Sunday, June 29, 2014


Jimmy Buffett performing before his loyal "Parrothead" fans.  Photo-Wikipedia, public domain
Greetings All:

Last night, I got to hear Jimmy Buffett play in Chicago.  It was a super show and he gave us our money's worth, playing for over two hours.  For those of you who are not familiar with Buffett's music, he's built a career, an empire really, around songs about sailing, the beach and generally having a good time.  He's clearly mellowed in recent time (the man's going to be 70 on Christmas Day 2016) but still can put on a heck of a show.

I'm endeavoring to keep my blogs shorter, so I'll skip the bio about Buffett.  I have some links below about him, including the legions of fans he has, known as "Parrotheads."  Esquire magazine referred to Parrotheads years ago as, "...Deadheads with MBAs."  That is pretty accurate.

I have to credit my friend Dave for turning me onto Buffett back in college.  I've seen him perform probably a half-dozen times and always have a good time.  I hardly ever go to concerts anymore so yesterday was a treat.  Adding to the fun was getting to hang out with friends.  One I've known since kindergarten, another since high school, and the rest since frosh year of college.  These were guys I hung out with ALL the time back in the day and now, not so much.  I miss seeing these guys and sitting around before the concert reminiscing was time well spent.  We told stories that are decades old and they still guarantee a laugh.  You know it's a good time when you're fighting for air 'cause you're laughing so hard.

A Jimmy Buffett show is many things:  It's folks in costumes and loud shirts.  It's fun music and a celebration of a good time.  Yet it is also a mass reunion.  I caught sight of more than one multi-generational family taking in the show.  That's really not such a stretch if you consider that Buffett's been putting out music since the 70s.  True, some of his lyrics are less than "G-rated."  However, he puts on the show in such a way that, in my opinion, any of the "adult" material is glossed over by flying beach balls in the crowd.

One song that Buffett did not play was, "Tonight I Just Need My Guitar."  It's a tune that sums up where Buffett is in his life and career.  It's a beautiful song.  Here are the lyrics:

"Tonight I Just Need My Guitar"

"Gulf coast nights, flounder lights
I'm back on the Eastern shore
With my history of wrecks
I think It's time to check
The crab trap of life once more

Need is a relative thing these days
It borders on desire
The high tech world is full of bright shiny things
We think that we really require

Sometimes more than others
You see who and what and where You are
I'm a one-man band with no Immediate plans
Tonight I just need my guitar

Don't need to feel important or famous
No limos or my little Nash car
One lucky man
With my feet in the sand
Tonight I just need my guitar."

I did not get to hear it last night.  That's fine.  I heard it once in concert a few years back.  I still recall how Buffet closed out the show with it.  It was such a class act.  Hearing it once was enough.

I'm at the point in my life where I appreciate the moments for what they are.  When a moment is good enough, it's enough, it does not have to be repeated.  When you can recognize the moment as something worth remembering, then it can be with you indefinitely.  It's not milk, it won't go bad.

So thanks Jimmy for a great show.  Thanks also to my friends for hanging out with me yesterday.  Referring to the lyrics above, I do not have sand around my feet, nor a guitar.  Still, I am one lucky man for the experience that was yesterday.

Be well my friends,


Friday, June 27, 2014

The Draft Pick

Greetings All:

Last night was the NBA draft.  Congrats to all the players taken, especially Roy Devyn Marble of the Iowa Hawkeyes, whose on his way to Orlando.  There is no doubt that these incredibly talented athletes will put up big numbers during their time in the NBA.  

Professional sports drafts are about expectations, of what is to come.  These athletes make the jump to the pros, some easier than others.  However, last night a very cool thing happened:  A player was drafted who will never play a minute, never score a point, in the NBA.

That player is Isaiah Austin.  He played for Baylor University and from what I understand was/is a stellar player.  He was picked to well, get picked in this year's NBA draft.  Then he learned he had Marfan syndrome.  Not heard of it?  Neither had I.  In a nutshell, it's bad, really bad.

