Tag Archive | Story

Heroic American Freedom Stories

I’ve been wished a Happy Fourth of July for much of my life, including many times this week. While I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not a big fan of celebrating the Fourth of July. It’s a day on the calendar, the 185th on a non-leap year calendar, which 2019 is. It’s not that different from July 29th, or August 10th, or any other day in the summer. So why do we set it aside? Because the actual holiday is Independence Day in the United States. I always wish people that instead, wanting people to join in the holiday being celebrated, not just some random day in the middle of the summer.

It might be unfashionable to call it Independence Day, but that is the holiday. It’s the day the Declaration of Independence was approved and delivered to the public. The separation was actually voted for by the Continental Congress on July 2nd, but the wording of the Declaration was debated a little longer to ensure everyone was on the same page. John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, predicting that the legal separation would become the day of great celebration.

The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Well, only two days off, John.

Still, Independence Day is a great time to celebrate the history of this country. So I’ve found a few stories of remarkable American figures who’s stories remind us of our heritage and past. Enjoy!

Samuel Whittimore

On April 19, 1775, the British Regulars marched to take the munitions held by the Massachusetts Militia in Concord. Along the way, they encountered 77 Militia on the Lexington Common for the first skirmish of the American Revolution. The Regulars marched onto Concord and were turned back. On the march back, 78 year old Samuel Whittimore, a veteran of King George’s War and the French & Indian War and retired farmer in Menotomy (present day Arlington), saw a rescue brigade led by Earl Percy headed aid the retreat.

Whittimore rallied to join the fight. He loaded his musket and dueling pistols, and equipped a sword. He took position along a wall and fired his musket, killing a Regular. He then unloaded his pistols, killing a second and mortally wounding a third. The Brits figured out where he was and rushed him as Whittimore drew his sword. He engaged, though it ended poorly. The 78 year old was shot and bayoneted many (some say 18) times, and beaten with the butt end of a rifle. The Brits left him for dead in a pool of his own blood.

When the colonial forces found him, not only was Whittimore not dead, he was reloading his musket to get another shot off. The locals took him to Medford’s Dr. Cotton Tufts (yes, as in that Tufts family who’s name adorns a prominent university in Medford). The good doctor proclaimed there was no hope for Whittimore’s survival. In fact, not only did the man live another day, he lived for 18 additional years, passing at 96 years of age on February 2nd, 1793. He is interred at the Old Burial Ground in Arlington and is memorialized with a monument on the town common. In 2005, Massachusetts proclaimed Whittimore as the Commonwealth’s official hero.

The Samuel Whittimore Memorial in Arlington, Massachusetts

Declaration Signers

A year after Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence, as it exists today. What happened to the 56 singers of that revolutionary document? Well, many lost money, fortune, family, property, and their own lives. Paul Harvey’s telling of their stories is so good that I will simply link it below. It’s a tradition of mine to watch this and be awed at the courage present in America’s birth.

https://youtu.be/SRSHA7F3mIw

John Clem

Its often I look on the course of my life and realize I’ve had it easy compared to my ancestors. But no story has so thoroughly given me that feeling than the tale of Civil War hero John Lincoln Clem. Born in 1851 in Newark, Ohio, his mother was killed in a train accident when he was 10 years old. Shortly thereafter, Clem ran away to try and join the 3rd Ohio Infantry as a drummer boy in the Union Army. They rejected him because he was too small. He then went to Michigan and tried to join the 22nd Michigan Regiment. They didn’t allow him in, but he followed behind and was adopted as a mascot and drummer boy. There is plenty of myth surrounding his service, but what is clearly true is a rapid rise up the Military ladder.

In September, 1863, a Union offensive was pushed back at Chickamauga, in Northwestern Georgia. Over the course of three days, from the 18th to the 20th, nearly four thousand soldiers died and an additional 24 thousand injuries. It’s one of the bloodiest battles in American history, only edged out by Spotsylvania Courthouse and Gettysburg. Famed journalist and Investigating Agent of the War Department Charles A. Dana wrote of Chickamauga: “My report today is of deplorable importance. Chickamauga is as fatal a name in our history as Bull Run.”

