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#615 Musings Beyond the Bunker (Thursday March 23)
Before Michael Jordan played with the flu and before the famous Kirk Gibson home run for the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series, limping around the bases after bashing a home run, there was Willis Reed, the star of the 1970 Knicks. He managed to play Game 7 of the NBA championship on a gimp leg resulting from a torn thigh muscle earlier in the series. Earlier this week, Reed passed away at age 80. History will recall the “Willis Reed Moment,” which has gone down in sports history as the prototypical special moment of personal perseverance.
HOMAGE TO A CHILDHOOD HERO
From Mark DiMaria, his memory of Willis Reed:
“In the fall of 1965, I had just turned 11 years old, when my Dad took me to Poughkeepsie High School to see a professional pre-season exhibition basketball game between the New York Knickerbockers and the Baltimore Bullets. Though I was a complete basketball novice at the time, my Dad had played for his high school and was a fan of the sport. And while I had no past experience watching or rooting for any team, I gravitated toward the Knicks, since they were from New York City.
We sat just behind the basket in the gymnasium bleachers at one end of the Court. And when the teams came out to warm up, I could not help but notice the largest human being I had ever seen…[he] then went on to completely dominate the game, with the local crowd going bonkers every time he would grab a rebound or steal the ball and go thundering all the way down to the other end of the court (straight at us) to slam it through the basket! it was Willis Reed, fresh from his rookie-of-the-year season, still young and intact, and not yet hobbled by the many injuries that later would bedevil him as the result of his spirited playing style…
Rest in peace, Captain.”
EVERYTHING SEEMS SMALLER NOW
I recently drove down to Orange County and saw my high school again.
The high school of my memory is a giant property, with a gym that could rival Madison Square Garden and an enormous field that went on and on. When we were ordered by the coach to run several laps of the field, it felt as if we were running a marathon. It was vast.
Somehow in the past nearly half century the property shrunk. I’m not sure how that happened. Oddly, the same is true for my first elementary school. Walking to school in those days was a long trek past houses of unknown occupants and culminated with a walk through a veritable forest, followed by a final sprint to class through a massive playground. I now see that it was just a long block followed by a short walk through a small park.
Everything in the past feels a little smaller. These were the places that shaped us and made us who we are. Smaller? Perhaps in absolute physical size. But giant in the scheme of things.
BALLPLAYERS WERE LARGER THAN LIFE, AS WELL
The ballplayers of our youth seemed larger than life when we were kids and, in retrospect, have proven to be smaller than the hype. They were the subject of admiration and emulation. We watched them with wonder, collected their trading cards, and couldn’t wait to read about their exploits in the morning paper. But, other than the fact that they could turn a double play, or evade linebackers, they were little more than teenagers. Roger Kahn had it right when he titled his book, “The Boys of Summer.” They were not yet men. They were boys playing a game, but their feats were still memorable.
WORDS OF REAGAN
No words of introduction are necessary for this next quotation. This is what President Ronald Reagan thought about guns and gun control. How does the modern Republican party, which has read the words of the Second Amendment in a way inconceivable to the founders, explain this?:
“I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.” –Ronald Reagan
THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC
Okay, so maybe it isn’t yet a “classic,” but it certainly was entertaining. While their teammates were going through the annual ritual of Spring Training, many major league stars joined national teams reflective of their heritage and played in this round-robin tournament followed by an eight-team single elimination tournament. Never mind that baseball doesn’t lend itself to one-game series. It was exciting and had its breathtaking moments.
Shohei Otani, the two-way all star, who is one of the greatest pitchers and one of the greatest hitters in the game, was the Most Valuable Player of the Classic, leading Japan to victory. The final game was a 3-2 nail-biter, which saw Otani pitch the ninth inning, coming from the bullpen, to face an all-star lineup of major leaguers. The last batter he faced was Mike Trout, the other generational superstar of our time. After being worked to a full count, Shohei struck out his teammate on the Angels to win the game. It could hardly have been scripted better.
Have a great day,
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