customer window.  She smiled back and said, “Oh, I’m sorry!  That’s what I meant to say!”

There’s a little evil in all of us– all of us that matter, that is!  Those with no inner evil, if they do exist, don’t last very long.  No matter how sweet, dainty or cute, there’s a little bit of the Incredible Hulk ready to peek out once we hit the breaking point.  It’s the part of us that is politically incorrect and keeps our scoured souls alive and well.  But is it a good idea to speak your mind?  Is it necessarily evil or just rude and stupid?

Mostly, it’s a matter of communication; a sort of a time and a place dilemma.  In the example of the young lady above, her rude thoughts could never be heard by the customer without the risk of losing her job. It wasn’t the time or place.  Saying the right thing to keep your job is called “posturing.”  Posturing in this case is behaving in a way that impresses or deceives someone.  In statu quo, as it were, requires a well-developed posturing personality, while your actual personality is in check.

Children do not posture well.  They tend to say what they’re thinking and they behave, well, like children.  The older you get, the better you posture.  The better you posture, the more successful you are in life.  Most strife in the world is caused by what is adeptly stated by “The Captain” in the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

One of the first steps in determining how people communicate is determining personality types.   In his book, Psychological Types, Carl Gustav Jung theorized that humans experience the world by four functions: sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking.  Jung believed in two pairs of psychological functions.  One he describes as the “rational,” or judging functions, thinking and feeling, and the other pair as the “irrational,” or perceiving functions, sensation and intuition.

A mother and daughter team, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, studied Jung’s work extensively and developed the personality inventory known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  Originally developed to determine what jobs were suitable for women during World War II, Meyers and Briggs expanded the theory to include four sets of dichotomous preferences: extroversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J) versus introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P).  None of these characteristics are considered bad or good, but are used to determine what type of behavior is likely if, say, a person was more extroverted, sensing, thinking and judgmental (ESTJ) than a person who tended to be introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceptive (INFP).  Such characteristics can be tested as demonstrated by the link below:

Take the personality test yourself!

Once preferences are tested and decided, it is much easier to determine how people communicate and, more importantly, how people do not communicate.  More often than not, people don’t like each other nor understand each other merely because people say the same thing a different way.  One example involves a news reporter from Philadelphia, Monica Malpass, who, while interviewing the fire chief in Allentown, PA, was visibly appalled when he stated that “it was luck that only three people died” in a retirement home fire.  The chief was a practical thinking, judgmental extrovert.  The slightly introverted, compassionate, feeling reporter continued her report based on her viewpoint that 68 residents were saved.  You can be sure that the thick-skinned fire chief was not at all offended by her characterization of the event.

Of course, once you are branded a certain personality type, that’s not the end of the story.  If you answer the test questions honestly, this indicates your actual personality type, or what you would think and say with a couple of friends over a few beers.  Like the young receptionist at the beginning of this story, we all have two personality types–  the actual and the postured.  Hopefully, you behave differently at the office or during an interview than you do at the bar.  This requires a little more extensive testing, and very few folks end up with the same personality type in both casual and formal settings.  My actual personality type is extroverted, sensing, thinking, judgmental.  My posturing personality type is extroverted, sensing, thinking, perceiving.  Apparently, I’m overbearing, but I can fool some of the people some of the time.  There are folks that can’t posture at all, but I think they’re on Duck Dynasty.  Oops!  I’m sorry!  That’s what I meant to say!

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Chief!

Who comes to mind when you think about the world’s most successful coach?  A lot of big names impress us, particularly in the National Football League and for good reason.  It’s tough to win in the NFL and names like Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Chuck Noll, Paul Brown, John Madden and Tom Landry are remembered not because they were good coaches . . . they were great coaches.  The memories of great college coaches also abound – Bear Bryant, Ari Parseghian, Woody Hayes, Knute Rockney.  From women’s basketball to high school football, there are hundreds of obscure coaches like Larry Kehres, Jack Curran, Scott Rueck and Gil Steinke.  Many were descent athletes before they plunged into coaching; some were not.

