Saturday, February 28, 2015

The True Cost of a Watch

A photo of fake Rolex watches, from Wikipedia, public domain, full citation below in the sources.

Greetings All:

The other day, I did something I had not done before, I posted a "Throw-back Thursday, or TBT" photo on Facebook.  It was of my wife and I at our wedding reception w-a-y back in 1997.  That was a fun night.  Held at our local Elks Lodge, with Dwyer and Michaels, DJs extraordinaire, spinning tunes, it was a great time.  Here's the photo, complete with a speaker photo-bomb:

Dawn and I at our wedding reception, July 19, 1997.  Photo by J. Berta

As I looked at the photo, I was struck with a couple of things.  The obvious, that we're both a few years' older.  Second, that this is "Exhibit A" that men, in fact, do gain weight as they age.  Then I noticed what I was wearing on my wrist.

It's kind of hard to see in the photo but I recall exact what it is.  It's a fake Rolex.  Now, before I go any further, I should say that to the best of my knowledge, the purchasing of a conterfeit Rolex is not, per se illegal.  I've got a link to a NYT's story that basically says, "It's OK to buy, just not sell such items.  The story went on to say that Customs will even let you bring back into the country one such item.

Also, as this was almost 18 years ago, any statutes of limitations would have run.  So my sporting of my "not real Rolex" was not criminal.  

As I recall, Dawn and our friends (names redacted) were purchased from a guy with a briefcase near the Statute of Liberty in New York a few days before we got married.  I think it cost me $20.00 or $40.00, cash, of course.  There was something wonderfully "New York" about the whole experience.

So back to Iowa I went with my shiny yet utterly unauthentic Rolex.  I wore it pretty much everywhere and truth be told, it kept pretty good time...for a while.  Yet as was to be expected, it died.  I think I kept it around for a bit and then it ended up in some drawer and then at some point during some move it got thrown out.  

So why did I buy it?  Part of it was a joke, "Hey look my 'Rolex' from New York City, see how it ticks, ha ha ha."  However, as I look back on it, there was more to it.  I think I liked the idea of the illusion of wearing a Rolex and the status, albeit fraudulent, it brought.

Here's a case in point.  Back then, I was a court-appointed defense attorney.  I never represented anyone charged with anything truly heinous, but on occasion I did have to visit clients residing temporarily at the Scott County Jail.  Shortly after we returned from our wedding in New Jersey, I got the call to meet a new client at the jail.  As I recall he was a complete gentlemen (to me) and seemed to be genuinely appreciatively of my advice.  As we were wrapping up our conference, he commented on my watch, inquiring, "Is that a ROLEX?!?"  

I smiled, looked at it and said, "That's what it says."

For whatever reason, he seemed pleased, perhaps even a bit relieved that his lawyer was wearing a purported expensive watch.  If that's not a sad commentary on our legal system, I don't know what is.

This of course reminds me of a lawyer joke.  A busy attorney was often late for court.  One time, an exasperated judge said to him as he hustled into court, "Counselor, you're late!  What does your watch say?"

The attorney replied, "Rolex, your Honor."

As I mentioned, a sad state of affairs of our legal system.

I do own a few watches.  I have a Swiss Army one that I received for Christmas in 1999 that still works great.  My Mom-in-Law got me a very nice Fossil I wear about once a week.  My Grandfather's Bulova is sitting in a safety deposit box as I do not want ANYTHING to happen to it.  

Then there's the one in the photo below...

This was a gift from my friends Brian and Sandy after a trip to Vegas.  I am on my second battery with it and needless to say, I love it.  Something this special should warrant special occasions.  The last time I wore it was for the Make-A-Wish gala a few weeks' back.  It has also seen service at the last few military balls we've attended.  And, why yes, I do enjoy showing it off now and then.  It gets a good laugh.  What's wrong with that at a party?