Here's how describes Marfan syndrome:  "...a disorder that affects connective tissue in the body. You can read more on it here, but basically, if Austin's heart experienced the rigors of an NBA season, he could die. He can no longer play basketball competitively."

I've never played competitive sports.  Well, that's not exactly true.  I did play Dad's Club softball in grade school and also got a minor letter in soccer by senior year.  (I think mostly because I showed up to practice and did not bitch much about not getting much playing time.)  But I think you get my point, I am not a jock.  Also, I do not know what it is like to work as hard as Mr. Austin had, to be so close to making a dream a reality, and then be told, "Not gonna happen."

So I thought it was a class act when the NBA selected Mr. Austin as an NBA pick.  He'll never play, of course, so the skeptics may call it a publicity stun or misplaced charity.  I'll stand on my original comment- a class act.

You can go below to the links and watch NBA commissioner Adam Silver explain why the NBA picked him.  It's worth the few minutes to do so.  It may not restore your faith in humanity, but it (I hope) will put a smile on your face.

And by the way, there is a precedent for the NBA Draft selecting players who never see the court.  In 1982, the Boston Celtics drafted Landon "Lu" Turner in in the 10th round.  Mr. Turner had been paralyzed in a car accident and would never play.  Bobby Knight, then the coach of Indiana University, played a not-so invisible hand in making that happen.  

Just my two cents, but I think it is great what the NBA did last night.  They rewarded hard work and gave a deserving athlete his moment in the sun.  I do not know Isaiah Austin.  I do not know what his post-basketball life will be for him.  I hope it is one of joy, happiness and fulfillment.  I hope that by being picked by the NBA he can obtain closure on his competitive playing days and find a new challenge, a new passion.  I hope he can be a role model for others facing a new life due to illness or injuries.  If he can do so, then he will have lived up to his potential as a draft pick.  Who knows, he might turn out to be the best pick of this draft.

Be well my friends,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Just Go(al) Have Fun Guys

Team USA, photo credit,, photo in the public domain

Greetings All:

On Sunday night, a bunch of us watched Team USA come within seconds of winning its match with Portugal and go storming into the "knockout round" of 16 teams.  Instead, we had to settle for a draw, 2-2.  There have been plenty of lawn chair goalies lamenting how this was such a "mental letdown" and how the game got away from "us," as if there were however million playing in the game.

I recall the quote from Coach Vince Lombardi:"Fatigue makes cowards of us all."  And Team USA had to be fatigued.  The game time temperature was 86 degrees with 66% humidity.  If you've ever played soccer, you know you run the whole time.  No pauses while the refs re-set the ball as the chains move down the field, TV or time-outs, no sitting on the bench while your team bats, no standing around while the other guy puts.  Nope, you run.  You sweat.  You gasp for air.  You play.  

Was it sad that the best player in the world headed the ball into the net at the end?  Sure.  But let's recall, these guys were exhausted.  They did not win, but they did not lose.  

Team USA goalie Tim Howard had this to say:  "Football is cruel sometimes."  True enough.  However, it is precisely because something can cause such pain that it can also release such elation, such sheer joy (cue Ludwid's music).  Just watch the crowd at these events to see how much emotion is on display.  It's also nice to see the absence of drunken brawlers in the stands.

Back to Team USA- they have every chance to make it into the next round.  A win, they're in.  A tie, that works too.  Even a loss with a bit of help from the other game keeps us alive. 

But please, let's have no gentlemen's agreement to play to a draw.  Play to win boys.  Play Germany with all the fervor you can mount.  As my terribly bad pun in the title states, just go(al) have fun, but play to win.  If you come up short, so be it.  

Let us ban from our collective communication any thoughts of, "if ONLY we'd played for a tie..."  Nicht.  Go out there and play German, acting as if a win is the only way to go on to the next round.  (OK, if it's under five minutes in the game, then playing for a tie is not a terrible idea.  It's one thing to pursue a romantic, noble cause.  It's another to dumbly tilt at a windmill.  In other words, if it's a close game, kindly get some guys back on defense.  

