A Mere $20,000

In checking up on the results of the recent All-Star Baseball game I read that the winners had little incentive to win — aside from the fact that the winning league gets to have home-field advantage for the World Series. Otherwise, we are told, each player makes a “mere”  $20,000 for winning the game. No incentive whatever.

Does this strike anyone but me as borderline obscene? I mean to take such a figure so lightly when there are people on the streets who cannot eat and have no place to live? That’s a year’s salary for many in this country. We have always realized that athletes are the most spoiled and highest paid people in this country — and perhaps anywhere else as well. Steph Curry recently signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors for $200 million over five years. It boggles the mind. In reporting this we are told that this is OK because he only made $12.1 million this past year which is 82nd highest in the NBA. Goodness gracious! Poor Steph.

It’s small wonder that our kids hold their teachers in contempt because they make such meager salaries when we have arrived at the point where we measure success in dollars and cents. And compared with the athletes, who are our “heroes,” teachers suck. This only adds to the teachers’ plight, given that we now expect them to raise our kids in addition to teaching them.

I have played this tune before, I know. I have dwelt on the notion that those with great wealth have a moral responsibility to take care of those who have little or nothing — after they have bought their new $350,000 Ferrari (true that) or the new mansion for themselves and their close friends and family. It is said they deserve this money, “they have earned it.” That’s bollocks. They haven’t earned that much money. No one earns that much money. But given the fact that those of the rest of us who can ill afford it continue to pay outrageous prices for seats to watch them play and their owners make even more money than they do, perhaps is only fair that they get a larger share than many of them do at present. Perhaps.

To be sure, it is none of my business how much money another person makes or how that person chooses to spend their money. That’s a given. And there are those among the very rich, including the athletes, who are generous in their support of others in need. But at the same time, it is hard to look the other way when the pay-outs for those athletes are so out of proportion with the meager salaries others in this culture make, people who are much more important to the well-being of others — people like the fore mentioned teachers, and firemen and police. These people struggle to make ends meet while the wealthy among us think only about making more money when they already have more than they can spend in a lifetime.

Pity the poor players for the American League All-Star team. They only made a “mere” $20,000 for winning. Little incentive, indeed.

Cheaters As Heroes

I have blogged before about America’s poor choices when it comes to picking people to call “heroic,” but the situation doesn’t seem to have changed. I would have thought my posts would have done the trick, but apparently not. So we will take another crack at it.

Our choices are especially odd when it comes to our sports heroes, and that’s where most of our heroes can be found — in sweaty locker rooms and beating up their wives. We also indiscriminately refer to every soldier who ever wore camouflage as a “hero,” whether they ever did anything but serve slop in the cafeteria at boot camp. Anyway, the recent case of Pete Rose is worth pondering as he was given a “prolonged” standing ovation in Cincinnati prior to this year’s All Star game.

Rose, of course, played for the Cincinnati Reds for years where he was known as “Charlie Hustle,” and he seemed to be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame until it was revealed that he had gambled on baseball games. He was banned from baseball and could no longer be considered a candidate for the Hall of Fame. He continued for years to insist that he had not gambled on the games in which he played and has appealed his situation in order to once again become eligible for the Hall. Then it was revealed on ESPN, complete with graphic evidence, that he had, indeed, gambled on the games he had played in and was therefore guilty of lying in addition to breaking the rules of the game he claimed to love — and assuredly played very well.

And yet, he was given a standing ovation by the thousands of fans who recently attended the Hall of Fame game in Cincinnati. Puzzling.

