Tag Archive | America

9/11 Memories

I love my country. Of all the traits instilled in me by my Mom and Dad, a sense of patriotism is among the ones I hold most dear. I’m free to express my opinions and pursue a career I wouldn’t be able to in most other nations throughout human history. I’m inordinately blessed to be an American today. That Patriotism also requires a look back at the saddest chapters of my country’s history. Today is one such milestone, and one I was alive for.

September 11th, 2001 is a day marked by fear and pain. I was only seven years old that day, but I knew as it unfolded that something horrible happened. I grew up in West Hartford, CT. It’s a border town. It’s 50/50 between Red Sox fans (New England/Massachusetts based folks) and Yankee fans (New York based). I knew people who’s parents worked in the World Trade Center or had family in New York. I didn’t know any of them, but my parents had coworkers and business associates who lived in and worked in the city. I was aware that my mom and dad went to New York for business. And my grandparents (Mom’s side and obviously knew well) were native New Yorkers from Manhattan. I myself am a son of New England, but I have my share of New York connections.

I remember seeing the teachers of my school seeming distressed that day. I think they knew what we would come to remember 9/11 for before us kids did. We went home early. I could walk to my elementary school, and walked home by myself. When I got back, I walked into our den where my brother and Au Pair were parked in front of the television. I turned the corner and saw the second tower come down. I don’t remember if it was live or if it was a clip of an earlier happening. But regardless, I didn’t fully understand what I saw, but I knew it was awful. Our Au Pair, who normally was pretty talkative was completely silent, shocked by what we all saw.

My dad regularly talks about how they wheeled out televisions into their office, unusual to have in 2001, to watch the ongoing news. My mom was abroad, traveling to Poland. She was intending on traveling back the next morning, on her birthday no less, and was stuck in Poland for a week after the attacks.

Beyond the immediate aftermath, I grew up in a political world shaped by that day and the reaction to it. I still remember debates about how to conduct the War on Terror, discussion around the 9/11 attacks in the 2004 election cycle, and the days when Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin were captured and killed. It is the single most significant and impactful day, politically and practically speaking, I’ve ever experienced. I recently had the chance to remember and reflect on that day at Ground Zero.

Back in August, I covered The Northern Trust golf tournament held at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City. There are spectacular views of downtown Manhattan from all over the course, most notably from the 18th fairway (where this picture is from). It’s the most distinct and famous skyline in the world. The Freedom Tower is a beautiful piece of that skyline today, almost an iconic piece along with the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building. Even still, there still is a visual hole in the string of buildings with just one tower that looks different from the original Twin Towers. I don’t have a clear memory of seeing NYC before 9/11. But even I can tell there’s a hole that shouldn’t be there.

On an early day of the week, when it was just practice and interviews, and after I submitted my pieces for the day, I took a trip into lower Manhattan and went to the World Trade Center. I had been there only once before, back in 2006, as part of a family trip. And it was a construction site back then. The Memorial fountains weren’t installed and the Museum wouldn’t be opened for another eight years. But it was still harrowing to imagine that bustling stretch of New York under siege by hijacked commercial airliners. Since then, the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened and serve as a beautiful reminder of the terror and heroism on display that day.

I didn’t get to the museum. It had closed for the day and my friend who works there was out of the country. But seeing the memorials and the fountains in the footprints of the Twin Towers was a harrowing experience. The air around there is somber. The memory of the day and what existed before 8:46 AM has never left the area. Seeing the memorials and names of the workers in the buildings, pilots and crew on the planes, the police, Port Authority officers, and firefighters is a gutting thing. The site is so beautifully maintained. Yet, I could not help but imagine hearing the sounds crashing planes, fearful pedestrians, and falling metal that have been seared into my memory from all the news clips and documentaries of the day. The contrast of the sounds with the present day site is a remarkable contrast, and an inseparable one for me, despite being 122 miles away from Ground Zero that day.