Regardless of the outcome, we're proud of you.  Get some sleep, hydrate and play your hearts out.  We'll be cheering for you from here.

Be well my friends,


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Longest Day

Sunrise at Stonehege,  NASA &, cite below.  Public domainfair use claimed.

Greetings All:

Yesterday marked the summer solstice, longest day of the year.  Due to the internet being down yesterday, this post is a day late, sorry about that.  Unlike December 21st, when we can take some comfort in the fact the days are at least getting longer, this time of year there’s no great loss in a bit less daylight as summer moves along, like lazy clouds in bright blue sky.

So what exactly is this solstice thing?  Our friends at Wikipedia offer this explanation:

"The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of a planet's semi-axis, in either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the star (sun) that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23° 26'. This happens twice each year, at which times the sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the north or the south pole."

Well that seems simple enough.  (Not).  Fine, I’ll take their word for it.  So (I guess) that means since we’re now tilting closest to the sun, that is why it is the longest day.

So what about the sunlight?  How’s that factor into it?  I found this little tidbit from International Business Times

"The summer solstice has the longest hours of daylight for the Northern Hemisphere, Time And Date reported. The sun, which usually rises directly in the east, rises north of east and sets north of west. This means the sun is in the sky for a longer period of time, yielding more daylight." 

One day a year, we get the most sunlight and sunlight is something we celebrate.  There is a connection to sun and life.  Without sunlight, nothing grows and eventually, everything will die.  I found this link from "" and thought it provided a nice overview of the history of the summer solstice: 

"According to the ancient Greeks, the summer solstice was the first day of the year. There were many festivals to celebrate their god of agriculture, Cronus. Even the slaves participated in these celebrations. The summer solstice also occurred one month before the Olympic games would begin."

Summer is a time for new beginnings.  Although here is Iowa it seems like, at least temperature and humility-wise, it’s been going strong for a while, the solstice marks the “official” start of summer.  Yesterday, my family and I were honored to be guests at a wedding of great friends.  Weddings are both a beginning and a promise.  The beginning is, well, the start.  The promise is that there will be no end.

Last night, as the longest day ended and sun slipped over the horizon, I thought about how great it is to have both sunlight and evening in the summer.  The kids and the dog chased lightning bugs.  A breeze kicked up, just enough to cause the wind chime to hum.  The longest day is done, yet a bunch of summer still remains.  And with summer, comes more days of warmth and fun.  While everyday is an opportunity, it’s a lot more enjoyable to embrace that new opportunity when you don’t have to shovel snow.
I’ll wrap up this post with some of Sting’s lyrics from his tune, “Brand New Day:”

"Stand up all you lovers in the world
Stand up and be counted every boy and every girl
Stand up all you lovers in the world
We're starting up a brand new day."

So here's to the longest day of the year, June 21, 2014.  Of course, for some, "The Longest Day" came 15 days early 70 years ago. 

Be well my friends,


Opening photo-

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Bronco and the Bar Stool

The "Bronco Chase" June 17, 1944, Larry Ho, LA Times, Public Domain/Fair Use Claimed
Greetings All:

For those of you old enough to remember 20 years ago, June 17th marked the "anniversary" of the infamous OJ Simpson "Bronco Chase."  About 95 million people were glued to their TVs watching the improbable, barely believable spectacle unfolding before their eyes.

OJ Simpson had been an outstanding college and pro football player.  He went on to carve out a post-gridiron career as an announcer, celebrity pitchman (Hertz commercial anyone?) and supporting actor.  He had wealth, fame, and unfortunately, a temper.

In June, 1994, on a Sunday night in LA, two people were brutally murdered.  Five days later, an arrest warrant was produced for OJ.  The initial evidence pointed right at OJ.  Arrangements were made for him to surrender.  Except he declined to comply.  Instead, he ran.  Unlike in his past, in his prime, when he could fly past blockers with speed and flair, this time was different.  He was in slow motion.  With his friend, "AC" Al Cowlings, at the wheel, OJ puttered up the freeways of LA in his white Ford Bronco, cops in tow, lights flashing.  Thus began the "Bronco Chase."  The public showed up too, with signs of support,...for OJ.  I have a link to the LA Times story on it below in my sources.    