And then there’s the case of Tom Brady who allegedly lied about any involvement in the infamous (and seemingly trivial) “deflate gate.” Every professional quarterback interviewed after the scandal insisted that any quarterback would know instantly if the balls he was throwing were over or under-inflated. ESPN even had a retired quarterback throw three balls on camera, one under inflated, one over inflated, and the third properly inflated. He picked out each ball correctly after only one throw. The evidence is overwhelming that Tom Brady knew the balls he was playing with were not regulation. He may not have ordered them to be so, though that seems unlikely, but he insisted he knew nothing about the incident, which is highly improbable. In a process in which Brady refused to cooperate, the NFL ruled against him and suspended him for four games. He is appealing, as is the NFL Player’s Association, and the punishment may well be reduced, perhaps to a fine. But in the eyes of an adoring public he has always been innocent and remains the hero of many a young would-be football hero, even though he almost certainly lied. Puzzling.

And, of course, there is the case of Tiger Woods who is from all reports guilty of repeatedly cheating on this wife and, after an ugly divorce, underwent therapy to try to calm down his racing libido. Yet he remains ever-present on the television and his appearance at a golf tournament immediately increases revenue through attendance and television audiences — despite the fact that, truth be told, he is yesterday’s news. We try these folks in the court of public opinion and we often do not know all the facts. That’s certainly the case. But when the evidence is made public there is little room for doubt and only a strange form of denial can allow us to continue to regard these folks as exemplary, the kind of people we would like our kids to grow up to be. Puzzling.

And yet the court of public opinion can be nasty as well, and perfectly willing to find a man or woman guilty of heinous crimes without the benefit of due process — as in the case of Bill Cosby, who reportedly drugged women and then raped them. But then, Cosby wasn’t an athlete — at least not a professional athlete. And he is probably not even on the radar of the millennialists who weren’t born when he was one of the funniest men around, making millions of dollars on television.  Yet, again, he wasn’t an athlete; perhaps that’s the key. We want our heroes to be famous and rich athletes — even if they are known to be cheaters. Puzzling.

Chickens and Eggs

One of the most difficult things to establish is the relationship between cause and effect. Which came first? And can we say with certainty that the one that came first is the cause of the second? To establish cause and effect, one would have to show that, say, A comes before B and B would never  have happened without A. Further, it would have to be shown that every time you have an A you have a B. Logicians say B if, and only if, A. The reason the cigarette manufacturers, for example, were so successful for so long in denying that smoking causes lung cancer is that many folks who do not smoke get lung cancer and some folks who smoke do not get lung cancer. For years it was known that there was a correlation, but that alone does not satisfy the strict requirements. Eventually, the correlation was so high and so prevalent, it could no longer be denied — especially when it was revealed that  the tests conducted by the cigarettes companies themselves showed a very high correlation between smoking and lung cancer.

In this regard, I have always wondered about the correlation between entertainment and the development of a taste for violence in this country. In a word, does watching television increase the desire for violence in the young, or do the kids already crave violence and television simply “gives the kids what they want?” Can television, for example, actually manufacture “wants.” I suspect it can. Further, I do think we all have a hidden desire for violence. Freud thought it showed itself in humor: we laugh to release unconscious violent, even sadistic, impulses (think of the pie in the face or the chair pulled from beneath the unsuspecting sitter). It’s possible that watching violence over and over increases this desire. Quite possible. After all, were all learn by imitation.

If we take the case of football in this country as an example, we can see some interesting factors that may help us decide the question one way or the other. Professional football has now surpassed baseball as the nation’s favorite sport. As we know, football is filled with violence, whereas baseball is not. That may be part of the appeal of football, though it is difficult to say. But, then television networks such as ESPN discuss football year around, even during the off-season. When there are no games, they discuss the draft, outstanding college players who might “declare” for the draft, free-agency, the latest instance of domestic violence involving yet another football player. And so forth. To be sure, there are other athletes in other sports who engage in domestic violence, but I am talking about the amount of air time that is given to discussions about football and football players and the undeniable fact that the sport has grown by leaps and bounds — as have the incidents of violence in our country. There certainly appears to be a correlation.

The number of fans in football has grown drastically in the past few years. That’s a given. There is more time on television devoted to football in the past few years. That’s also a given. The question is whether the networks are simply giving the fans what they want or whether the industry is indeed manufacturing a desire for more football. Which comes first? And which causes the other? To help answer this question, I turn to a related sport, namely, soccer.