Let's back up a bit to around the time I obtained my "Rolex."  A book came out entitled, The Millionaire Next Door.  It was written by a couple of economists who were on a quest to find the typical millionaire in America.  They thought they would find the doctors, lawyers, bankers, executives, the country-club set.  Nope.  Instead, they found mostly small business owners doing perceived unseemly tasks for the financial elite of America.  

Here is one fact that I recall from reading the book that the authors, Thomas J. Stanley, PhD & William D. Danko, PhD, mentioned:

"We know from our surveys that the majority of millionaires never spent even one-tenth of $5,000 for a watch." (Citation to book below in the sources.)

So here I was, a young lawyer, flashing a fake Rolex on my wrist, attempting to act the part of a big-shot.  (It's a role I've reprised more than once, I must confess.)  The irony was the folks were already were big shots could care less about such things.  Their watches were simple, functional time pieces.  These "new" millionaires knew both the effective cost of such watches and had far better things to do with their money.

I'm not saying that this book had some huge, life-changing effect on me.  After all, I had to Google it to find the above-stated quote.  I will say that I have never felt the need to need or want a Rolex, fake or otherwise.  It's just not worth the money.  Besides, I've got plenty of cool time pieces to wear AND they are all real!

So yes, watches, like most material things, have costs.  Some are inexpensive, some are not.  Some watches can cost their owners a whole lot more than money.  Here's Exhibit A:
Recently, the sentencing for the former Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonald, and his wife Maureen, was held in a Federal courtroom.  Both were convicted of a number of crimes.  Here's how The Washington Post reported the story:

"The sentence brings to a close a stunning narrative of politics, greed and family drama that reached a climax in September when McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of public corruption. A jury found unanimously that the couple used the governor’s office to help Jonnie R. Williams Sr., a wealthy dietary supplement company executive, advance his business interests and that, in exchange, Williams gave the McDonnells $177,000 in loans and gifts." (The full citation to this story is listed below in sources.)

177 large,, that is a lot of purchased influence.  Oh, and what was one of the items involved...a $6500.00 Rolex watch.  Mrs. M gave the Guv this watch for Christmas one year from funds not coming from the McDonald's checking account.

Both the Guv and his wife will be spending some time as guests of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Even though I am a Democrat, this story is a shame.  I've got a couple of links to the story for those of you who either missed it or would like to re-visit it.  

A couple of points about this sad tale.  First, I like how former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder, a Democrat, pushed back against the prosecutor at sentencing.  He reminded everyone how the guy who offered the bribes walked away free.  The prosecutors decided they'd gladly give immunity to a businessman to bag a politician.  Second, I think it is sad that someone who had such potential to lead is now done.  He succumbed to temptation.  The cost to his freedom is high.  Yet that is nothing compared to the cost to his reputation.  

In this story, there is plenty of juicy info about how the Governor's wife initiated this whole sordid affair.  I'm not going to dump on her, as she's off to prison herself.  I hold politicians to a higher standard.  (I'll pause for snickering.)  As Judge Spencer said: "While Mrs. McDonnell may have allowed the serpent into the mansion, the governor knowingly let him into his personal and business affairs." (The Washington Post, same cite as stated previously.)  

Here's the kicker for me.  Governor McDonald was lauded at sentencing as a person who served others.  Even Judge Spencer was impressed by this record, particularly his Army service.  And yet, at the end of the day, he had to impose prison time.  It was a fair sentence.  Far less time than the sentencing guidelines called for, yet not the probation and community service the defense pleaded for.

From what I have heard about Governor McDonald, he governed well and was fairly to very well respected.  Prior to this thing blowing up in his face, he was talked up as a potential Presidential candidate.  Now, that's all done.  No need to check the primary and caucus calendar now.    

In some ways, very painful ways, the true cost of that Rolex watch was far more than $6500.00.  
Be well my friends,


Opening photo,

Sunday, February 22, 2015

See A Little Light

Some of the Stain Glass Windows at John V, Bettendorf, Iowa, photo by J. Berta.

