Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we all know, Thanksgiving is a time to stop, reflect and give thanks for everything we have been given this last year. I cannot express the good things that happened to me this last year without stopping to take a moment and think about the things I have lost as well.

I have lost a couple good friends to the dreaded "C" word, cancer. It seems the more time goes on, the more we experience different forms of grief in our lives. We have all been there and we will all be there again when we need to mourn the loss of someone dear to us for any one of a number of reasons. As the saying goes, "Time marches on." How true that is! For instance, it is hard for me to believe my father has been gone for more than six years already. I miss him every day.

I have run into several people this year who ask what my dad is up to these days. When my reply is, "He died of mesothelioma July 23, 2006." The usual reaction is one of shock and wanting to know how we got his cancer. That happened several times in September when I was in Worthington for my fortieth high school class reunion and the annual Turkey Day celebration. It also happens when I go to Gopher basketball games and someone who knew him will ask me how he is doing. It happened the first game of the season as I ran into a newly retired man who played basketball for my dad in college.

I also found out one of my friends from Worthington lost his life, as did two extended family members.

That is enough of the sad news.

Some good things happened this year I would like to mention. The first, and biggest news I would like to share is my little brother; Chad got his Drum Wallet patented on April 2, 2013. That was exciting news and his prospects are growing exponentially as sales are picking up and the word is spreading worldwide about this exciting drum accessory. If you are interested in learning more about the Drum Wallet click here. If you cannot get there with that link, click on this site: If you are a regular reader of my site, you know I have written about Chad and the Drum Wallet before. I am his biggest fan and very proud big brother to see all of his hard work start to pay off in getting the patent approved. 

I have also seen a steady rise in book sales of my book entitled "I Still Believe In Tomorrow" which is available on my website at FYI: they make great gifts for the upcoming holiday season if you happen to be interested. If you order them through me, I will make a personal signing to the intended recipient.

Some of you know of my Mom's brother Bob who is renovating the barn on the home place where mom and her nine siblings were raised. The barn was built in 1901 and for the last six years Bob has been commuting at least twice a year to do work on his man cave/hunting lodge to the point where now it is livable and every November he comes up from Louisiana and other family members come from as far away as Alaska to hunt pheasants and work on Bob's barn.

This year, he brought his wife, Linda and her grandson, Matt and his wife, Felicia. Whenever the barn is full of people, it is difficult to concentrate on any one conversation. However, Matt managed to read a good book in the middle of all the chaos with a conversation going on right behind him. Here is a picture of him focusing intently on his read:

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It was the first time in several years I have been able to make it up to the farm for a weekend of listening to stories and watching memories be made. It is always a great deal of fun listening to family members share memories of growing up in a different time when the barn was used for milking cows, feeding calves and housing horses. Of course, after a hunt, there are always stories of the day that sometimes are debated quite loudly about how someone actually shot or missed a coveted ringneck pheasant! Whenever I take someone with me who has never witnessed time at the Robert Michael Smith Private Game Preserve, they come away stunned and not quite sure of what just happened. However, they always want to go back another time. It is a unique experience!

I am very thankful to my uncle Bob for his commitment, and dogged determination to bring the barn back to life for its new purpose. It is truly a labor of love for him and we all appreciate it greatly! 

I am also thankful for my siblings, their children and my mom for the Thanksgiving celebration we will have tomorrow at Mom's house. All of my siblings will be there except for Tammy. Fortunately, she was just in town for a few days and got to spend a weekend in the barn.

Before I leave I want to share with you a joke I have had for many years and posted it on my Facebook page last year. I hope you enjoy the humor in my cartoon:

Who said turkeys are stupid?

I hope you all travel safely, eat too much good food, enjoy your company, get in at least one tryptophan induced nap and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today

It is not as though anyone needs reminding what happened fifty years ago today in Dallas, the media is doing that for us. I just want to take a few minutes of your time and share some information you may not know, and for that matter, ever new about the events around the assassination of President Kennedy.

One fact I found interesting, especially in the world we have today with cable news channels giving us instant news 24/7, and all the other technologies that allow us to get access to information instantly, the Kennedy assassination news coverage would be the longest uninterrupted news event in American history until the events of September 11, 2001.

I find that amazing because in 1963 black-and-white television was still in its infancy, and the news was not a very big deal.

Another fact I learned was November 22, 1963 was Walter Cronkite's first day on network television. We have all seen the iconic footage of him taking off his black, horn-rimmed glasses, pausing for a few seconds, fighting back the tears and announcing President Kennedy was dead!