Soccer has never been as popular in this country as it is the world over. Soccer season overlaps with football, for one thing. For another, there seems to be a lot of time when nothing much is happening, and there really isn’t much violence. But I note that in the past few years ESPN has given more and more time to soccer, covering Olympic soccer (amidst much jingoistic hype) and lending increasing amounts of air time to showing highlights (especially moments of violence on the field) to international soccer and the professional soccer league in this country; they are clearly promoting the sport. Recently, 60,000 fans showed up for the inaugural match between two professional teams in this country. That number of fans for a game of soccer is astonishing. Is it just possible that the desire to watch a soccer match has been manufactured by the television networks?? I suspect the answer is “yes.”

But, the cause/effect relationship is very hard to establish, as I noted at the beginning. So I can’t say with assurance that the networks are manufacturing desires in their audience. But the correlation is interesting and worth watching. If the networks start showing more and more women’s basketball and the interest in that sport starts to grow, we might have even more reason to suspect a causal relationship. But, then the women who play basketball aren’t nearly as violent as the men and that might detract from the interest the typical fan might otherwise have in these sports. Perhaps, the folks at ESPN need to encourage a bit more bashing and thrashing to help things along –as in, say, cage fighting. Clearly American audiences want to see violence. The only question is whether the networks have nurtured and encouraged this desire and made it stronger.

Defining Obscene

You have probably heard about the recent contract agreement between the Miami Marlins of major league baseball and Giancarlo Stanton the baseball player. The contract was for $325 million over the next thirteen years. Stanton is a very talented player who is most renown for being hit in the eye by a baseball last season and missing some of the season while still managing to hit .288 with 37 home runs and 105 rbi. That’s impressive and it is certainly the case that the Marlins are wise to sign the man to a long-range contract. But the fact that this contract makes Stanton the highest paid athlete on the continent raises some eyebrows. In a recent interview, he was asked if he was a bit embarrassed to be making the equivalent of $165,000 a day for the next thirteen years. His response brought about the following attempt at wit:

The man asked if he was embarrassed by the money, he being Giancarlo Stanton, who at that moment sat at the left shoulder of Jeffrey Loria [owner of the Marlins]. Still, the man in the audience remained laser-focused on Stanton and not Loria.

Embarrassed, he said, as though Loria had panhandled $325 million on a street corner in South Beach, which, OK, he sort of did, but he didn’t have to. That was Loria’s choice. And that was Miami’s choice. If not the residents, then the city leaders, and now the city has an honest-to-goodness “generational player” (unless, disgusted, he were to leave) to go along with a lovely ballpark the taxpayers carried in on their backs.

The game is rich. The owners – this one, in particular – are rich. And the man asked Giancarlo Stanton, someone who actually hits the home runs and catches the gappers, if this weren’t all so embarrassing. To, you know, Giancarlo Stanton. Personally.

To which Stanton opened his eyes wide, confirming that that fastball had indeed missed his eye socket, and he smiled, showing teeth still connected to his gums in spite of that fastball.

“Embarrassing to me?” Stanton didn’t so much ask as hold at arm’s length between his thumb and forefinger. “Nah, not exactly.”

.Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles after his news conference Wednesday at Marlins Park. (USA TODAY Sports)

(Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles after his news conference Wednesday at Marlins Park. (USA TODAY …)

The fact that Stanton was not in the least embarrassed and, in fact, didn’t seem to understand the question, must give us pause. Is it possible that we are coming close to understanding what the word “obscene” means? I realize that the word usually applies to works of art or other visual items that we find repulsive, but I suggest that the word has wider application — as in this case. I mean, after all, $165,000 a DAY for playing a game.