Greetings All:

Lent began Wednesday.  As I type this, I'm both pleased and surprise to report I've made it through two of the "no meat" days.  Usually, I'm off the wagon by this point.  Before I plunge into the topic at hand, I feel compelled to clarify I'm not a particularly observant Catholic.  In fact, I'll go so far as to say I'm confident I shall never win the following, in this order:

1.  The Tour de France; and
2.  An award for consecutive Mass attendance.

So it was with a bit of surprise that I found myself at Ash Wednesday Mass, bright and (certainly) early that morning.  (There is a back-story to why I was there and I'll get into that in a possibly later blog post.)  Yet there I was, at St. John Vianney's Church.  I usually attend Mass (when I go, as mentioned above) with my Dad at our home parish of Our Lady of Victory.  That is about 20 minutes away and due to other scheduling conflicts, making it over there was not going to happen.  So, off to St. John's I went.  

St. John Vianney's is a beautiful church.  It was built late 60s/early 70s and has that look of a newer church.  It is not trying to be something it is not- i.e. some Gothic cathedral.  Instead, it is its own place.  I could tell by looking around at the gathered faithful this is a place of spiritual and emotional refuge for many.  (I should also add physical as it was damn near zero degrees that morning.)

I have put a link to this church's website below if you'd like to check it out, it is a wonderful place.  More significant to me is their mission of "active social justice."  It this world and at this time, we need all of that we can get.  

So for those of you reading this who may not be Catholic or of a similar Christian faith that observes this event, you might be thinking, "Jeno, what's Ash Wednesday?"

Fair question, here's an answer.

Ash Wednesday begins the period of 40 days leading up to Easter.  It is a time of reflection and for some, sacrifice.  I've got a link to Ash Wednesday below if you'd like to learn more (or perhaps what you've forgotten for fellow almost-lapsed Catholics like me.)  

In any event, Lent's begun.  And for the first time since 2009, I was there when it kicked off.  I was glad I was there.  I might not be there for another Lent for a while, maybe never.  Yet I was glad I was there for this one.

I do not want to discount the significance of the Ash Wednesday Mass or any celebration of the Mass for that matter.  My Dad goes to Mass everyday.  He's not alone.  There are, I suspect, millions of people attend Mass regularly, certainly weekly.  So I do not want to mock, trivialize, or (the worst offense) condemn with faint praise the event of Mass.  For many people, attending Mass matters more than just about anything.  Just because I am not one doesn't mean I cannot appreciate this priority.

So back to Wednesday's Mass.  I am sitting there observing the service while not deeply into it.  I was sitting in the back and could see the windows pictured in the photo posted above.  It was then that I saw the sunlight hit the stained-glass.  It first crept across the left side of the window, like water spilled on a floor.  Then the entire window was illuminated with a glow that gave birth to a brilliant brightness.  The colored glass dazzled, as if it was dancing with the sun with the offertory prayers providing the rhythm.  

It was pretty cool.

It also caused me to recall a picture of a stained glass window I had seen on line a while back.  I've got a picture of it posted here:

A stained glass window of the Catholic Saint Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, public domain/fair use claimed, from Wikipedia, full cite listed below in the credits.

This is the image of the Catholic priest Fr. Maximilian Kolbe.  I've got some links below.  He was a Polish Priest who perished in the Holocaust.  He died when he volunteered to take the place of a prisoner who had been randomly condemned to death by starvation and dehydration.  Aside from being burned at the stake, I cannot think of a worse way to die.  

From what I read, Fr. Kolbe faced his death with dignity and a stoic resolve.  He accepted his fate.  Oh and the man he swapped places with, he survived the war.  