Television newscasts played a central role in the coming three days which was unprecedented and very challenging for the new medium. Remember, in 1963, television had not been around very long. Upon confirmation of the assassination, the three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, cut out of their regularly scheduled programs and ran without commercials for three days.

One of the more striking facts that hit me was an interview with Secret Service Agent #9, Clint Hill. In a 1975 interview on 60 Minutes, he told Mike Wallace he blamed himself for the president's death because he could not get to shield the president quickly enough to take the third bullet, which was the fatal one. He would rather have taken the bullet himself then to have it kill the president.

Another interesting fact is only thirty-three percent of the American population alive today were alive on November 22, 1963. That moment ended the short-lived one thousand day life of hope affectionately known as Camelot. It ended an age of innocence for us, and brought the beginning of the turbulent and very violent 1960's. 

After the Summer of Love in 1967 when the counterculture Hippie Movement was gaining strength in its movement for peace, violence seemed to be everywhere in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, and two months later, on June 6th, Robert Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California primary in Los Angeles.

In between those two assassinations was the Kent State riot when four students were killed and brought about massive demonstrations on college campuses all across the country. Tensions were mounting and the anti-Vietnam movement was gaining strength as Richard Nixon had announced the invasion of Cambodia just a few days before that.

From August 26th through the 29th the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was marred by violence when the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (Yippies) joined other groups to form a massive protest during the convention. They were joined by other groups like Students for a Democratic Society, and I huge population of about ten thousand protesters converged on Chicago.

Mayor Richard Daley would have none of it and amassed twenty-three thousand police officers and National Guardsmen to quell the demonstration. In the middle of the afternoon on August 28th, the so-called "police riot" broke out and was witnessed live on national television as the rioters were trying to get away from being maced and beaten by the police and guardsmen. 

Those are just the highlights of what the turbulent decade was. I remember all of those events. The one I will never forget where I was when I heard the news was the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1963, we lived in tiny Edgerton, Minnesota. My third grade classmates and I were in music class in the old part of the school when someone came to the door and had our teacher come with their out in the hall. Our music teacher came back and told us President Kennedy have been killed.

My classmates and I did not know what to do, or exactly what it meant. We just knew something bad had happened. I remember watching the news on up to the funeral at a family friend's house because they had a color TV. It was a horrible time and changed our nation dramatically.

If you were alive and remember where you were that day, and how you heard about the assassination, please make a comment and tell my subscribers your recognition of that day when a dream died in America lost so much potential. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had many plans and goals to make a better America. He never saw us get to the moon, which was one of his goals. I wonder what he would think of our space station and cooperation with the Russians in operating that. For that matter, I wonder what he would think of all the changes that have happened in the United States in the last fifty years.

He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Act of 1965, which were the groundwork for Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. President Johnson started Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He also escalated the Vietnam War and more than fifty-eight thousand names now adorn that black granite wall in Washington, DC's Mall. 

Personally, I do not believe we would of stayed in Vietnam had President Kennedy not been assassinated. What sort of contributions would those men and women who fought and died in Vietnam and whose names appear on the Vietnam Memorial have made in the United States and globally had we not been there?

It seems every generation has an event that changes their life. The so-called Greatest Generation had December 7, 1941. Baby Boomers had November 22, 1963. The Millennials or Generation Y had September 11, 2001. That names only a few events. Throughout history there have been many more events that change lives.

What will be the next life-changing event that will affect your life and you will remember where you were for the rest of your life when you learned of it? As history has proven, it will happen. It is just a matter of when and where.

I wholeheartedly look forward to your comments.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Football And Sportsmanship

There has been a lot said and written lately about all of the negative aspects of playing football. Everyone from the Pop Warner Leagues to the NFL and its former players are mounting a growing concern over all of the injuries associated with the game. Rightly so on many levels.

When NFL Hall of Famer, Tony Dorsett has announced he is suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease at an early age, Brett Favre has stated he does not remember one whole year of his daughter's soccer season, the Minnesota Vikings were not able to field a full roster for their last game because of injuries and current NFL teams injury lists look more like MASH reports, there is an epidemic of injuries amongst all levels of football.

60 Minutes did a report last Sunday on how the numbers of young boys playing football at an early age is steadily dwindling and ESPN is doing special reports on injuries amongst that age group, you know something is drastically wrong. The question is, what can be done about it? I have some suggestions as do many experts, but like any subject that debate cannot be solved in a simple blog post.