In the midst of the Union retreat, Clem was in the grasp of a Confederate Colonel and shot his way out of danger. For his bravery in the fight, the Drummer Boy of Chickamauga was promoted on the spot to Sergeant of the Army of the Cumberland. He was 12 years old at the time. He continued fighting and a month later, was captured in Georgia by a Confederate Cavalryman. He was included in a prisoner exchange shortly after and was most upset about the confiscation of his uniform, including his cap with three bullet holes. His service in the war was actually used as Confederate war propaganda. Many newspapers in the South asked the question “What sore straits the Yankees are driven, when they have to send their babies out to fight us.”

Clem, despite his young age and small stature, fought bravely in the Union Army and helped win the Civil War. He continued to serve in the American military until 1916 and was the last living Civil War veteran at the time of his passing on May 13th, 1937. He was 85 years old.

Lance Sergeant John Lincoln Clem

These are just a few of the heroes who sacrificed life and limb to create our home and give a free nation to us today. I call the Fourth of July Independence Day because of the heroes who went before us. And I’m eternally grateful to those who lived and died to make this country a reality.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

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Best Movies I Watched in 2016

I’ve not done a countdown in a long while and it’s that time of year when countdowns make sense as a means for recollection, so here’s a new countdown. I watched a number of movies this year. They covered a huge range of genres, styles, ages, and tones. Most of them entertained me, and all of them engaged me. These are the ten best movies I watched for the first time this year. Please note that this is not a list of films released this year. I didn’t go to the movie theatre that often, so I didn’t see many of the best films of this year according to critics, like La La Land, Moonlight, or Manchester by the Sea. I saw a few, but most of the films are from earlier years, some from the black and white film era. Here we go. 

Honorable Mention: V For Vendetta (2005)

There’s a used book store in Cambridge called Rodney’s that is one of my favorite hangout spots. They sell DVDs for very cheap, and I’ve gotten a few films from there. I’ve wanted to watch V for Vendetta for a while, so when I saw it for so cheap, I bought it. I had a free afternoon after class, so I made lunch and watched the movie. That was a good choice. 

The political themes and messages of the film are compelling and thought provoking. The world feels controlled and chained. They nailed the feel of the movie, with Natalie Portman acting as a vessel for us to walk in futuristic, fascist London. Portman is excellent in the film, but the highlight is absolutely Hugo Weaving as V. He is spellbinding. His home feels like a haven, his actions and speeches are grandiose, at times infuriating, but as you learn his backstory through the course of the film, you appreciate how complete this character is. It takes some commitment to watch it and some of the messaging is a bit much, but the political intrigue, suspense, and charm make V for Vendetta well worth watching. I can’t put it into the top list, but it deserves a mention. 

10. Rogue One (2016)

The annual Star Wars release that we will get for the rest of all time just barely scrapes into my top 10. I did a full writeup of the film, so I won’t spend much time on it here. Short version, its good. Plenty of good action, amazing Darth Vader moments, and enough world building to expand the Star Wars universe and add some grit to the world make it a worthwhile addition to cinema’s most sacred franchise. It’s flaws are just big enough to keep it down to the 10th spot here.

9. The Revenant (2015)
For the first and only time on this list, I will say I didn’t like this movie much. This is a rare experience for me. I appreciate the technical mastery and how well made and directed the film is, but I still can’t bring myself to like it. 

Positives first. The scene composition, camerawork, lighting, and cinematography are nothing short of amazing. The film feels real and brutal. The score isn’t distracting or ear catching, but it compliments the film perfectly. The theme of survival is well explored and Tom Hardy is an excellent villain. There is plenty to enjoy and it deserved every technical Oscar it won. However, as stated previously, I didn’t like it. I saw this film at the very end of its theatrical run while on Spring break with family. We went to a lovely little theatre called the Chatham Orpheum, in Chatham, Cape Cod, which might be my favorite theatre I’ve ever been to. We sat there and suffered through it. 

It felt like a gore fest that took so much effort to stomach and watch Leonardo DiCaprio fight through. It is a brutal movie that pushes its lead to his physical limits, but doesn’t flush his character out anymore than that. In fact, none of the characters other than Hardy or the Native guide halfway through the film caught my attention or were that memorable for me. When the film is so focused on beating the lead to his limits, that’s tough to watch. The CGI by Industrial Light and Magic to bring the bear to life is the best CGI work I’ve ever seen, and I could barely watch it. You feel every cut, arrow, rock, and punch that hits Leo. It’s so hard to watch at times that I can’t say I like it. If you can’t stomach violence, stay far away from this movie. If you can handle it, then you’ve got a technical masterpiece to enjoy here. 