A little known fact of the "Bronco chase" was that an LA Detective, Tom Lange, got OJ on his cell phone and talked to him.  Simpson was clearly distraught and had a pistol pointed at his head.  OJ kept talking about, "wanting to be with Nicole," his murdered ex-wife.  My friend Greg surmised the other day that Lange likely saved Simpson's life by talking to him, reasoning with him, showing him that Simpson still had something to live for., namely his kids and mom.  There was an audio tape produced of that conversation.  It's transcript is part of Lange's book and there is a link to it below.  How this was not introduced at trial, I'll never know.  This is as close to a confession as I've ever heard. 

I heard someone on Fox News call the whole OJ Trial, "the first reality show."  I'll concur.  This trial gave television "legal experts." Expressions like, "The Dream Team" (and not the '92 Olympic USA team, although they were pretty good) and "If it does not fit, you MUST acquit!"  Sigh.

For over a year, we were transfixed with this trial.  Well, perhaps "transfixed" is a bit much.  As I recall, the trial d-r-a-g-g-e-e-d on and on.  It started in January and they were playing football when the verdict was handed down- not guilty.  It was over.

Except it wasn't.  OJ was tried in a civil trial and was found liable for the deaths he was earlier acquitted of and suffered a civil judgment of like 32 million dollars.  Later, OJ found himself before a judge and an empty gallery, being sentenced for a kidnapping and theft crime.  But before he was sentenced, he was convicted for those crimes, convicted on October 3, 2008.  That was the same day, 13 years to the day, a jury in LA had said not guilty.  Karma, maybe?  Coincidence?  Well, if you happen to subscribe to the theory that there are no coincidence (none of substance, at least) then here's Exhibit A. 

But let's go back to the night of the "Bronco Chase."  Most people may not remember were they were.  After all, it wasn't 9/11.  As for myself, I do recall where I was.  My Dad's bar.  (My Dad owns a neighborhood place in my hometown.)

I remember it for it was, at the time, the most significant day of my life.  This is prior to my getting married or having kids.  I was 25 and that morning, I had been sworn into the Iowa Bar.  

Earlier that week as America was following the unfolding saga, my friend Craig and I were in Des Moines sitting for the Iowa bar exam.  This is a rite of passage for law school graduates to join the profession of law.  I cannot say it was fun.  However, it was pure euphoria to know I passed.  Back then, the bar exam was 2.5 days and ended on Wednesday at noon.  By Thursday evening, you knew if you made it.  Friday morning, you got to raise your right hand and swear an oath to the Constitution and the various cannons of professional responsibility.  Welcome to the club, counselor.  Now, go bill some hours.

I ended up driving back home to Davenport and after a wonderful dinner at home, headed up to Dad's place for the, "Jeno made it" celebration.  There we watched the "Bronco Chase."  Rumor has it I ended up standing on a bar stool, yelling at the TV, "Hey OJ, I'm a lawyer now, I can now give you legal advice, call me!"  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of such statements but it's a safe bet I said something like that.  

My friends seemed to enjoy the show.  I also recall other patrons looking on in mild amusement at my antics, other buying me beverages.  Inevitably, people started asking me to share my brand, spanking new official "legal" opinion of the case.  I was more than happy to comply.  I think I ruled on whether OJ would get bail and said no.  I also thought he'd be convicted, was wrong on that one.  My Dad is the benevolent ruler of his bar and that night, I was the court jester.  Oh what good fun we all had.

One of my Dad's bar stools, the same as they were in '94.  Photo by J. Berta
Looking back on it, I cannot say I was proud of that conduct.  After all, two people had been slashed to death.  It was a horrific, senseless crime.  Several families would never know "normal" again.  And yet, here I was, celebrating my admission to the bar in a bar, in a less than professional way.  OJ was not going to call me.  He was too busy having a conversation with Tom Lange,...and his conscience.  In retrospect, there was nothing to celebrate, no jokes to be made.  As my British friends would say, "Bad form, old boy."  

