It’s become more a habit, almost tradition…thoughts on living for another year, what you see, hear, and can’t believe it’s real. And sadly, did you ever believe you’d see the day when a grand slam was as good for the other team as it is yours?
My sincerest thanks to the six people who took the time at midnight (or maybe it was just auto Facebook) to send birthday greetings on this, my day of days. Born February 26, 1952, the nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital, in Huntington, West Virginia, must have been casting lots as to my chances to make it this far.
I’m being tongue in cheek, of course, but my whole life has been tongue in cheek. And so is yours, if you have any semblance of mental health. Because in 68 years you just see too much stuff that doesn’t make sense – what you see, what you hear, and the noise you choose to ignore…like the political debates.
And to that end…let me admit that while watching just five minutes of Tuesday night’s South Carolina debates I went to bed shortly thereafter with this simple prayer…”Lord, take me home.” Who ever thought we’d live so long as to hear what you hear in those yelling matches?
Nothing you see, or hear, makes sense anymore….even sports. Because with all the issues (both real and contrived) that we have in the world…can you believe that we spend as much time as we do talking about sports, and topics that don’t matter. I’m very tired of hearing about Joe Burrow and the Bengals – very tired of Mike Greenberg trying to tell us that Tua, Zion, and who Tom Brady plays for next year is as important than your next good, personal decision.
My perspective…watch, see it for what it is, accept it, and come back better (or different) tomorrow. Perspective, people…perspective!
I’ve been incredibly blessed in 68 years to have had the opportunities I’ve had – to have had the people I’ve had in my life. When I started out on February 26, 1952, I never imagined playing in the Ohio State marching band. I certainly wouldn’t have bet on my being a starting pitcher on the Buckeyes baseball team. I wouldn’t have dreamed that I’d almost get to the major leagues as an umpire. There’s no way under the sun that I could have seen traveling like I have, learning as much as I have, and the relationships with the people that I’ve enjoyed.
I have a lot to be thankful for. And we all know that the older you get the more people ask…what you’re ‘most’ thankful for. Well, all the above, of course…but what trumps it all is just the ambition to achieve. Not to change the world, mind you…just to have the energy and imagination to get out of bed and do something constructive. Somehow, when I started out in that small four-room house in Windsor Township – in Lawrence County, Ohio – that was bestowed on me.
That, and the willingness to dream. I have no idea about where it came from, but somehow I always had a different vision than the other kids in first grade. Some of it I owe to having two very good parents, who had learned from their own experience – look around, see what’s possible, and figure out a way to do it for yourself. Don’t rely on someone else, or the easy way out…just do it. My God, who knew that my parents, Glenn and Leona, were Nike before there was a Nike?
This is why I always laughed at Obama when he said, “You didn’t do that on your own. The government helped you.” Well if you doubt me…I’ll take ya’ – show ya’ – the house, the school, and the community that became the impetus for my life.
But sports, and the lessons thereof, have been very important to me. Five critical figures helped shape my life path.
My Little League coach, Eddie Hardy, showed me how much fun sports should be.
My high school baseball coach, Jim Hardman, taught me to love baseball…because it’s a team sport that provides the perfect balance of collective individualism. And that success breeds confidence to go farther.
My college coach, Marty Karow, taught me that you have to be responsible to a higher standard in order to go farther. No excuses. Just results.
Barney Deary, the director of minor league umpire development when I worked in the 70s taught me, that truly…it ain’t what you know in life, it’s who you know. Success is any field is not without politics.
And Don Flinn, my high school English teacher. Mr. Flinn, ironically, had nothing to do with sports. He just taught me that the first attempt at anything won’t be good enough. “There’s no good writing,” he used to say. “There’s just good re-writing. So do it again.” What he taught me was as applicable to sports as it is to life itself. Do it ’til you can do it right, and better than the competition.
I am so thankful to all of you – people who read, people who write, people who teach, who coach, who play, and share the reality that life is, indeed, what you make of it. Those of you who live each day with an ambition to move the runner into scoring position. And tomorrow, you drive him in.
And remember that only Bernie Sanders believes that when you hit a grand slam…you have to give two of those runs to the other team! It is..the day of days!