8. Airplane! (1980)

I’ve never laughed so hard watching a movie. This film is vulgar, insulting, full of swearing, death, and nudity. And it is a work of comedic genius. This came out at a time when disaster movies were popular. Think The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Zero Hour!. It takes the seriousness of disaster movies and plays every bit of it for laughs. The characters and jokes are perfectly written and it is so quotable. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar talks about dragging Walton and Lanier up the floor every night for 48 minutes with a kid who just told him he doesn’t try , except during the playoffs, while he is trying to pass himself off as an airplane pilot and is wearing his Laker uniform underneath his pilot garb. That kind of absurdity is just par for the course when talking about this movie. This isn’t a film to watch for cinematography, character arcs, or any of that stuff. You watch this because it was funny in 1980, and it is just as funny today. 

7. Finding Dory (2016)

Pixar is the best animation studio going today. I have loved almost every film I’ve seen from them, and liked Cars and Cars 2. When the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo was announced years ago, I was excited. When the movie came out, it was a must watch for me. I saw this with my mom on the Cape over the summer. And wow did Pixar do a phenomenal job. I actually like this a little more than the original. 

The animation is sensational. The sound design is perfect. The voice acting is just as good as the first movie. There are bits which are nonsensical, like the truck falling off the cliff as “What a Wonderful World” plays, but the film holds together well enough despite the silliness. The returning characters are as good as expected, but the new critters are awesome additions. Namely Hank, my favorite character in the film. His arc is heartwarming and his natural characteristics, as an octopus, allow Pixar to flex their creative muscle with him on screen. I think this is a worthy sequel to Finding Nemo and a worthy addition to Pixar’s lineup. 

6. City of God (2002)

After my final exam wrapped up at BU, I had a week to relax on campus. During Senior Week, I went to Red Sox games, explored the MFA, celebrated my graduation with my friends, and enjoyed the city I’ve come to love so much. One night, I got together with some guys from the BU Catholic Center and we wanted to watch a movie. My friend David, an avid film buff, suggested City of God. None of us knew anything about it, just that it was supposed to be good. Our blind faith was rewarded with a surprisingly gritty and touching film about growing up in and trying to survive in the slums of Rio de Janero. 

It is in Portuguese, and has accompanying subtitles to make it watchable for those who don’t speak Portuguese. It provides enough lighthearted moments to make living in the ironically titled City of God seem better than it actually is. Only two disappointments show up for me. There’s a romance between the lead and a girl he likes that is dropped part of the way through the film and is never resolved. There’s also one important character who goes from being likable to dispicable in a heartbeat. It just seems a bit extreme. All things considered though, this is a phenomenal movie. It does require some willingness to endure blood and guts, but nowhere near as much as The Revenant

5. Million Dollar Baby (2004)

I love sports movies. With all the sports posts I’ve got, it’d be a shock if I didn’t. Gran Torino is one of my favorite films, and I heard that Million Dollar Baby was similar in tone and even better. After an insane week of driving all around New England, I needed a night to breathe. I made myself dinner and put in Million Dollar Baby. This movie is emotional. Hillary Swank plays the southern hick perfectly. The chemistry between Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood is perfect. It is a little slow, but it’s a Clint Eastwood film. He takes his time. This is a sports movie that gets you thinking “that’s not fair!” just after showing you something heartwarming and exciting. It is a well balanced movie, and well worth your time and effort to try and watch it.


4. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

My family has a penchant for watching classic movies. We’ve watched such classics as Casablanca and Citizen Kane and plan on watching On The Waterfront, and other classics as time goes by. Over spring break, Dad suggested we watch Sunset Boulevard, a classic film noir about how age and fame can drive a person into insanity. And wow is this movie engrossing, unsettling, and fantastically creepy. Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond masterfully and delivers one of the most famous lines in cinema history: “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.” I thought this film was a lighthearted look at the entertainment business. I was wrong, and the finale of the film leaves you with a sense of “I can’t believe that really just happened…” It is from a completely different era of film making. The writing, pacing, and tone of the movie are relics of its time, and I wish we could go back to that age. If you like old school movies, go watch this. You’ll love it. 