I think I can be excused for that conduct.  Let's chalk it up to blowing off steam after a bunch of school, a lot of studying/cramming and finally, twenty hours of furious writing.  I recognize I could have acted better and for that I do apologize.  I think my greatest sin that night was not standing on a bar stool and yelling at the TV.  No, it was utilizing this tragic event for my self-promotion, however trivial.  My conduct was but a tiny stone in the obscene mosaic that became the OJ trial.  It was a circus and far from America's finest judicial hour.  I hope we've learned from it and I believe we have.  For myself, I know that my days of offering legal advice elevated on a bar stool are way in the past.

I'm curious as to what you think about what we've learned from the OJ Simpson trial.  Please share your thoughts, I'd like to know.  Thanks.

Be well my friends,


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Streetlight Curfew

A streetlight, the curfew of my youth, public domain photo
Greetings All:

It's a summer night.  Not brutally hot, not raining, not so cool I capitulate to pulling on a sweatshirt.  Simply put, it's perfect.  Earlier tonight, I got a treat better than ice cream (for a middle-aged guy) by getting to ride in my friend's '65 Mustang.  It had the old-school roll-down windows and as we were driving into a smiling sunset, my arm rested outside on the door.  There was no need for music.  The engine was plenty enough to listen to and sing, did it ever.

Now, I'm on my deck, Sting and the guys are playing on Pandora.  Up the hill, I hear the kids play.  It caused me to experience a jolt of nostalgia, for when I was a kid.  Back then we could play outside.  If anything, we were told to, "Go outside!"  There was no Wi-Fi, no Netflix or any of the other countless indoor diversions.  What we did have was an arbitrator of time, an enforcer of the end of the day-the streetlight.

My parents had a simple yet ironclad rule:  When the streetlight came on, I came in.  I think they and the other parents were engaged in some RICOish conspiracy to get all us kids to come in at the same time.  Oh well, no court would hear my appeal, so in I went.  A day of fun had concluded.  Still, there was a future promise of another day of fun.  In June, everyday the days got a bit longer.  My friends and I would hope against hope that maybe this was the night that the streetlight would not come on and the day would never end.  Alas, the light glowed.  The party was over.

That was a more simple time.  As kids we would (and did) roam at will across the neighborhood.  Add a bike to the equation, and look out, the world was truly ours.  Those days are long over.  

The kids up the hill have stopped playing, likely summoned home by their parents.  The neighborhood is quiet and I suspect the streetlights are on up and down the block.  

As it is a work night, soon I'll call it a night.  But for just a bit longer, I'm going to sit on the deck, enjoy this marvelous weather and yah, reminisce about all those wonderful days when the only obligation I had was the glow of a streetlight.

Be well my friends,

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Topic From A Friend

Greetings All:

As I'm writing this, the big news is that Congressman Eric Cantor, the heir apparent to the Speaker of the House, lost his primary.  He's done.  Wow.  Even more amazing was that Rep. Cantor was defeated by a grass-roots candidate who had zero money.  Again, wow.  Well, congrats to Professor David Brat, the now Republican nominee for the 7th Congressional District in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He chose to take on the establishment.  In a district that is 57% Republican, that decision makes him a solid bet to be a Congressman.

As I was watching the news, I put out on Facebook a message asking anyone if they wanted me to weigh in on a subject.  My friend Jana offered up the role of political correctness in our society.

OK, Jana, I'll give it a shot.  I started by doing a Google search on the subject and this is what came back: 