I met a man in 1966, who produced more undefeated teams, either as a player or mentor, than anyone I know, yet, he died in obscurity in Linwood, New Jersey in 1972 at the age of 78.  A talented multi-sport athlete and coach, his name was Claude Newberry, but everybody called him “Chief.”

Chief was one-quarter Mohawk Indian and his Native American heritage dominated his features.  Bronze skin and a lantern jaw complimented his coal-black hair, which swept straight back from his forehead.  In his later years, his dark eyes sparkled as he went back in time, telling tales of the gridiron, ball diamond and boxing ring, his weathered face and jaw set in fiery determination.

Chief’s athletic career began at Neptune High School in New Jersey, where he captained the football team and returned to coach winning teams until 1924.  He won two (2) state championships both as a player and a coach, one in 1912, the other 1923.  Winning, let alone capturing state championships, was tough at Neptune, since Newberry’s football squad consisted of about 19 boys, smaller than most of Neptune’s opponents.

The power and tenacity of Newberry’s Neptune team is demonstrated in the following story from 1922:

Atlantic City High School, a top enrollment, Class “A” team, booked a “breather” before a big Thanksgiving Day rival game with the National Farm School (Delaware Valley College).  That “breather” was little Neptune High School and A.C. was riding a five game winning streak, all shutouts.  Newberry’s band of gridiron bandits beat Atlantic City 6-0.  Atlantic City went on to win the South Jersey Championship.  The following year, Atlantic City traveled to Neptune bent on revenge for the earlier loss, but Newberry’s boys slaughtered the Vikings 32-0, their only loss of the season.  As the all-sports coach at Neptune, his baseball team was also stellar, capturing the New Jersey State title in 1923, the same year as his football championship.  The diamond players racked up a record of 23-0 against its opponents.

The following year, Atlantic City was undefeated, but Chief was now coaching for Atlantic City!  In the spring of 1925, Coach Newberry helped coach the Viking baseball and track teams, both winning their respective South Jersey Championships.  He left Atlantic City’s team after a year to become the athletic director at Upsala College, but the draw of the gridiron was too strong as he took the helm of the football team at Manasquan High School and produced two consecutive title teams.  His success attracted attention up and down the East Coast and he was lured to Florida where he produced a string of unbeaten the title teams for 12 years for the Miami Military Academy and the Florida Military Academy.  His 1933 Miami football team was not only undefeated, but held all opponents scoreless.


After high school and before his coaching career, Chief attended Syracuse University where he was a outstanding fullback.  He also played basketball, ran track and played baseball for the Orangemen.  In between, Chief would do a little boxing and wrestling on campus just for fun.

He played professional football for the Atlantic City Roses and the Newark Tornadoes for a few years as a fullback, quarterback, placekicker and punter, but severe knees injuries slowed him down after a few seasons.  The ravages of the old injuries caused him to shuffle in old age.  But the fire was still there as I watched him slowly drag his feet, open the trunk of his car, a black 1958 Chevy, and pull out an old football.

“Let me show you the secret to punting the football,” he said in a deep voice.  “Now I can’t really punt it far anymore, but I can show you the basics,” he continued as he dropped the ball and launched a perfect 30 yard spiral.  I was amazed that this old man could hardly walk, but kicked the ball so perfect and with such ease.  He grinned as he watched the ball sail and hit the ground.  He stared across the field for a moment and I knew he was somewhere else . . . somewhere else in a different time.  He loved football.

I walked into the church at Linwood, New Jersey that hot summer day in 1972 with my father.  Chief was there, lying in state in front of the church, his wife, Peggy, crying and sobbing, “My Chiefy . . . God’s taken my Chiefy!” At the sight of my father, she jumped to her feet and clung to my dad, still sobbing “My Chiefy!”  As I walked to the casket, the barrel-chested Chief looked much in death as he did in life.  Still robust, still bronze, but silent.  The grimace on his face was the same one I saw when he described how determined he, or anyone, should be when running with the football.  My father stayed for a few minutes to console Mrs. Newberry.  No one else was in the church.