Reflecting on 9/11 is sad. I didn’t directly know any of the victims, But my country was irreparably changed that day. And it’s impossible to look at the pictures and names and not be saddened by how raw the day was. It from the first hijacking to the second tower collapsing (a time which included the Pentagon attack and the United 93 crash in Shanksville) was only about two and a half hours. And the world changed permanently in that time.

It’s also invigorating in a way. The heroism of the firefighters, police officers, people like Welles Crowther, the amazing civilians on Flight 93, and many more are a wonderful reminder of how much good exists and how the human spirit is resilient. May God be with the families of the victims this day and forever. And God bless the United States of America.

Veterans Field Review

To this point in the Cape League review series, I have been remarkably positive. I’ve not found many faults in the parks I’ve visited. And today, that line will continue. I might be spoiling the review a bit, but I find Veterans Field in Chatham to be on par with Brewster and Orleans. Does it surpass them? Let’s take a look. This is Veteran’s Field, home of the Chatham Anglers. 

One brief word on past experience at this place. I’ve come here for many games in the past. Two things I remember clearly: Watching 8 bats break in one game in the late 2000’s with my dad. Maybe 2009? Somewhere around then. The other thing is standing behind the plate with my friend Jim who was raised on this field and told me stories of Thurmon Munson blasting a ball to beyond the hill in center. For context, the center field fence is 385 feet away. The top of the hill is even further. He’s got tons of stories like that. Anyway, on with the review! 

Location: 10/10

I wish I could give this a higher mark. The location is absolutely superb. Every ounce of praise I gave Orleans regarding location applies here. For starters, Veterans Field is right on Rt 28 and Depot Street, the biggest street in the town and another fairly big street. There’s no way you can miss it. It’s well signed, but it’s so obvious as you drive in that there isn’t any signage needed. 

To make it even better, it’s just a short walk from downtown Chatham. The business district of Chatham is where the rich and fancy go to hang out. So one word of warning, don’t be shocked if you burn a hole in your wallet, it is THAT expensive. That’s about the only issue there. There’s plenty to do, buy, see and enjoy. My favorite movie theatre I’ve ever attended is in town, there’s an excellent stage there, and all of it is a stone’s throw away from the ballpark. You can park at the field in the afternoon, enjoy the town, and catch the ballgame at 7pm. No other field in the league can provide you with such direct access to a complete town experience the way Chatham can. 

The only thing that can kind of be complained about is the parking. There’s one small lot right in front of the field that fills up painfully quickly and another one at the adjoining Chatham Community Center that’s only a touch bigger. For the crowds that Chatham can draw, that is a decent complaint. But it only holds up if there’s no where else to park. And there are other spots. The lot near the elementary school and fire station on Depot street is a good place. There’s plenty of side street parking in that direction too, and some of the local businesses that close before game time let people park there for the game. The only complaint that can be lobbed against Chatham can be easily diffused by either showing up early or parking above the field. The location is nothing short of perfection. 

Seating: 9.5/10

Veterans Field has the best variety and some of the best general seating in the league. Like Orleans, there is a hill for seating. Chatham’s is in right and center field. It’s steeper than Eldredge, but I actually think the views are better than in Orleans. In general. There’s no net and you’re not over the dugout, which can obstruct the view on the first baseline if you’re close to home plate. The hill is also not the only seating section. There are extensive and distinctive bleachers behind home plate that provide an excellent view and a beautiful backdrop for the outfield crowd. There’s also picnic tables on the right field foul line near the visiting bullpen. They provide a good place to sit and see the game while eating some food. 

Chatham has the best mix of good views and variety of seat type in the league. You can get any kind of experience you want here. The Only downside is the fact that some individual places are badly obstructed. Outfield seats behind the light towers, the edge of bleacher seats behind the dugout, and picnic tables hidden behind other picnic tables. There’s not enough for me to be mad about it, but it’s still kinda annoying. Everything else is pretty much perfect. 