po·lit·i·cal cor·rect·ness
noun: political correctness; noun: political correctitude 
1.  the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
Political correctness is something that people talk about but might not be able to define.  If you're reading this, you might have a different take on this topic.  As I think about this subject, I recall the words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart about obscenity:  "I know it when I see it."  (cite below).
I put a couple of cites below on political correctness, or "PC" as it is called.  I also want to give equal time on this issue from some sources.  Here's one quote from BJ Gallagher:
"If we must constantly self-censor any conversation pertaining to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical ability, then we are doomed to perpetuate the very barriers we say we want to overcome." 
Now, here's another take from Jordan White:
"The big deal is that language defines our existence. From the time we are first born we begin the process of categorization. Categories are useful tools when it comes to the very basic human functions. For instance, learning that it is right to share and wrong to hoard is a lesson every pre schooler should learn. But somewhere in the mix, we’ve created a very powerful false dichotomy which I believe is currently overruling our nation and limiting any chance of cooperation." 
Who are these people?  Honestly, I don't know.  I did a search under the PC and liked what they both had to say.  I judged them on what they wrote, not on what box they check on some form.  I suppose that might be an indictment of PC.  Then again, it might not have a thing to do with PC.
So is PC a good thing or a bad thing?  Is it uber-politeness?  Is it just good manners?  Truth be told, I'm not sure.  Years ago, I came up with the phrase, "Zip up your jacket and go stand in the cold light of truth."  I wonder if those who oppose political correctness do so because it impedes the truth.  Others might say that PC is way that we as a nation move towards that "more perfect union," as the Constitution states.
I'm trying to think of a time that I've been either the victim/target/beneficiary of PC and came up short.  Oh wait, I've got one.  This had to be like ten years ago.  Someone made a comment about, "You know, the term, 'fighting Irish' is derogatory."  I laughed.  To me, being half-Irish (O'Neill on my Mom's side) I suppose I had a bit of standing on this issue.  And I also suppose I am perpetuating the "stereotype" of the drunken Irish brawler.  
Yet here's the deal:  That's not my perspective.  I view "fighting Irish" as a group of brave patriots who stood up to the British Empire, who got knocked down and came back for more.   I think of the "Fighting 69th" Regiment from New York who impressed Robert E. Lee in the Civil War.  I think of the great Irish poets and heroes of the past who might have lost, but did so on their own terms.  
So I'm not offended by the term, "Fighting Irish."  Then again, I'm the one deciding if the term is offensive.  Maybe that's part of the combination of unlocking the safe of "that more perfect union," to understand that it's OK for an individual to decide what is offensive to them, but when for others, perhaps a pause is in order.
And while we're discussing understanding, please let me bring in Dr. Steven Covey.  In his great book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, he discusses a habit, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."  Not bad advice, for addressing political correctness, or for that matter, anything else.
To tie this topic together with the opening lines, I am sure the pundits are going through the election in Virginia and trying to figure out what just happened.  Did Eric Cantor just catch a bad old case of "Potomac Fever" and forgot where he came from?  Did his challenger tap into some local populist rage that de-throned DC royalty?  Were there politically incorrect things said in this primary campaign?  Perhaps, but I can't tell you what they were.  Or maybe political correctness had zero to do with this election.  
I hope I did this topic justice.  Please let me know your thoughts.  What did I miss?  Did I gloss over this hard yet important topic?  How could this post be better?  Thanks.
Be well my friends,

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Last Tuesday

GEN Eisenhower addressing paratroopers of the famed 101st "Screaming Eagles" Division on the eve of D-Day.  Photo credit: U.S. Army.  Fair use and/or public domain claimed.
Greetings All:

Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, code-named, "Operation Overlord."  Although one could argue that there were several "turning points" in World War II (the battles of Midway and Stalingrad come to mind), this invasion is considered the most significant.  It is certainly better known than other "center-of-gravity altering" battles.  This is understandable.  D-Day marked the beginning of the end.  Hitler and his minions would never, to para-phrase a line from the movie, Valkyrie, see another June.  

World leaders gathered in Normandy.  President Obama gave an appropriate, and sure, I'll say it, inspiring speech.  If you'd like to check out President Obama's remarks in full, there's a link to it in the sources.  Here's a few lines I particularly liked, paying homage to the men who fought that day 70 years ago:

"These men waged war so that we might know peace. They sacrificed so that we might be free. They fought in hopes of a day when we'd no longer need to."  