I wonder how he could have faced such a horrific, brutal death in such a way.  Science tells us that the body needs food and especially water to live, to function.  Yet Fr. Kolbe lived.  As the information posted below states, the Nazis killed him with poison to clear out the cellHe must have reached a point where he neither feared death nor felt his suffering.  He knew what was on the other side for him.  I wonder if in his cell he saw each day's sunrise as not another day of suffering but a future promise of what awaited him. 

Light and darkness are a central part of our lives.  The sun rises, it sets.  The brutal cold of the winter eventually, grudgingly yields to spring.  It can be a hard transition.  Many of us are sick of winter and wondering when this ugly cold will break.

I'm ready for spring as well.  I cannot wait until it is warm enough to run outside, to have grass to cut.  In the meantime, I'll take what I can get, even if that is a bit of bright light early on a bitterly cold winter morning at the beginning of Lent.

Back in 1989, Bob Mould released his Workbook album.  One of my favorite songs is "See a Little Light."  Here's a sample of the lyrics:

"I see a little light, I know you will
I can see it in your eyes, I know you still care
I see a little light, I know you will
I can see it in your eyes, I know you still care..."

It is a terrific song.  Here's a link that I'm going to insert both here and the credits of one of my favorite performances of this tune.  It deserves "marque" billing.  (Yup, it's that good, IMHO)

In a way, it's a heartbreak song.  In another, it's a promise of something better that awaits.  I cannot image how Fr. Kolbe endured his most unjust fate with such grace.  I can only conclude he saw his suffering as a mere mortal inconvenience on his way to eternity.  He saw every sunrise as God's way of saying, "I have not forgotten about you, my Son,...and I love you."

As I conclude this blog post, I still think about the wonder of the sun hitting the window right when I was sitting in front of it.  Science will share with me a series of facts that make it a daily event.  All true, no quarrel from me.  However, science cannot account for me sitting where I did, when I did.  Science cannot account for me happening to look up when I did (and NO, I was not on my iPhone at Mass, I had it on airplane mode) to see the light hit the window.

It was a little light at first.  Then it grew into something more.  I'm glad I was there to see the whole thing.  

As to anything else from this experience, that's all I've got.  You'll need to talk to someone with a much better G.P.A. than me to get more out of the experience.  If you do, please let me know what you learn.  I'd be grateful to know.

In the meantime, I'm happy with the little light I saw on that cold morning a few days ago.

Be well my friends and R.I.P. Fr. Kolbe,


"Kolbe-szombathely" by Primaryspace - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - 

Read more: Bob Mould - See A Little Light Lyrics | MetroLyrics (March 7, 2014 published date on YouTube, standard YouTube License and fair use specifically claimed for this post.)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Honest Abe Indeed

President Abraham Lincoln, 1865, public domain/fair use claimed, full cite below in sources

Greetings All:

This past week marked the 206th birthday of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln is clearly one of our better known Presidents.  His image is on the penny and the five-dollar bill.  His monument is one of the best known in Washington, D.C. and his "Gettysburg Address" is one of the most famous oratorical works in American history.  His life was cut short when an actor turned assassin, John Wilkes Booth, gunned him down at the end of The Civil War.  

Lincoln was not (ahem) universally loved as President.  The South, of course, despised him enough to rebel.  That's not a surprise.  What did surprise me was the both the breath and depth of visceral anger there was to him in the North.  Some thought him a tyrant, others a wild-eyed abolitionist.  Meanwhile, the actual abolitionists viewed him with disdain, as nothing more than a spineless politician.  I've got a number of links below to Lincoln's life and the circumstances that gave rise to the lack of universal affection for him.

Another surprise for me was that Lincoln likely suffered from mental illness.  He referred to it as melancholy.  There has been significant work on this subject and I have some links placed below if you'd like to learn more about this subject.  

Lincoln had a rough life, as most of us know.  Born poor, his mother died when he was young.  Self-taught in the rough frontier that was Kentucky, he made his way to Illinois.  Sure, he had some successes, but more failures.  His election to President was a surprise to most.  The anger of many soon followed.