Food: 10/10

The consessions stand is right down the first baseline and is a short walk from everything. It’s perfectly located. The food is also good. No exceptional menu options other than the chili dogs, which I’m not a big fan of myself (I don’t like chili dogs in general) but it all tastes good and they get it to you quickly and with a smile. Their popcorn comes in souvenir cups that you can keep and the costs of everything are fairly low. And they have one touch that I absolutely love: they play Angler’s home radio broadcast at the concessions stand. You can get food and still keep tabs with what’s going on even when you can’t see it. Plus they do $1 hot dogs in the ninth inning. Chatham gets this part absolutely perfect.

Aesthetics: 10/10

This is among the prettiest ballparks I’ve ever seen. The stands behind it are distinctive and serve as an excellent backdrop to the action. The hill is distinctive and green, the trees in left are a nice touch and the scoreboard fills out the rest of the picture well. Playing under the lights is also a lovely touch. It gets even cooler when playing in the fog, as long as it’s not a blinding fog. Basically, nothing to complain about here. 

General Atmosphere: 9.5/10

What a great place to see a ballgame. It’s an old park that has aged perfectly. You can walk in, sit, and enjoy the game easily and watch some of the best baseball in the country with absolute ease. There’s also a spectacular playground that has seen some recent renovation. It can keep the kids happy and active for hour and hours on end. I mean if I were a kid and I could play in this or watc the game, I may well choose this play ground. 

There’s also a Gaga pit and a Little League sized ballpark right next to the field with kids playing a game there. So all bases are covered for the kids to either play at the park, the sandlot, or watch the game with family. It’s pretty sweet. 

The only issue I can find is the occasional snobbishness of the Chatham fans. And mind you, I’m talking about locals, not the visitors or parents of the players. Chatham can be a snooty old money New England town and can be unwelcoming. I’ve seen it and my friends have too. But don’t let that point turn you away, it happens one out of every hundred trips. And the experience isn’t soured by the one obnoxious fan I can encounter infrequently. This is still one of the best experiences in baseball. 

Total Score: 49/50

I’m not exaggerating when I call this one of the best sports experiences I’ve had as a fan. This park gets everything right and in my opinion, not only serves as the best park in the Cape League, but is a beautiful slice of Americana that must be experienced. This is the definitive Cape League experience. You can go at any stage of your life and enjoy the park, the playground, the game, and the company you keep at the ballpark. Its the most versatile park with the most complete experience. I have only tepid complaints at best. Veterans Field is not only a must for any baseball fan, it is a must for anyone visiting Cape Cod. 

1776: A Poignant, Patriotic, and Comical Musical

The Fourth of July is a hotly anticipated day for us Americans. It means the peak of summer! Grills, baseball, vacation, beach time, fireworks, and time to celebrate with friends and family. It is a wonderful day. Though I have to remind myself that the holiday is called Independence Day and we’re celebrating more than just summer being awesome. It is also the birthday of the United States. 

It’s been 241 years to the day since the founders of the United States got together in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence, committing treason against the greatest empire in the world at the time, and boldly claiming freedom to make their own brand new nation. The American Revolution is a remarkable story and almost certainly the most astounding revolution in human history. It makes for excellent books, plays, movies, TV shows, and myths. Plenty of all have been made throughout the years. I recently watched one of the best: a musical film released in 1972 that focuses on the month long stretch from June to July of 1776 when the Continental Congress aggressively debated whether they would separate from the British Empire. The film is, appropriately, called 1776. It is an adaptation of a 1969 musical that won the Tony Award for Best Musical. If you are a fan of musicals, and appreciate the gravity and humor of the American Revolution, you owe it to yourself to watch this film. 