As we left, I turned and looked back at the sad, lonely scene.  It didn’t seem right.  What of Chief? I thought.  What of Chief?

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Glorious Pistorius!

It reads like a movie pitch.  A double-amputee Olympic runner who supposedly guns down his girlfriend by accident on none other than Valentine’s Day.  As the movie dawns on the screen, a beat up 1959 Peugeot convertible rolls up to the scene of the crime and a short dark-haired stogie-toting detective in a rumpled beige Italian raincoat steps out, a swirl of smoke trailing behind.  Oh, one more thing, it’s not a movie script, but the real life trials and tribulations of the controversial runner, Oscar Pistorius.

The highly successful Paralympic champion from South Africa is now on trial for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February of 2013.  Oscar claims it was an accident, that he thought she was an intruder and shot her through the bathroom door.  Paranoia, stupidity or plain old murder?  We may never know but I do know that most intruders rush to the bathroom as soon as they break in a home or building, right?  And, although grade school teachers throughout the decades drilled home the fact that “You should have gone before you left home,” the hapless burglars never seem to learn.  So it’s no wonder  that Pistorius shot her through the door.  Again, just sounds like a big misunderstanding.

Oscar’s a little reckless when it comes to guns, shooting a gun through a car sunroof in 2012 and beneath a restaurant table just one month before Steenkamp’s death. His ex-girl friend Samantha Taylor testified in court regarding another gun incident where Pistorius jumped out of his car, pulled a gun and pressed it to the window of a BMW he felt was following him.  All of these were probably just accidents or misunderstandings.

Pistorius was always a pathetic creature since he was born with fibular hemimelia in both legs (no fibula bones in either leg), and at 11 years of age, both legs were removed at the knees.  He began running in 2004 with a set of prosthetic blades and quickly became known as the “Blade Runner” after participating in the 2004 Paralympics.  He ran in the T-44 events designed for one-leg-below-the-knee amputees, although his division is the T-43, two legs missing.  Even with the upgrade to the so-called “more stringent” class, he managed to garner the vast majority of gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter distances.

When Pistorius qualified for the 2012 Olympics, the controversy began as to whether Oscar’s “blades” added an unfair advantage against able bodied athletes.  A German team of researchers determined that Pistorius’ Flex-foot Cheetahs allowed him to use 25% less energy to run than those with legs and feet, but that’s not really a popular thing to say, so arguments bandied back and forth as to what physical features and elements should be tested to determine what advantage was afforded “spring foot.”

The answer is visibly obvious, the man runs on springs.  Other humans run on flesh and bone.  His leg stride is faster, because his legs weigh less, and his stride can be adjusted by the length of his blades.  Pushing the heart strings aside, he shouldn’t be competing in the Olympics, but against other blade runners.  These runners use a machine for propulsion, and if this is allowed, it is no different than letting someone with arthritis use a bicycle on the track.  And now, perhaps because of his disability and the advantages it provided, or just a deep, evil, violent behavior, Pistorius is hoisted by his own petard.  Glorius!

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You Gotta Believe!

“For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost.

For the want of shoe, a horse was lost.

For the want of a horse, a rider was lost.

For the want of a rider, a message was lost.

For the want of a message, a battle was lost.

For the want of a battle, a war was lost.

For the want of a war, a kingdom was lost.

All for the want of a nail!”

As depicted in this old nursery rhyme, small things can have dire consequences.  Usually the consequences in real life are sad, but none are sadder than those which result in airline tragedies.  Often such disasters are caused by a series of unfortunate events or coincidental happenings, but rarely, the reason is so simple, so asinine, that we wretch to think that so many lives were lost for such stupidity. The following two famous air crashes fall squarely in that arena.