Lincoln, despite all the odds against him, found a way to persevere.  When at times it seemed all were either against him or certainly doubting him, he found the strength to believe in himself.

How did he do it?   

Faith cannot be discounted.  One of Lincoln's better known quotes (and one cited by our current President in his 2012 convention speech) is the following: 

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go..."  

Yet there was more to Lincoln's way ahead through the fog of his despair.  I found this passage from Joshua Wolf Shenk's The Atlantic article to provide at least a partial answer.  He writes, discussing how Lincoln found his own way to deal with his depression:

"Lincoln responded with both humility and determination. The humility came from a sense that whatever ship carried him on life's rough waters, he was not the captain but merely a subject of the divine force—call it fate or God or the "Almighty Architect" of existence. The determination came from a sense that however humble his station, Lincoln was no idle passenger but a sailor on deck with a job to do. In his strange combination of profound deference to divine authority and a willful exercise of his own meager power, Lincoln achieved transcendent wisdom"

I think another way to look at it was Lincoln's ability to be honest with himself.  To recognize he had this condition and he'd admit to himself it was part of who he was.  It is a shame that he did not have access to the modern treatments available today.  Then again, if that was around, he might not have been able to have given us the speeches, the leadership, the plea for forgiveness and reconciliation after the blood spilling stopped.  We are the beneficiaries of his suffering. 

I'd be remiss as not to leave you with another of my favorite Lincoln quotes:

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves..."

I like to think that Lincoln, for all the faults that befall all mortals, found a way to be honest about his melancholy, at least to himself.  In doing so, he found his own path to freedom.  This is important.  Consider how many other leaders in history were held back, perhaps paralyzed by their illness, unable to get help and get better.  They denied themselves the freedom to get better, to suffer.  How better a leader might they have been had they chose another way.  How different history might have been.

From everything I've read about Lincoln, it appears that he had the courage to admit to himself he was not well.  To him, he was "Honest Abe" indeed.  

As for the rest of us, let's look to draw inspiration from Lincoln, to have the courage to be honest with ourselves about what's truly going on with ourselves.  If everything's cool, great.  If not, then decide to either make it better or make peace with what it is.  That might be the best to hope for.

As I wrap up this blog post, my mind wandered to Jimmy Buffett's wedding band, The Eagles and one of their lyrics from "Already Gone:"

"So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key."  

Something to think about as we honor a President who freed others...and himself.

Be well my friends,


The Lincoln quote at the end of this blog post:  The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Letter To Henry L. Pierce and Others" (April 6, 1859), p. 376. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Snow Princess

"The Snow Princess," photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

This past week, we got walloped by about 13 inches of snow.  It actually started Saturday night, after raining all afternoon.  By Sunday morning, we were covered in snow.  Not just any snow, but the think, sticky kind.  The kind that makes shoveling and snowblowing a pain.  I mean that in both the figurative sense and in the literal, as in I was in pain on Tuesday.  I had to laugh (so as not to cry) at how ridiculously long it took me to tie my shoes.  Bending over to get the paper was high adventure.  

We, as adults bemoan (or another word beginning with "b") about winter and especially snow.  It is inconvenient.  Now that it's well below freezing, what did not get scraped off the sidewalks and driveways will be here to stay for a while.  I saw today someone who had no choice but to place his/her garbage can on top of a snow mound.  It reminded me of a medieval turret rising from a castle of snow.

Yet for kids, snow is truly a grand gift from above.  They will play in it for hours.  With the proper gear, they'll stay out in it for hours, rivaling the baddest 11Bravos at Fort Drum.  Yup, they love it.

My daughter Carly started building a snow man and quickly determined that it was unfair that these creations always are men.  "Why not a girl?"

Why not indeed?

So she and her friend Laelagh decided to create not just a snow woman, but something special- The Snow Princess.  The opening photo is their final creation.  I think it's pretty cool...and cold, clearly frozen by now.