Given the fact that the highest salary on the Marlins prior to this contract was for $6.5 million and that the lowest salary on the team is a mere $500,000 one might suspect there could arise some tensions on that team in the future. But, more to the point, there are over 100 million homeless people on this planet, at last count, and 3 million unemployed people in America alone at a time when the average annual income of all Americans (including the Koch brothers who skew the figures a bit) is $25, 567. In the face of such widespread poverty and suffering, where the average Joe who is expected to pay for the tickets to see this man play a game will work at one or two jobs while this man drinks a $20,000.00 bottle of Champaign to celebrate his new contract, the truly depressing thing to note is that Stanton doesn’t grasp the fact that he might have the decency to be a bit embarrassed.

I know, the Marlins didn’t have to pay the man this kind of money and the average Joe doesn’t have to pay for the tickets to see him play. But these things happen on a regular basis in a country were the Congress can’t make a decision not based on corporate influence and the planet is in serious jeopardy of irreparable damage due to our demand for creature comforts that may, or may not, be necessary. Something’s wrong here.

Truth To Tell

Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankee baseball player accused of using performance enhancing drugs — and later tampering with the evidence — has lost his appeal of a 211 game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball last year. The suspension was upheld, though it was reduced to 162 games, which will keep Rodriguez out of baseball next year. But not if the man himself has anything to say about it! He recently released a lengthy statement about the suspension on (of all things) his Facebook page. The statement says, in part:

I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension.

The interesting thing about the case — well, one of the interesting things — is that Rodriguez assuredly is in denial. He may believe this nonsense, but no one else believes him any more and he is making a fool of himself by going public (on Facebook!) and threatening to spend some of the millions of dollars he will earn next year for not playing baseball to take MLB to court. The larger point here is that this is simply another instance of the people our children regard as heroes (in this case, athletes) who tell flat-out lies and when caught continue to dig the hole they are in deeper and deeper. True, one of our “heroes”occasionally tells how sorry he is and swears it won’t happen again. But few believe him, either. None seems to want to take full responsibility for his actions and I cannot recall a single athlete who came out and confessed to taking performance enhancing drugs BEFORE he was caught.

But the large issue, aside from the inability of these people to take responsibility for their actions, is the fact that these “exemplary” individuals tell lies with a straight face and that has become perfectly normal behavior. We have always known used car salesmen and politicians lie, that’s a given. But now our heroes on the athletic fields have turned into unreliable and irresponsible persons — with a few notable exceptions. Moreover, coaches sign long-term contracts and break them before the ink is dry while marriages end up in divorce before the sheets have been laundered. So much for pledges and promises. And the kids see this sort of thing all around them and especially on television day in and day out. And, like our simian cousins, we learn by imitation. Homer Simpson lies, as does his unruly son Bart. (Don’t get me started about Beavis and Butt-head.) The teenagers on the Disney Channel lie a blue streak and treat their elders with disdain. Increasingly the folks on sit-coms lie as the writers have determined that if they have the central character tell a lie the consequences can be hilarious. Or so they think. Much of what passes for humor on the tube these days is downright mean and often suggests that telling lies is perfectly acceptable behavior.

My wife has said for years that the entertainment industry is largely responsible for shaping the character of our children these days — what with their parents either divorced or working and the television increasingly becoming the baby-sitter of choice. I used to think she was exaggerating but, as is so often the case, I have come around to her way of thinking. I do think the entertainment industry, which includes professional athletics (and semi-professional athletics at the NCAA I level) are in large measure responsible for sending repeated messages to all of us that lying and cheating are perfectly normal and if we get caught in that sort of behavior we should keep digging the hole deeper or, if we must, we can just own up and all will be forgiven — or folks will just have a good belly laugh. But it must be OK. After all, everyone does it. No?

Spring Has Sprung

It appears that Spring has finally come to the Upper Midwest. It has been a long Winter with snow on the ground since last December, snow which is still here and there on the North side of the groves and hedge rows. And while snow is in recent forecasts [!], we know it will be wet and will not stay around for very long. The temperatures are finally on the move upwards and the sounds and smells of another Spring are in the air.