Before I get into the main point of this blog, a nod of approval is in order to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel for attending this event.  Oh sure, there were solid diplomatic reasons for her to be there as Vlad was also in town and there was some informal and "impromptu" meetings of world leaders.  (If you believe anything was not scripted about these meetings, then I'd like to interest you in some beachfront property in Blue Grass, Iowa.)  Still, this observance was about paying tribute to those who fought and died to free the world from Nazi domination.  Nazi domination was, as we know, run out of Berlin.  That's the same place where Merkel works.  I thought it was a class act on her part to show up and say, just by her presence, "We're not that Germany."

Back to the subject at hand, D-Day.  By 1944, the tide of the war had turned but the outcome was far from certain.  While the Red Army had started to push back against Nazi forces on the Eastern Front, the Nazis had plenty of fight left in them.  Stalin was screaming for the opening of a Western Front on the continent.  Just like a broken clock is right twice a day, he did have a point.  We needed to get ashore and start taking the fight to Hitler.  Aside from the noble goal of liberating Europe from the Nazi yoke, you had to get thru France, Belgium and Holland to get into Germany.  

But an invasion of Europe would not be easy.  Although we were fighting in Sicily and (I think) Italy by the spring of 1944, there was no way to get to France without getting wet.  In other words, crossing the English Channel.  While we did use paratroopers on D-Day, they could not be the main force.  While ships and planes could pound the hell out of the Nazi positions with bombs and shells, ground forces were a requirement.  As the inscription reads on the statute of the infantryman at Fort Dix "The Ultimate Weapon" states:  "If he's not there, you don't own it."  (Or words to that effect.)  The point is this- there had to be boots on the ground, or in this case, soaking wet on the beach, to make the invasion work.

For years, this invasion was planned.  It was an amazing feat just to position so many men and machines in one place in 1944.  There was what I'll call the "shadow dance" of throwing off the Nazis as to where we'd try to come ashore.  Then there was the incredibly complicated matter of the logistics of supporting the fight.  This involved ammunition and spare parts, food and water, medicine for the wounded and yes, recovery of the fallen.  This was a big deal and a million things could have gone wrong.

As Matt Stout writes in his in War on the Rocks yesterday (June 6th), going in by sea is fraught with peril.

"Amphibious landings are among the most dangerous of military operations, always teetering on the edge of disaster. The landings could perfectly well have gone down in the annals of history as one of the west’s greatest military disasters."

In other words, it was a gamble.  The final decision to go was made by General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander.  "Ike" made the call.  It was a Tuesday.  It was time to go.  

The photo below is his message to the troops:

Eisenhower's message to the Expeditionary Force on the eve of D-Day, Photo credit:  U.S. Army Fair use and/or public domain claimed.

Like any military operation, things went wrong.  Paratroopers were dropped far away from their landing zones.  Bombs and naval artillery missed their marks.  Nazi resistance on the beaches was sadistically fierce.  Even with a break in the weather, the seas were rough and some troops died not from being shot but drowning.  The old addage, "No plan survives first contact" was sadly proven correct that Tuesday at places like Omaha Beach.

For about 9,000 service members, June 6th was more than D-Day.  It was their last Tuesday.  Thus is the price of liberation, war's swipe of the credit card of life.

A view from a landing craft on D-Day, photo credit the U.S. Coast Guard/DoD, public domain.

D-Day, like other historical events, has footnotes.  One of my favorites is the note "Ike" wrote and shoved in his pocket.  It was his way to ensure he would take sole ownership of the failure of the landings.  If you go to Mark's piece (link below) you can see a photo of the note.  Here is the transcribed version:

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My deci-sion to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devo-tion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

Mark comments on why having this note available was important, should the invasion failed: 

 "If that (the invasion failure) had happened, General Eisenhower was ready. The day before the landings he wrote a failure message (though he misdated it July 5th). It resides today in the U.S. National Archives. It is short and to the point. Eisenhower did not—could not—risk his life on D-Day but he risked the next most important thing he had."