It centers on John Adams (played by William Daniels) trying to propose and pass American Independence through a useless, do nothing Congress that is spinning its wheels and voting on silly matters that aren’t worth the attention. He seeks and receives help from Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) who quips and sleeps his way through the whole film while being a lovable womanizer, Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard), who mostly sits quietly but delivers powerful prose and wisdom when called upon, and Abigail Adams (Virginia Vestoff), who appears to John through letters as a calming prescence, a respit from the idiocy of Congress, and a chance to sort out thoughts on the given situation. Throughout the film,  those seeking independence have to wrestle with those seeking to maintain the status quo of British citizenship and slavery, like John Dickinson (Donald Madden) and Edward Rutledge (John Cullum). 

The film stays in Philadelphia and is only concerned with the proposal, discussion, debate, and signing of the Declaration of Independance. George Washington and Alexander Hamilton do not appear at all in person. Washington is only referred to through his depressing dispatches, and there are no battle scenes shown. The action is the political discussions surrounding the Congress. 

The most praised aspect of the film is the consistent mockery and humor at the expense of government, different states, and the characters themselves. Rightly so. This is a funny movie. Everyone is a charicature. John Adams is an Oompa Loompa from puritan Boston that yells and is obnoxious. Ben Franklin is an old womanizer who sleeps all film but is actually the wisest man there. The North Carolina delegation constantly yields to South Carolina and the South Carolinians are elegant jerks. 

On top of the characterization, the lyrics and lines are also filled with excellent humor. 

When saying why he should not write the Declaration, Roger Sherman explains “I don’t know a participle from a predicate. I am just a simple cobbler from Connecticut.” 

When Jefferson’s wife (yes there are historical innacuracies; we’ll talk about those later) shows up and relieves his stress, as it were, Adams comments on their choice of timing and asks Franklin: “Are they going to…? In the middle of the afternoon!?”

Franklin responds: “Not everyone’s from Boston, John.”

And when asked about the New York delegation’s lack of direction in voting, one representative responds: “Have you ever been to a meeting of the New York legislature? Everyone talks very loud and fast, no one listens to each other, and thus, nothing ever gets done.” 

The writing is top notch and it makes for an entertaining time. 

The music is only ok though. The lyrics are the best part of it. The choreography is rather simple and the notes themselves are not too complex. They weren’t trying to make a hard musical in those ways, but I can’t help but point out these issues. And as much as I like Daniels as Adams, I can’t help but find his singing voice disappointing. It’s not a deal breaker, but for the lead of the film, they could’ve gotten someone who’s a better singer. Other than that, the technicals of the film are exactly what can be expected from an early 70’s musical. The sets are on point, the costumes are excellent and the sound design works wonderfully. Everything technically is upto standards and works well. 

The biggest issue to be taken with it is the historical innacuracies. Jefferson’s wife did not actually go to Philadelphia during the time of the real thing, and the voting on the idea actually took place on July 2nd, before signing the declaration on the 4th. There are more, but I won’t harp on them. This isn’t trying to be a true to life adaptation of the real events, it is trying to show the atmosphere of the times and the gravity of declaring independence. And it does that well. 

While I praised the humorous tone of the film early, 1776 also has moments that are played stone cold seriously. This is honestly where the film is at its best for me. The debate scene between the proposal of Independence and the formation of the committee for writing a Declaration of Independence is played straight and the tension of the moment is perfect. “Molassas to Rum” is a scathing commentary on the nature of the slave trade and slavery in the south and is the best number in the movie. Cullum plays it up as Rutledge and shines. The thing he’s promoting are horrible, but it is supposed to grab your attention and it does. 

On the subject of slavery, this film shows excellent awareness of how murky an issue it was in those days. Adams and Jefferson wanted to remove slavery from the new nation, but the economy of the southern states depended upon it. If removed, the Deep South would’ve folded completely and the economic problems after the war would have likely been even worse. Adams acknowledged that “Future generations will never forgive us.” Franklin answered “That may be so, but without a country that won’t matter much.” It was an absolutely impossible moral dilemma and the way it is shown in this film is enlightening and sobering. 