Their creation and determination to love winter and the snow was the inspiration for the following poem.  Thanks ladies.

The Snow Princess by Jeno Berta

Snow, heavy snow, as far as the eye can see.
Branches bend, some cracking from it.
Streets are covered, tires spin.

Down the street, a snowblower moans.
A plow truck rumbles.
Us grown-ups mutter at the mess.

Then there are the wise amongst us.
Those who not only see the beauty in this snow, but what it offers.
Its gift.

They strap on snow pants and boots, hats and gloves,
They cannot wait to get out into it.
Our mess is their paradise.

After they are done sledding, they get onto the business at hand.
They create.

From the mass of the thick, perfect snow, they bring it to life.
They roll and pack, shape and carve.
The head may crumble, but they are not deterred.
They simply start again.
This next time is better than the first.

There it stands, in the yard, in the cold, in the still falling snow.
A snowman.

“Not a snowman, Dad!” I’m corrected.
“Just wait ‘till we’re done.”

So I watch.  I’m no longer cold.

A carrot becomes a nose, Ritz crackers let the snow…person see.
Then sticks for arms, and a scarf for warmth.
A wig and a tiara as a fitting final touch.

It is done.  Behold, The Snow Princess.

My daughter and her friend pose with their new friend. 
Three “Mighty Girls” indeed.

This, my friends, is how to deal with winter,
To create a memory.
One that will last long after The Snow Princess has melted away.

Be well my friends,


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Packing it Away...Until Next Season

My Green Bay Packers sweat shirts "Packed" away.  Photo by J. Berta

Greetings All:

You likely know the Super Bowl is today, February 1st.  The defending champion Seattle Seahawks face off against the New England Patriots, also former champions.  I expect it to be a great game.

And I could not be more disappointed with the match-up.  

The reason?  Simple, I am a Green Bay fan.  I've been one for as long as I can remember.  Unlike other teams and sports where I have strained a muscle jumping on whatever band wagon was rolling through "Firstplaceville," I've been with the Packers...for a while.  

Yes, my friends, I've been a fan, through the "wilderness years" of the 70s and 80s, when Green Bay lost regularly.  When our arch-rivals, the Chicago Bears, would pummel us without pause or pity, reflection or restraint.  Through the late 80s when we got the first faint hopes that the post-season might, just might, include our team.  Not since Bart Starr had been under center did the Packers have a quarterback who could engineer wins.  Enter Don "Majic" Majkowski.

The "Majic Man" arrived in Green Bay in 1987, by way of the tenth round, hailing from the University of Virginia.  Two short years later, a turnaround was clearly apparent.  The Packers even found a way to savor victory against the Bears in 1989.  Like a candle in the darkness of the room of "losses and no post-season," a bit of light could be seen.  

However, it was not until the 90s that the "Pack" was truly back.  Led by the gun-slinger Brett Farve, the Packers returned to greatness.  It culminated with winning the 1997 Superbowl.  From then on, the Packers fielded competitive teams, making the playoffs most years and even winning the whole thing again in 2011.

The iconic image of any Superbowl team is lifting the trophy, "The Lombardi Trophy."  More on that and the namesake in a moment.

So as a Packers fan, I both hope and yes, expect, they will not only play in, but win the Superbowl.  All was in order to get back to this year's the big game two weeks' ago in the NFC Championship Game.  Green Bay had a solid lead late in the game.  Then disaster struck and Seattle engineered a comeback that will be (sadly) recalled for years to come.  I can still hear the cackling from the various bars and Irish pubs on Rush Street at how the Packers let this one get away.

It was painful to watch, to say the least.  Still, I was mildly proud of myself (being an only child, I'm easily impressed with my accomplishments) for not moping around the house after the loss.  There was a time when that would be par for the course.  Chalk it up to getting older or having other stuff to worry about.  Or, perhaps, (dare I say it) recognizing that I can neither take credit nor shoulder blame for the Green Bay season, so any disappointment should be kept in perspective.  I was able to (mostly) let it go and move on.  