3. Inside Out (2015)

In late October, I went with my dad to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to take in a Green Bay Packer game at Lambeau Field. It was a highlight of the year. The next day, we hopped on a plane to Chicago. We then went our separate ways, with me going back to Boston and Dad going to San Fransisco. When I sat down for my flight, I noticed the seatback monitor had a Disney tab. I poked around the movie selection and found Inside Out listed there. I remember many people raving about how good this movie was, and I had one friend tell me about how emotionally charged it is. I took their word for it and watched it on my flight home. Simply, wow. 

Again, Pixar is the best animation studio working now and Inside Out is the most imaginative film they’ve made. The idea of emotions being managed like a company with a board of emotions managing it all is brilliant. The tale of a young girl struggling to figure out her new situation is compelling and relatable to every human being on the planet. The animation and score are perfect. The writing for every character is phenomenal, and my friend who called it emotional was not exaggerating at all. I couldn’t watch some sections of the film because I had lived it and I didn’t want to look at it in movie form. That makes the final act and the ensuing catharsis more meaningful. This is a masterful movie and one of my favorite Pixar films. Go watch this if you haven’t yet. 

2. Rocky (1976)

Yes, I somehow never watched Rocky before this year. When I got my job writing for Inside Hockey and covered games up at the University of Vermont, I stayed overnight at my family’s place in Quechee, VT. After finishing my writeups I checked out the Xfinity OnDemand listings. I went to the Free Movies tab and saw Rocky. Instantly, I thought “Yes. This is happening.” I was missing out, this film is awesome. 

Sylvester Stallone as the title character is absolutely the best part of the film. He’s simultaneously so stupid and wise with an underlying good nature that you can’t possibly root against him. Apollo Creed, played by Carl Weathers, is a respectable adversary for Rocky, but never feels much like a villain. There’s a healthy respect between the two leads. The romance between Rocky and Adrian, played by Talia Shire, is sweet and touching. It looks and feels very real, with Rocky being such a gentleman in a way only a bumbling guy can be. It makes the final scene so memorable. The best sequence of the film is undoubtably the fight. The “Going the Distance” song is one of the finest pieces of film score ever written, and you pull so hard for Rocky. It is a masterclass of pulling for the underdog and creating a character that everyone wants to be, and at points through life, has been. This film is required viewing.

1. The Godfather (1972)

Of all the great movies I wanted to watch and hadn’t gotten to yet, this is the one that people were the most baffled by my not seeing. This is considered one of the greatest movies ever made. I had heard about the horse head, the baptism, the Sicilian wedding, and how perfect the casting was. So after the craziness of the Whitecaps baseball season and the musical wrapped up, I had a free night. I cooked a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and sausage, poured a glass of red wine, killed all the lights in my house, and watched The Godfather. Simply put, all the praise of the movie was justified. 

In a way, this is the weirdest film on the list because it doesn’t feel like a movie. It feels like a novel being told by actors. It was based on a novel, but it feels like a book and not a movie, which is normally a problem. Not here. Also the film starts with immediate exposition about a daughter being brutally attacked. No music, no credits, no build up or set up. Just a cold start. It’s so different, and it works so well. Marlon Brando is magnificent as Don Corleone. Al Pacino’s ascent as a member of the family is so compelling to watch. Every supporting character is cast absolutely perfectly. There are so many quotable lines. I feel more cultured after having seen this movie. This is up there as one of the greatest accomplishments in cinematic history. This, like Rocky, is required watching, but watch this first. The Godfather is a cinematic marvel that will never get old or be forgotten. 

Craig Sager: Model of Faith, Consistency, and Broadcasting Work

On April 20, 2014, the San Antonio Spurs faced the Dallas Mavericks in the first game of the first round of the NBA Playoffs. It was a close, tense, exciting game between two tense rivals with recent history and championship pedigree. The Spurs won 90-85 behind Tim Duncan’s classic 27 point performance. And all of that takes a back seat to something almost mundane that happened between the third and fourth quarters of the game. Craig Sager Jr. interviewed Gregg Popovich for TNT’s broadcast of the game. Popovich is famous for giving brief, one word answers and curt responses that scream of contempt to the reporters asking these questions. He has no time, he’s got a game to win and a team to coach! Except for April 20th. On that night, he took his time to answer the questions posed to him and took the time to praise Craig Sager Jr. for the job he did, but expressed disappointment in Sager’s father not asking him the questions. 