The ending of the film is also sobering and jarring. The signing of the Declaration is played completely straight and with an air of “oh crap what are we doing” hanging over the scene. You’d think it’d end on a high note, but it doesn’t. It ends in a somber mood, as if to say “the fight has yet to be won”. That’s absolutely the correct way to end the film. The founders were committing treason against the greatest empire in the world and the greatest power since Rome. They knew they would likely fail. And by all rights, they should have failed. But they didn’t. 

When I think about why I celebrate Independence Day, I always think about how unlikely it is that the country should exist. The debate, the wars, the odds, the fight against human nature, nothing on paper says that America should exist today, let alone should have escaped the first months of its existence. This country has been through an unbelievable journey and it began in Philadelphia back 241 years ago. 

Hamilton is a more entertaining look at America’s founding and nature. But 1776 is a more accurate portrayal of the atmosphere of the country’s founding. It benefits from a tight focus on one location and particular month, excellent writing and a healthy dose of comedy balanced by sobering reality. If you have not seen this film, take some of your Independence Day to watch it. 

Ed Sabol: Origin of Sports Dreams

As I was falling asleep on Monday, I saw the news that Ed Sabol, the founder of NFL Films passed away. I was very sad to see that an important pioneer in film and in sports passed away. In a way I can’t be too sad. He lived a very long and healthy life, dying at the age of 98 years old. He lived a complete life.

The story of his greatest professional accomplishment is fascinating, as is his whole life’s story. He was born in Atlantic City, NJ in 1916, was a successful athlete in high school and college, even being selected to compete in the 1936 Olympics, which he declined to participate in due to Nazi Germany hosting the games. He served in World War II, had some success doing plays on Broadway, then settled down and had a family. For income, he worked in his father-in-law’s coat business, which Sabol hated. He was bored, unfulfilled, and itching to move on with his life. He wanted to find a profession he would love, and he found inspiration in a Christmas gift. He received a simple 16 millimeter movie camera, and he filmed everything, especially the adventures of his son, Steve. Ed filmed Steve’s first haircut, pony ride, and all of his football games from 4th grade to senior year in high school. Eventually, when he had enough money saved, he sold the coat business. With the money now in hand, Sabol created a film company: Blair Motion Pictures, named for Ed’s daughter, Blair. However, he now needed something to film. He looked back at what he already filmed and saw that most of it was his son Steve‘s football games. And he saw some early pro football talk shows and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could see pro football as if it were a movie?” So that’s what he aimed to do. He found that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was trying to get someone to film the 1962 NFL Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. Sabol outbid every other film group to get the rights to film the game. After the film was released, Pete Rozelle liked it enough to give Sabol the job of next year’s championship game. After the 1963 NFL season, the NFL liked Blair Motion Pictures’ work so much that they gave an exclusive contract to Blair to be the only company filming NFL games. After receiving that contract, Blair Motion Pictures became NFL Films, and since then, they have been filming NFL games, and entertaining homes for decades. Just listen to some of the music from NFL Films.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9QNCnQh9c0

NFL Films is far and away the best sports media company in the world. Their films are always top notch in visual quality, the narration is excellent, the music is perfectly written, and there are very rarely mistakes made in editing the clips. It shows a brutal, yet beautiful game in a way that other mediums can’t, and shows the amazing ability and work of the men playing football.