That thing, I presume, is Ike's rep.  He knew that if the invasion failed, honor dictated, demanded even, he take ownership of it, public failure be damned.  It might even mean that this would be his last Tuesday in command.  This type of leadership by example is something that is not (ahem) on universal display today.  
While I'm working on keeping my blog posts shorter, this was not my intent with this one.  There's just too much to write about.  This might be my longest post yet.  I my own defense, I'll simply say it's only appropriate that my longest post be about "The Longest Day."

However, it is time to wrap this one up and I'll conclude with the image below.  I think it sums up why D-Day is important and why we should remember it, honor the memory of those who did not come home.   
From one of the cemeteries at Normandy, photo from Wikipedia Commons, public domain

I'd be remiss to not point out that anything written on the American flag is hardly ever appropriate.  However, within this specific context, the intent is what matters.  The words of thanks in French is the furthest thing from disrespect, at least in my opinion.  It is a way to honor Sergeant Seyler and the thousands of others for whom D-Day was their last Tuesday.

Be well my friends,


Other sources on D-Day

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RIP to a Man of the Game

Photo of Coach Don Zimmer and Manager Joe Torre, Barton Silverman/The New York Times, Fair Use Claimed, full link to the article below (sharing authorized on the NYT's webpage)

Greetings All:

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Don Zimmer, baseball player, manager, coach and legend.  He went to the big dugout in the sky at the age of 83.  It is fair to say that in his life, he both hit for the cycle and ran the bases.

Back in the Yankees heyday, he was a fixture on the bench, the lovable sidekick to the beloved Joe Torre.  Although he clearly got the worst of his scuffle with Pedro Martinez during a bench-clearing brawl, his legend grew (if that was even possible) when he charged the a senior citizen.  And then, as The New York Times reported, he promptly apologized for, "...sullying the game he loved."  I'm sure the fans in Boston howled their delight at watching "Zim" get thrown to the ground.  I wondered if they remembered he used to manage their beloved Red Socks?  Yup, he sure did, from '76 to '80.

I haven't been following baseball much.  Truth be told, I only pay passing interest to it and that's about the time football's gearing up.  (September is, without question, my favorite month, stay tuned, that's a blog post for down the road.)  But Don Zimmer was more than just a guy associated with baseball.  He was a guardian of the game, and there's a difference.  

Baseball, in and of itself, is an abstract concept.  A ball is thrown, a bat hits it, a mitt stops it on the ground, the ball is thrown to a base, so on and so forth.  But the game is about people, people on the field, people in the stands.  The game is about heartbreak and euphoria, of rally caps and tirades against umpires who never change their minds, only throw out the manager to the utter satisfaction of the crowd.  The game is about fathers showing sons and daughters the ballpark.  It is about men who become heroes and about those heroes who become icons.  

The game is about something else, it is a mirror to view the times we experience.  Coach Zimmer was there during the 2001 season that was gashed open and scared forever by the horror of 9/11.  That year the World Series deeper into the fall than ever before.  It was when the future Hall of Fame inductee Derek Jeter was proclaimed, "Mr. November."  

It seemed as if the Yankees were destined to win yet another World Series.  It would be one for the ages.  The city that never sleeps wins it all even as the Towers burial pyre still smouldered.  

Except for one small detail- they didn't win.  

The Arizona Diamondbacks ended up winning that year.  Sometimes, life is not a storybook ending.  Sometimes, you lose.  Baseball, in the abstract, is about the execution of the sport.  But the game is about winning and losing and the joy and pain that goes with it.  

I mention this for I believe that as the Arizona Diamondbacks wildly cheered (and understandably so) their amazing win, Coach Zimmer quietly, perhaps without words, helped his teammates, his proteges,  deal with the moment.  He guided them in dealing with the pain, the hurt, the sting.  The game can, after all, be cruel.  Coach Zimmer had seen and more importantly, felt, it all.  He knew of what he spoke.

Now that is all in the past for Don Zimmer.  He's gone to his reward and something tells me there's a game going on upstairs.  Not just baseball, but the game.  Unfortunately, even the MLB channels on Direct TV don't carry those.  That's a shame, for I'd dearly love to see that one.

Go hit for the cycle Don, you've earned it.

Here's the link to the obituary in The New York Times:

Be well my friends,