Senior was at that time being treated for acute myeloid leukemia. He needed a bone marrow transplant, and got it from his son; the same some who interviewed Popovich. Sager had never missed so much as a TNT regular season game between two horrendous teams since joining the Turner sports crew in 1981. But he missed the entire 2014 playoffs and a major personality was missing. The playoffs went on and entertained millions while Craig recovered and became a model of how to live honorably and enthusiastically while recovering from serious disease. 

On March 5th, 2015, Sager returned to the sidelines to work the TNT broadcast of a game between the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder at the United Center. It made sense. Sager grew up in Batavia, Illinois, only an hour and a half west of the Windy City. He loved the Cubs and was a diehard Chicagoan. He got to cover an exciting game between two excellent teams in his home town. How perfect

Then on June 16th, 2016, TNT loaned Sager to ESPN to work his first ever NBA finals. The man once described by George Brett as a “one man crew” when he worked in Kansas City had reached the pinnacle of the sport he became synonymous with. He was holding a different logo on the microphone than he had since the 80’s, but LeBron James still hugged him in the middle of the game while being interviewed and asked him how it took so long to get him to that stage. Craig responded by brushing it off and doing his job. How perfect. 

He did and lived all of this while being in and out of the hospital for follow up treatments after his first remission and, tragically, his cancer’s return. He needed three bone marrow transplants to keep going, something that hadn’t been done by many before. He would go to Houston to get chemotherapy, hop on a plane to go work a game, then fly right back to continue treatment until he was physically able and needed to work again. Truth was, he was always needed. Popovich needed a colorful character to make him look even more stoic than he already was, and Kevin Garnett needed another bright character to play off of to make his time more fun for all. He just wasn’t able to do it forever. 

Yesterday, Craig Sager finally succumbed to the leukemia that had been eating away at him. It has resurfaced in March, before his first NBA Finals game, and before he was awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance award at the ESPY’s. He remained a model of energy, passion and zest for life, and going to work despite all possible setbacks. 

I came to know Sager as the guy who wore the funny suits while telling you interesting facts about the game that was happening. It was an eyesore to see some of his suits, but he was a remarkable figure of consistency and entertainment on the sidelines. Everyone knew him, loved him, enjoyed making fun of his suits, and were inspired by him. No one could pull off his look, and even fewer could make the broadcast so entertaining and make it look so easy. 

Sager is a model for how all young, aspiring broadcasters, myself included, should carry themselves. I will take inspiration from his example and be sad about the loss in the NBA community. Many will try and pull off Sager’s style, but no one will make it work. No one will wear those suits well again. No one will make it look so easy while looking so outlandish. And no one will replace the giant shoes that Sager is leaving behind. An institution is gone from the game, but the memories he gave live in and will entertain forever. May God welcome Craig Sager in heaven and comfort his family. Lord knows they need it today. 

There Goes Papi

I’ve been attending and watching sporting events for almost my whole life. I’ve had almost every emotion possible. I’ve been at ease watching my team annihilate the opposition, dejected when my team stinks, shocked by heartbreaking losses, tense in close and meaningful games, and thrilled by exciting victories late. The one emotion I haven’t had before is being sad. I’ve been dejected, but I’ve never had a sense of true sadness while at a game in my life. That was, until last night at Fenway Park. 

I waited until the first inning started to buy tickets, knowing that they would drop like a rock, and picked up seats for fairly cheap. After that, I went with my friend, another life long Sox fan, and off we went to the tense atmosphere of playoff baseball in Fenway Park. We knew the potential for the Red Sox to stage a stellar series comeback, given their history in the 2000’s. We also knew that if they lost, the last active player from our youths would retire and our childhood sport fandom would in essence be over. 

Sure enough, the Red Sox found themselves down two in the bottom of the 8th inning with a runner on base, two out, and David Ortiz up to hit. Naturally, we felt pretty good about it. And then Cleveland pitched around him with an unintentional intentional walk. Hanley Ramirez singled in a run, and then Ortiz was taken out for a pinch runner. He left to upraorus applause and adulation. Unfortunately, he was denied a proper happy ending. The Red Sox failed to tie the game in the eighth and got two more runners on in the 9th and failed to score then. When the game ended, I had this crushed feeling of, “It’s over. The season, the chance for a championship, the fun times at the ballpark, but especially the career of a legend. It’s all gone.”