Perhaps that is the greatest success of Ed Sabol’s career, he showed greatness. Do we care too much about sports? I’m sure I do. Sports doesn’t determine the best political situations, or dictate morals, or help solve economic troubles in and of itself. It doesn’t have a direct impact on the fans of the game, yet we revere athletes like they are true heroes, we set our schedules so we can watch their exploits in games that will not directly change our lives. Why? Because we seek greatness. We want to see the extraordinary exploits, talents, and accomplishments of others. We look for entertainment, encouragement, a distraction from the world around us, or some reason to smile. Watching others be so great in the arena accomplishes all of these things. But beyond that, they allow us to dream. They fill our heads with the possibilities of what we could do. We watch Tom Brady in the Super Bowl and are amazed. We watch Ernie Banks live so happily and play so joyfully, and want that for ourselves. We watch people closer to us, like BU Basketball Coach Jones, and we admire their intensity and passion. Sports is a way of learning lessons that few other avenues can. And in the sports world, very few groups showed us all of sport’s lessons the way NFL Films did, and will continue to do.

Thank you Ed and Steve Sabol. Steve, you passed away in 2012 of cancer. Now I hope you and your dad are enjoying peace and eternity with God. You certainly deserve it.

A dabble of History

I love history. It was my favorite topic in school as a little kid. My dad got me interested in American history. He studied it in college. My brother and I wanted to mimic our dad when we were kids, so we picked up an interest in American history that carried over to today. I still love learning about it, still enjoy the lessons that can be gleaned from yesteryear, and still love learning amazing stories.

I’m taking a class on the American Revolution now. The work for said class is part of a furious push in the last two weeks of the semester. I’m a little daunted by the work I have for this class, and for my other ones. However, I still find joy in learning the history of my country and I wish that more people would do so. It’s a rich tale filled with heroes, villains, stories of glory and failure, and lessons of how to lead one’s life.

How to honor Soldiers on Veterans Day

Today was Veterans Day. We honor the brave men and women who have served our country in all wars and all conflicts in our nation’s history. They have selflessly given of themselves to defend our most basic freedoms, ones we take for granted, like voting, religion, living where we want, and following the life we want to lead. We take these for granted, though we shouldn’t. We have these privileges on the backs of brave men and women who believe in the ideals of the United States and who seek to live in a free nation themselves. They provide lofty standards of courage, discipline, and honor that we all can and should follow if we desire to be truly good citizens of the greatest nation on earth.

Whenever there is an event honoring the military, I always stand up and applaud and salute our soldiers. They deserve that and so much more. But I’ve never been completely comfortable with the ways we honor them. I always wonder if they want to be honored instead of truly appreciated. There is a difference between the two. A ceremony honors. A handshake or a personal salute honors. When walking the streets of Boston, I saw one man wearing his medals from his service in the Marine Corps. I stopped, gave him a personal salute, and personally said to him, “Thank you for your service.” He stopped, shook my hand, said thank you, and walked away with a big beaming smile on his face.

That happens every time I see someone in a military uniform and salute. They deserve that and so much more than I could ever do for them. I prefer to show my appreciation that way than to hold a big elaborate ceremony. There’s a more personal feel for it on my end, and I believe in theirs. Not that I think the in game tributes should be done away with at sports events or anything like that. But I think the best way to show appreciation to our veterans is to show it on a personal level. Make sure to do that the next time you see a current soldier or a veteran. I know I will.


Patriotic and Spiritual songs

I love my faith and my country. This is not some new revelation to anyone who knows anything about me. I especially love when the two are intertwined. I had that experience at Mass today. For Memorial Day weekend, my church uses more patriotic music that still carries a great faith message.

Two songs in particular are beautiful God and country songs. The 1st is the Battle Hymn of the Republic. This was the anthem sung by the Union forces in the Civil War. President Lincoln loved the song so much that he made it the song of choice for the army. It’s all about how God’s work is being done and that He reigns eternal. It’s a beautiful song. And it serves as a reminder that the United States is really a Christian nation. Sorry Atheists. It was founded on Judeo-Christian values.

The second song is America the Beautiful. It’s all about how blessed and glorious America is. It serves as a great reminder that we are blessed in this country. It’s a truly beautiful nation. It was blessed by God. It is truly special living here.

I hope that everyone has a very blessed Memorial Day and that we remember the lessons in both songs, which have their respective links below. God Bless America!