On December 29, 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was approaching Miami International Airport shortly before midnight.  Captain Robert Loft was working the radio as First Officer Albert Stockstill lowered the landing gear and lined up the wide-body aircraft, a Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar, with runway Nine Left.  A routine flight was about the go tragically awry.  First, co-pilot Stockstill noticed that the nose landing gear “locked” light was not on.  Captain Loft asked the tower to put the plane in a holding pattern until the crew could confirm the landing gear was locked and safe.  The tower radioed the information to the cockpit and ordered Loft to maintain “two-zero-zero,” or 2000 feet of altitude.  Once the plane reached 2000 feet, Loft ordered Stockstill to engage the autopilot, while he and the first officer pried the lens off the landing gear light and tried to pry out the bulb.  While they were working on this project, the Captain turned in his seat and told the second officer, Don Repo, to go down into the “hell hole” to confirm whether the gear was locked.  Repo, who was acting as flight engineer, lifted the scuttle cover in the cabin floor that led to the avionics bay to view the nose gear.

As Captain Loft turned to tell Don Repo to check the landing gear, he bumped the “yoke,” or steering wheel of the plane, causing the autopilot to disengage.  The huge Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar began a slow, undetectable descent towards the Everglades while the flight crew struggled to see if a $12.00 light bulb failed.  After the crew removed the bulbs and replaced them, the fixture was inadvertently jammed in sideways and the bulbs remained lifeless.  Dan Repo climbed into the avionics bay two more times, but could not see if the locking mechanism for the nose gear was aligned.  During the confusion, a low altitude chime fell on deaf ears.  Minutes later, the first wide-body airline crash was history as the left wingtip of the Tristar dipped into the Everglades.  Ninety-nine of 163 passengers and crew were killed.  The subsequent investigation revealed that the nose gear bulbs were faulty and the nose gear was, indeed, locked in place.

Birgenair Flight 301 was destined to Frankfurt, Germany when it left Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, just before midnight, on February 6, 1996.  The plane was a state-of-the-art Boeing 757-225 and was this was its first flight in 25 days.  The pilot, Ahmet Erdem, and the first officer, Aykut Gergin, powered up the airliner with less than a minute to determine whether to “rotate” the huge jet into the sky or abort the flight.  Literally, a few cobwebs still lingered on the giant Boeing 757 after a 25 day hiatus.

When a jetliner rolls down the runway during takeoff, the pilot or copilot “calls out” the speed to determine if the instruments are synchronized and when to apply back pressure to the yoke or stick to lift the jet’s nose off the ground.  First officer Gergin called out the first reading of 80 knots, but Pilot Erdem’s gauge read about 40 knots.  The disparity of the gauges usually results in a aborted flight, but Erdem decided to take off.  Once the plane was airborne and about 4000 feet in the air, Erdem’s gauge began reading an overspeed condition.  His flight gauge read 350 knots and accelerating.  First officer Gergin’s gauges read much less, about 220 knots, but as overspeed warning signals went off, the pilot reduced speed based on his readings.  As the plane slowed, the nose rose and the yoke shook violently in a “stick-shaker stall” alert designed to warn a pilot of an impending stall.  Gergin’s gauge read 200 knots and decreasing, while the pilot’s was 360 knots and climbing.  Finally, after the airliner was pitched sixty degrees or more nose up, Gergin tried to increase speed to level the plane, but there was not enough air feeding the engines at such a slow speed.  The left engine flamed out and, in less than 5 minutes after take off, the jet plummeted in the Carribbean killing all 189 persons aboard.

Investigators believe that a simple blocked pitot tube brought down the 100 ton airliner.  The pitot tubes are little open ended pipes mounted on the side of the plane that capture passing air and the pressure developed from the speed of the plane is converted into nautical miles per hour, or knots. During the period that the Boeing jet sat at the airport, it’s believed that a small dauber mud wasp built a nest in the pilot’s pitot tube, almost sealing the tube from outside air.  This is why Gergin’s reading was low while the first officer’s gauge was higher and correct.  As the plane soared down the runway, the tube was not getting the full force of the wind passing over it.  And the high readings when the airliner was ascending?  The air already trapped in the tube expanded as the pressure dropped outside causing the gauge to read an excessive, if faulty, air speed.

Although such events are rare, it is extremely disquieting to know that it takes hundreds of people to keep these monsters of the sky way afloat and that a $12.00 light fixture or a mud wasp can bring them down.  So next time you’re about to board a flight, remember . . . you gotta believe!

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