I am living proof football is, and always has been; a violent game and can result in serious injuries. I did a paper for my Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries class in college on Neck Injuries In Football. In doing my research, I learned the neck musculature is the last muscle mass in the body to develop. And yet, we see young boys and girls wearing heavy helmets with giant facemasks trying to support their heads and faces with necks that are not fully developed.

That is why eighty percent of all spinal cord injuries occur to young males between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four. When one counts all the spinal cord injuries that occur in the United States every year, football related injuries only occur about twelve times annually. That is not very many when one considers the number of automobile, gunshot, motorcycle, diving and other active activities accidents. 

But that is not what this post is all about. Once again, I have strayed from my original intent. Of course, my longtime readers know that is how I write.

I titled this post "Football And Sportsmanship" because of a wonderful gesture on the part of the Olivet Middle School Eagles in Olivet, Michigan help one of their own score a touchdown.

Watch this video and see if you do not agree with me. To view the video, click here. If the video does not show up, click on this URL: 

Keith Orr will never forget his touchdown thanks to his buddies who decided to do something for the young man. Steve Hartman gets to do some amazing stories, but not many have brought him to tears like this one did. I like his weekly story on the Friday Night CBS News. He has introduced us to many wonderful people and their incredible stories.

As always, I welcome your comments.



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Alexandria's Aces

Alexandria, Minnesota has a very successful mentoring program going on in their middle school, and it all revolves around basketball. Larry Novotny is mentoring, teaching and coaching a group of young student/athletes through basketball.

Most of my friends know basketball is my favorite sport, and I have been around it my entire life in one way or another.

From the 1977-'78 season through the 1979-'80 basketball season, I was an assistant coach for the new general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Flip Saunders, at his first coaching job at tiny Golden Valley Lutheran College (GVLC) in Golden Valley, Minnesota. We had the youngest coaching staff in the country with Saunders, Mike Cervony and me at only twenty-two years of age. Our third assistant, Dan Kozmoski, was only twenty-one. We had a player who had been in the military and he was twenty-three!

All four of us coaches were still in college. When Saunders played at the University of Minnesota the previous four years, he had been recruited by Bill Musselman as a point guard. Musselman had a pregame show that involved a lot of ball-handling drills, fancy passing, and synchronized activities that electrified home crowds. People would arrive hours in advance to make sure they got a good seat to see the pregame show. If you were ever in Williams Arena during the Musselman Era, I am sure you remember what a show they put on!

Bill Musselman taught a walk-on player by the name of George Schauer to do elaborate ball-handling tricks including spinning multiple basketballs at once. "Crazy George" as he is known today, is still performing his basketball wizardry all over the world.

Saunders liked that pregame show so much he brought it to his first coaching job at GVLC. That is where this post really begins. Larry Novotny wanted to be on our basketball team and Saunders gave him a chance if he could learn to do what George Schauer was doing.

Larry took the challenge and was the star of our pregame warm-up drills. I believe the most balls he had spinning at one time was seven! He would sit down and place a pencil in each shoelace whereupon he put a spinning basketball on each pencil, he had a strap on each knee that held another ball on a pencil, he devised a brace for his chin that held one more ball and lastly, he spun a ball on the fingertip on each hand. That tiny gym was a fun place to be!

Besides our pregame show, we had a pretty good team. We went three years without losing a game at home. We had two Junior College All-Americans, a 63–11 record; won our conference all three years I was there and placed second in the state tournament the first and last year I coached. Saunders stayed there for two more years before going back to the University as a graduate assistant.

That brings us to what Larry Novotny has been doing with his middle school students at halftime shows throughout the country for the last twenty-four years! There is a wonderful article about Alexandria's Aces at this link. Just click here.

Look at the joy in Larry's eyes as he is addressing this year's group of young students who are trying out for the Aces. Does it look like he is having fun? After all, basketball should be fun for anybody that plays and loves the game. When I was the age of the students, I was in the gym all the time. My dad was a high school coach and I spent many hours learning from him and the older student/athletes I so admired. These young student/athletes are also getting that wonderful feeling of enjoyment playing basketball. I think this is a wonderful program Larry Novotny is doing, and I applaud him for his dedication and commitment to these young people.

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Think of the trips and experiences these young people are getting as they travel around the country performing in front of as many as 20,000 people. They are learning teamwork, cooperation, coordination, self-esteem and who knows, maybe even a scholarship somewhere to carry on the "Crazy George" Larry Novotny ball-handling tradition!

This was how Larry got his start on our team picture for the Golden Valley Lutheran College Runnin' Royals in the fall of 1978. Larry is seated on the floor front and center right in front of head coach Flip Saunders:

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As always, I look forward to your comments.