Smells like starter-fuel for charcoal cookers, exhaust from lawnmowers and (speaking of sounds) motorcycles. Ah yes! The sounds of Spring, like the barking dogs tied outside by distracted owners who want to share the delights of dog-ownership with the folks in the block, or the cars the kids drive with their window open wide and the radio turned all the way up, destroying both tranquility and ear drums. I saw one the other day that had a sign in the back window: “If the music’s to loud, your to old.” Aside from the very loose usage of the word “music” this is assuredly an indictment of our education system if there ever was one! I guess I’m to old. In any event, the sights are almost as delightful, with fifth wheels and trailers returned to the lawns  and driveways from wherever they have been hibernating over the Winter, and large people walking around in shorts and tank tops with their all-too abundant flesh threatening to escape with every step, proving once again that some people are oblivious. It’s worthy of note in this regard that Minnesotans of all sizes and descriptions go by the calendar when it comes to choosing appropriate attire: if it’s April they will wear the shorts and tank tops even if the temperatures are around freezing! But Spring is on its way — finally — and while Emerson is supposed to have said that Spring is the saddest time of the year there is a great deal to delight in.

Brown-headed Thrush

Brown-headed Thrush

There are  the sounds of balls striking bats, golf clubs, and tennis rackets and the smells of new-mowed grass and blooming flowers. And for those of us who have been suffering from cabin fever for the past months, these sounds make up for the unpleasantness of loud radios, gassy smells, and excessive flesh mentioned above. And the ponds and rivers that were dry last Summer are full and flowing — at least at present. Add to these sights and sounds the melodies of the returning birds and the stunning colors they bring with them as the males preen and strut in their attempts to attract the most eligible mates. It’s not only the young men and women whose thoughts turn to love in the Spring: all of animal nature seems to be tuned into the Spring vibrations. It’s been a long Winter, but at last Spring has sprung in the Northern Plains.  We can’t all live in the tropics (Ecuador, for example), and not all Minnesotans are “snow birds” who head South for the Winter, so when the good weather returns those of us who have stuck it out over the Winter delight in the return of Spring and take the bad along with the immense good. As one of my favorite Gordon Bok songs says: “the world is always turning toward the morning,” and hope Springs eternal.

Knees And Elbows

Yesterday the Washington Redskin’s gifted young quarterback, Robert Griffin III, underwent surgery on his injured right knee. He already had reconstructive surgery on that knee in 2009 and earlier this season he re-injured the knee and was held out of the next game. But, despite a noticeable limp, he started the following game because it was determined that he could play and he is a talented player and an inspiring leader on a team that has struggled in recent years. Besides, the Redskins wanted to make sure they made the playoffs. And that, as they say, is the “bottom line.”

The Redskins did make the playoffs, of course, and R. G. III (as they call him) started the first playoff game for the Redskins in years. The fans went wild as the ‘Skins started the game with a bang and led by two touchdowns early in the game. Then their opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, started to come back and, surprise, surprise, Griffin caught a cleat in the turf, twisted his knee and went to the ground in pain. The prognosis is not good. Surgeons who examined the knee at the time said they could not “guarantee” a full recovery.

The fact that the Redskins went on to lose the game simply underlines the stupidity of the decision to risk the future of a gifted athlete –not to mention the future of the franchise (as they like to call it). This is a sorry example of short-term thinking which infects this culture like a virus. It permeates virtually every facet of our behavior and I tend to think it comes from a business mentality that puts a premium on profits in the short term and tends to ignore the long term — even if reliable data portend problems down the road — like global warming, for example.

One might think that the example of another professional athlete from Washington, the pitcher Stephen Strasburg, provides a counter-example to short-term thinking. The managers of the Nationals decided last season to hold Strasburg out of the lineup going into the playoffs because he was coming back from Tommy John surgery and they wanted to make sure he didn’t strain his elbow and ruin his future with the team. They had been counting his pitches throughout the season and he had reached his limit.