At that moment, I sat down in my seat and was the saddest I’ve ever been at any game I’ve ever gone to. I filled out my scorebook with what had happened, and looked around the ballpark. There were so many people standing in shock. They all knew, as I did, that we would never watch David Amèrico Ortiz Arias step to the batters box ever again for the Boston Red Sox. We didn’t want it to end. We stood and waited. We chanted at the top of our lungs: “We Want Papi!” And “Thank you Papi!” and best of all “We’re Not Leaving!”. We waited for what felt like an eternity. 

And then a tall, looming figure stepped out of the Red Sox dugout and took the field. The Fenway Park sound guys played this music from The Natural, and every person there watched this legend as tears filled every eye in the yard. Surrounded by reporters, he looked around the park with tears in his eyes. He didn’t care about the people taking pictures a few feet away from them, he wasn’t there for them. He walked out to the pitchers mound to say thank you to the people in the stands. He tipped his cap to us, and we cheered and yelled “Thank you David!” until we just couldn’t speak or make anymore noise. We all knew what this man did for the Red Sox, the region, and ourselves. We could do nothing, but applaud the efforts and heart of this champion. And then he stepped off the mound and off the field, back through the dugout and into the clubhouse to remove his equipment for the final time. 

I’ve been following the Red Sox since 2003, a diehard fan since 2005, and a Boston area resident since 2012. In that time, David Ortiz went from a mediocre left handed hitter to productive hitter on a record setting offense to postseason folk hero to legendary slugger worthy of record alongside the greatest to ever play the game. I grew up watching him play every single day for six months of my year every year from 2003 on. I was 8 when he took over the DH spot from Jeremy Giambi. I’m now 22 and I’m watching the last of my childhood baseball heroes walk away. And when David walked out and tipped his cap to us, I cried. I’ve never shed a tear at a game before. But that was the end of my childhood baseball fandom, and I was so sad to watch it end. 

As I’ve explained before, David Ortiz is the most important Red Sox player ever. Not the best, but the most important. He took the Red Sox from being a team that would be just good enough to entertain and just bad enough to fail spectacularly in the biggest game of the season to being a champion. The 2004 World Series is the most important trophey in the history of all Boston sports without any hesitation. And David Ortiz was at the heart of it. When we cheered David, we were thanking him for his efforts on the field and his transformation of the organization we root for. He turned us into winners. And I mean that line quite literally. 

Athletes can only do so much to directly impact our day to day lives. They play a game and entertain people. They aren’t doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, or anything that directly helps a city in that manner. Any impact that can be is up to the person watching the game and athlete in question. Athletes can inspire fans and make them realize their own potential. They see the exploits on the field and think: “If they can handle all this pressure of all these expectations and perform like that, then I can handle my issues and do it the way they do.” 

Watching the Red Sox from 1919 to 2003 was to expect failure. You follow a team for so long and see so many failures while that guy (in this case the Yankees) gets every break and does so well, and it rubs off on your psyche. When David showed up and played with his swagger and championship mindset, he changed the Sox from fearing the big moment and the Yankees to wanting that pressure. That rubbed off on the fan base too. It rubbed off on me. I looked at Ortiz as an inspirational figure for my youth, looking to his triumphs for inspiration to deal with personal struggles and problems. He gave me the confidence to handle my issues with a championship swagger and attitude. I’ll always have him to personally thank for that. And me tipping my cap to him was my way of saying thank you. I’m sure I’m not the only person with that sense of gratitude or impact given by him. 

Thank you David Ortiz, champion, hero, and Boston Red Sox legend. You’ve changed a city, a team, a fan base, and filled our lives with so much joy. One standing ovation from all of us Red Sox fans would not be enough to thank you for all that you’ve done. But it’s all we could give you last night. Thank you. We will miss you, and love what you gave us forever. 

Gordie Howe: Mr. Hockey

Hockey is not my favorite sport. I do appreciate how brutal the sport is, how tough the players are, and have excellent experiences involving the sport, including calling the Beanpot, rooting for BU as a fan, and a childhood of Hartford Wolf Pack games. I also appreciate the stories and myths of the ice, like I do for all sports. So when I heard that Gordie Howe died on Friday, I couldn’t help but be sad, as the toughest and most mythical player in hockey’s long history has finally passed on.