"Let it go, let it go.
And I'll rise like the break of dawn.
Let it go, let it go..."

 Yes, I went there...Frozen lyrics.  Sorry about that, I had a moment.  I'm back and better now...

As I mentioned a few lines ago, the Superbowl trophy is named the "Lombardi Trophy," after the football coach Vince Lombardi.  Even as a hopelessly biased Packers fan, it is both fair and accurate to say he is synonymous with football excellence.  This man sought out victory the way Arthur's knights quested for the Holy Grail.  

Coch Lombardi, 1962, from Wikipedia, public domain/fair use claimed, full cite below in sources.

He has been known for any number of memorable lines.  One of my favorites was recently re-told in a great blog post by James Clear (citing to David Maraniss' book).   In the post, Clear tells how Lombardi began training camp by holding up the ball and saying:  "Gentlemen, this is a football."  There are others.  However, the one I'd argue he's best known for his musing on being #1.  It's worth presenting in full:

What it Takes to be Number 1 by Vincent Lombardi

"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all of the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

There is no room for second place. There is only one place in my game, and that's first place. I have finished second twice in my time at Green Bay, and I don't ever want to finish second again. There is a second place bowl game, but it is a game for losers played by losers. It is and always has been an American zeal to be first in anything we do, and to win, and to win, and to win.

Every time a football player goes to ply his trade he's got to play from the ground up - from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play. Some guys play with their heads. That's O.K. You've got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second.

Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization - an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win - to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don't think it is.

It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That's why they are there - to compete. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules - but to win.

And in truth, I've never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn't appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat.

I don't say these things because I believe in the ‘brute' nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man's finest hour -- his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear -- is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious."

Pretty powerful stuff.

There are a number of books, I suppose, written on Lombardi.  I have only read one but this one is enough.  When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss is that book.

Here is what Allen St. John of The New York Times surmised, in part, regarding his book review back in 1999:

"In his biography, When Pride Still Mattered, David Maraniss searches behind the slogan for the man who started it all. Lombardi has been characterized as (pick your stereotype) a success-obsessed tyrant, a great leader, a bully who browbeat his players into submission, a masterly motivator who drew the best out of his team. Maraniss insists that he was all of the above."

There is something to be said for pursuing victory.  We live in a world with plenty of ugliness, of people who would gleefully do us harm.  In those situations, we best fight back and, to quote Coach Lombardi, " win, and to win, and to win."  I've commented on such situations before and expect to again.  However, for purposes of football, that is not one of those.

It's OK to be disappointed when your team loses. I view that as a sign of loyalty and loyalty is something I'll pay full price for.  However, keeping things in perspective is key.  This is especially important regarding things we cannot control.  I'll go so far as to call it a virtue.

I'm reading a great book, Dying Every Day Seneca at the Court of Nero, by James Romm.  It tells of how the great stoic writer and teacher was caught in the quicksand that was Imperial Rome.  It was against this backdrop of selfish excess and narcissistic (and murderous) impulses that Seneca wrote some of his best work.  One in particular is De Brevitate Vitae (On the Shortness of Life."  In it, Seneca offers some sage advice on dealing with disappointment caused my matters not of our doing.  He writes:

"Withdraw yourself into calmer, safer, and greater learn what substance God is made of, what experiences await your soul..." (citing to Romm, p. 53).

A bit much?  Maybe.  Then again, there's some applicable wisdom in both the approach of Seneca and Lombardi.  It might come down to this:  Pick your fights, fight like hell to win those you can, and know when it's not your fight.  When it's over, accept the reality for what it is.  Then put away your team colors.  That way, you'll know exactly where to find them for next year.

Be well my friends,