I applaud this and did so at the time. It struck me as a rare example of concern for an athlete’s future at the risk of losing some baseball games. But the stuff that hit the fan after the decision, outrage from fans who were convinced that without Strasburg pitching the Nationals had no chance to make the World Series, confirms my claim that short-term thinking is the name of the game in the culture at large. The decision to hold out Strasburg was clearly the correct decision, regardless of the outcome of the games — and we need to bear in mind that these are games after all. And the decision to start Robert Griffin III in the football game against Seattle may come back to haunt the Washington Redskins who have placed a lot of hope and money on the young man’s shoulders but who may have let greed cloud their minds. Did I mention that there is a great deal of money involved in winning playoff games?

The Scuzzy Threesome

As we knew would happen, the Three Stooges have been nominated for the baseball Hall of Fame. Now the sportswriters of America must wrestle with their consciences and decide whether Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are worthy of inclusion.

There’s no question the three of them played exceptional baseball. What is in question, as the world knows, is whether they deserve to be enshrined in baseball’s highest hall of honor. The ballot states clearly that “voting shall be based upon the payer’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.” Note that all six criteria apply: it doesn’t say “either, or.” It would appear that of the six criteria all three of these men fail at least half: character, integrity, and sportsmanship.

Our judicial system rests on the principle that a person is innocent until found guilty and, strictly speaking, none of these three men has been found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs. But the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming and the court of public opinion has already found all three guilty of using banned substances. At least two of them also seem to have lied to Congress and if the government hadn’t fumbled the ball, Roger Clemens, at least, would have been fund guilty of Contempt of Congress.

Mark McGwire who has been on the ballot three times before has failed to garner more than something like 20% of the votes of the sportswriters — 70% being required for acceptance into the Hall. He confessed to using banned substances as he and Sammy Sosa chased and passed Babe Ruth’s home-run record (which means that he also lied to Congress). The three stooges may have the same results. One never knows. This decision would appear to be cut and dry, given the criteria that must be met to get into the Hall. But I have heard several sportswriters interviewed on ESPN who are going to vote for all three simply because they were outstanding players — thereby ignoring half of the criteria. Their rationalization is that “everyone else was doing it and these three stood out among the rest.”  But haven’t we heard this before? (Fade to Nixon after Watergate.)

It must be OK because “everyone else is doing it.” Logicians call this ad populum and it is a very weak, indeed fallacious, argument. In ethics it is sometimes referred to as the “two wrongs fallacy.” In any event, it is muddle-headed. The fact that all of the other baseball players were using PEDs — which is doubtful — cannot be said to be a sufficient reason for any one of these three men doing what they knew was illegal and would give them an edge. If something is right it is so because it is grounded on a moral principle, such as fairness of respect for persons. If something is wrong it is because it violates one or more of those principles: it matters not how many people are or are not doing “it.” In the case of these three men it is evident that they lack sound character and integrity and were poor sports. Thus, they do not deserve to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It is significant in this regard that Barry Bonds doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. He wants in and he has been quoted by USA Today (11/29/12) as saying “I don’t understand all the controversy we’re having about it. For what reason?” Indeed. Apparently those drugs don’t only make the athlete stronger and more agile, they apparently interfere with the mental process. But in a sense Bonds is right: there shouldn’t be any controversy. This is a no-brainer. The three should be kept out of the Hall of Fame.

Bill

He always called me “coach.” For him this was a term of honor because he was a standout athlete in both high school and college. I had coached the women’s tennis team at the local university for 15 years and Bill read about our team’s ups and downs in the local newspaper. He was a stalwart supporter of everything having to do with sports.