Of all the players to play the survival game called hockey, no one captured the balance of physicality and skill the way Gordie Howe did. From 1946 until 1971 with the Detroit Red Wings, and then from 1973 until 1980 in the World Hockey Association, Gordie Howe wrote a story that defied the odds and saw him play a grand total of 32 professional hockey seasons. He set records for scoring and career longevity and become the standard for hockey toughness.

That toughness came from his home town and upbringing. Howe was one of nine children; born in a farm house in Floral, Saskatchewan, a remote part of an obscure state who’s name is the definition of the middle of scenic nowhere to non natives. He moved out to Saskatoon when he was nine days old, and they lived there through the worst of the Great Depression. When he was old enough, he spent his summers working construction with his father. He started playing hockey at 8 years old, and showed a natural talent for the national sport of Canada. He also showed disinterest in school. He quit school at 16 years old and joined his father as a construction worker, while continuing to play hockey in the local leagues. He eventually got a tryout with the New York Rangers, and the Rangers offered him a contract. But Howe would have to go to Notre Dame, a school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan, that was known for churning out good hockey players. Howe did not feel comfortable going there and declined the contract. He returned home to play with his friends and stayed for a year.

In 1944, he was noticed by the Detroit Red Wings organization. He signed on and played with the Red Wings minor league team, and was called up in 1946. He played his first two seasons wearing number 17, and was effective but not great. He did not take his biggest strides towards hockey immortality until 1948, when he changed his number to 9. He gained a reputation as a skilled scorer and a man quick to throw down his gloves and fight. There is an occurrence in hockey known as a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick”, which is when a player scores a goal, records an assist, and gets in a fight. He fought so much his rookie year that his coach, Jack Adams, asked him “I know you can fight. Now can you show me you can play hockey?” Howe showed that he could play better than anyone who had taken the ice to that point. He led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cups in the 50’s and wrote the NHL record book.  He would set a record for scoring 20 or more goals every season from 1949 until 1971, became the first player to score 90 points in a season, and then 100 points in a season. He won the Hart Trophey (League MVP) 6 times, and along with Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, he became the standard bearer for the NHL.

Gordie-Howe

He retired in 1971 as the leading goal scorer in the history of the NHL, but mostly capable of playing. He had bad wrists and was forced to retire before he was ready to do so. The amazing thing was that he was able to keep playing after he turned 42, when mere hockey mortals would have to retire. Instead, with the help of a wrist surgery and fueled by disputes with the front office of the Red Wings, Howe returned to the ice in 1973, playing in the World Hockey League, a competitor to the National Hockey League. He joined the Houston Aeros, because his sons were playing there. He led the Aeros to consecutive championships in 1974 and 75. After his time in Houston ended, the epilogue arrived. He went with his sons to the New England Whalers, later the Hartford Whalers, and played until he was 51 years old. In his last season in Hartford, he scored 15 goals and collected 26 assists for 41 points in a career high 80 games played that season.

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Gordie Howe did things on the ice with skill and strength that no one else ever could. Wayne Gretzky was not the complete package that Howe was. Bobby Orr was not the physical marvel that Howe was. No one has or will ever match the physical prowess and scoring skills of Gordie Howe, and no one will ever match the influence on the sport that Howe had. Wayne Gretzky has always said that Howe is the greatest hockey player ever, and he is correct. Gretzky holds all of Howe’s former scoring records, and holds scoring records that will never be topped. But Howe did it for much longer and never showed the physical decline that Gretzky showed. They won the same number of Stanley Cups, four each, and they were at least comparable in the influence they could have on the game. I’d give Howe a very slight edge as the greatest total Hockey player ever, and that is only by a tiny, TINY margin.

Howe also lived for a long time after his playing career ended. He finally retired for good in 1980, and lived a long and fruitful life afterward. He worked for charities to counter degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s after his wife’s death in 2009. He was named to the Order of Canada, and was a living monument to the sport of hockey after his career ended. Unfortunately, he suffered from dementia towards the end of his life and had to live with his children in rotation. He suffered a bad stroke in 2014. He did recover and managed to see some good months with his grand children after. Unfortunately, even the toughest ones must go too. While staying with his son Murray, a radiologist in Toledo, OH, the great Howe couldn’t go any further. He died at his son’s home. No cause has officially been listed for his death, but as of now, what he and his family need are our prayers and respect.

Gordie Howe was the greatest hockey player of all time. Unfortunately his time finally came to an end after 88 years of living here on earth. May God welcome him with open arms.

BOOKS Gordie Howe 20141010

Gordie Howe is shown a a recent handout photo from the new book “Mr. Hockey.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Paul Horton/Neue Studios MANDITORY CREDIT: Paul Horton/Neue Studios

One Last Time: Back to Boston U!

Well, it has begun. I’m 21 years old, the summer has wrapped up nicely, the Red Sox are still in last place, Tom Brady is no longer suspended, and I am back where I feel at home: Boston. I’ve written several times now about how much this here, but this time is a bit different in both good and very interesting ways. 

First for the good. I’m now a senior at BU and I’ve only got one more year of college left! I’m back with my friends, doing things like going to Fenway (again),

  
bumming around the North End and Quincy Market,

   
   
and playing frisbee.

  
All of this while getting back into the radio studio and getting back to class work. The positives I can take from all of these are almost endless, but a quick summary is as follows. I’m back to my favorite city, am seeing some awesome friends, having many fun adventures and games, and learning a great amount in challenging classes. Complaints? None of those to be seen here. Only a fun year to be had. 

But wait, what did I mean at the start of the post when I said “interesting” ways? Well to keep it fairly simple, with the end of college starting to creep up on me, I have to start thinking about more long term career and Vocation paths. I mentioned before that I feel especially called to the sort of work I did over the summer, which you can read about here. That’s still my direction at this point. What’s also not changed is the slight problem that I’m not sure how to get there. When you lack an exact direction to the end goal you have, the process for reaching the final destination is always an interesting proposition. Throw in some hard work in classes, fixing up some friendships and relationships that need and deserve it, and top it off with the promise of more adventures from people I’ve not even met yet, and it’s certain that I’d be in for an interesting adventure. I don’t know what the end result or process would be for all this, but it will at least be an interesting ride. I’ll be sure to write about it on here and see where I end up at the culmination of it all. 

High School Musicals

No, I never did High School Musical and I’m happy I didn’t, I don’t like that show. I’m writing this as a sincere congratulations to my friends at Northwest Catholic High School who put up an apparently tremendously successful run of Once On This Island. I’ve not seen that show before but from everything I’ve heard about it, it’s not an easy show to do at all, and NWC deserves a ton of credit for pulling off an excellent run. 

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, I did not actually see this run and j can’t see the performance they have today at 2 pm at the Rice Auditorium at NWC in West Hartford CT. It’s the first year I’ve either not seen or been in since the school did Annie all the way back in 2005. Wow that’s a long time. 

I’ve mentioned on this blog before how much I enjoy performances. Well this group was most responsible for my love of shows. In my time at NWC, I did every musical, 3 of the 4 main stage plays, and a grand total of 12 shows with the Dramateurs in my 4 years at the school. It helped define my time at the school and helped craft my personality as it is today. The best show I did there wasn’t my junior year when we did 42nd Street. My best single performance was my senior year when I played Bert Bratt in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I somehow got an award named after me for the last show. Sweet! I hope this year’s winner of the Chris Lynch Dramateur Award truly does what he loves and loves what he does. 

I was reminded of all this when I woke up and saw this from my friend Susie, who was appreciating her stage manager successor, Michael.  

 

I couldn’t help but think about my best memories on stage with the Dramateurs and be amazed that it’s been 3 years since I was on that stage. So many times, from hanging with these goofball guys my first year in Godspell, 

    

to the weird but excellent performance of Little Shop of Horrors,  

   

to the highlight of my time here, 42nd Street,  

       

and finally, wrapping it all up with How To Succeed.  

      

I loved these moments, these people, and everything that goes along with it all. I hope the people there now will appreciate how amazing experience whole thing is. Mrs. Avery was spot on in describing theatre as ephemeral. The experiences will fade and will end, but the memories will last a lifetime. To end this in true Dramateurs fashion, thank you Mrs. Avery and Miss Kate for giving me an amazing venue in which to grow, perform, have fun, and learn about both the art of doing a show and the art of living fully. I hope the people at NWC today understand how awesome a chance they have there. 

Break a leg in your show today! Oh and actually get things done in strike without people just standing idly by.