We used to run into one another at the post office when I went to get the mail each morning and he liked to tell me about his experience on the tennis court. He took a P.E. class at St. Cloud State University and the instructor was the men’s tennis coach. He noted Bill’s athletic ability and urged Bil to try out for the team. Bill had never played tennis before, but he showed up one day and played one of the young men on the lower levels of the team and beat him. The interesting thing is that Bill never gloried in that victory: he felt bad for the young man he beat, because Bill really didn’t want to make the team; he wanted to play baseball — which he did. But he always felt bad for the poor guy who lost to the one-day wonder.

For years we would hear a knock on the door and Bill would appear with “road kill” — assorted vegetables he grew in his garden and wanted to pass along to people he liked. It was a privilege and we were always delighted to have the fresh vegetables and to chat with Bill about how things were going in his part of the world. This went on for a number of years.

Then the “road kill” started to be a bit strange — a single ear of corn with some overripe vegetables; a green tomato and several pale cucumbers; or a squash and three cherry tomatoes. His garden was close to a farmer’s corn field and Bill apparently collected some of the farmer’s corn in recent weeks thinking it was his own sweet corn and passed it along with his daily hand-outs — which explained the odd taste of the corn of late. The other day when we came home there was a plastic bag with a few cherry tomatoes in it sitting on a chair next to the door. It didn’t make much sense. Nor did Bill when I saw him and asked him how things were going. He kept repeating himself and wanted to talk about things like “poor Joe-Pa” who had botched things at Penn State. he felt sorry for Paterno and wished things had ended differently for him. So did I. But my wife and I started to worry about Bill as well.

Then very recently we heard that Bill has been diagnosed with dementia. I saw him just the other day coming out of the Post Office and he had no idea who I was. How very sad. He is fortunate to have daughters and a loving wife who can keep an eye on him. But he will soon be moved to a home, I suppose, as those men and women in our society are when they can no longer recognize their loved ones. Alzheimer’s is a terrible thing to be around. My grandmother had it late in her life and I saw her disappear behind a cloud of uncertainty and wonder, having no idea who we were. It left an indelible impression. And my wife and I saw this happen to Bill as well. We will miss him — and his road kill.

Random Acts

There is a part of me that gets very angry when I read and hear about the failings of my fellow human beings, their tendency toward self-absorption and lack of concern about the world around them or about other people. But every now and again I tumble across random acts of human kindness and genuine love and I take heart. I have mentioned Phil Mickelson who shares some of his immense wealth with others less fortunate than himself. That is certainly admirable. I am also aware that Magic Johnson has been tireless in his efforts to help the people in the inner city in Los Angles. He is certainly one of my heroes, especially when we read about so many professional athletes who spend their money on more cars, larger homes, piercings and tattoos, and so often seem to be violent and abusive.

I recall with special fondness the sight on TV of a man reaching up in the stands to catch a foul ball at a baseball game. His 4 or 5-year-old daughter is sitting next to him and after he catches the ball he hands it to his daughter — who promptly tosses the ball back on to the field! Rather than toss the little girl onto the field after the ball in anger and frustration, as one might expect, the man reaches down and embraces the little girl, who seems so pleased with herself, and gives her a big kiss. A lovely moment indeed, and shown repeatedly on ESPN for several weeks thereafter — as it should be.

But I have friends, we all do, who take time out of their lives to give to others, to volunteer in soup kitchens, or the hospital, or even at the golf course. It helps out, it involves sacrifice and giving of time and effort to make the lives of others more pleasant — or more endurable. I have a blog buddy, Jennifer, who takes time out of her busy life not to regale us with personal anecdotes, as so many bloggers seem to be doing, but to share news with her readers in an effort to make them more aware and get them thinking about some of the more pressing problems in our world — because she cares. I also have a close friend who has had his own terrible times and spends hours now counseling others who face the same traumas and fears he has managed to work through himself.

Indeed, there are good people on this planet along with those who simply don’t see beyond their own noses and who ignore others in their pursuit of pleasure and wealth. The latter group is the larger one, I am convinced. But they share this increasingly crowded planet with others who really care and who are given to acts of random kindness. I must keep reminding myself.