Athletes no longer in action

Inside sports fans of all ages, there exists the little kid who first fell in love with the sport. So the athletes they rabidly rooted for back then will always hold a special place in their hearts. It’s been a tough month for my inner sports child, because The Snake and The American Dream are gone.

I grew up in Arkansas, which has no professional teams. So I could pick and choose my favorites without any geographic constraints. Back in the Dark Ages when I was a wee lad, the  Oakland Raiders were actually good. (Hard to believe now, I know.) And leading the Silver & Black attack was Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. A soft-throwing, hard-partying southpaw who fit the Raider renegade mode perfectly.

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“I was head coach of the Raiders the entire time Kenny was there, and he led us to a whole bunch of victories, including one in Super Bowl XI,” former Raiders coach John Madden said in the team release. “I’ve often said, if I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny. Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider.”

Ken Stabler with another boyhood hero, James "Rockford" Garner after the Raiders won Super Bowl XI

Ken Stabler with another boyhood hero, James “Rockford” Garner

 

Of course, in addition to real sports, I also followed the fake sport of professional wrestling. I’d get up every Saturday morning to watch the antics of greats like Andre The Giant, Ernie “Cat” Ladd, Dick Murdoch, and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. I knew it was theater, and I still loved it. Dusty Rhodes was great in the ring, but even better outside it with a microphone in his hand. He wasn’t the most athletic wrestler, but he was easily the most loquacious. Dude could talk a great game. His forehead was filled with crosshatched scars, because back in those days the rasslers would surreptitiously use a razor to cut themselves during a match, adding a bit of blood to the drama. Dusty paved the way for the Rowdy Roddy Pipers of the world. Now my sons watch WWE, and I can see Dusty’s fingerprints all over it. I’m sure he’s having fun in the squared circle in the sky.

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Permed hair, permanent place the hearts of rasslin’ fans. Woo!

Nothing beats a good paddling

On Sunday, I hit the mighty Ohio River for the 14th annual Paddlefest. It’s a 3-day outdoor celebration, culminating in an 8-mile jaunt down the river in kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards and other hand-powered watercraft. The river is closed to barge and motorboat traffic for a few hours, making for a very peaceful journey, and a chance to see Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky from a unique perspective as you make your way down the river.

Photo courtesy of WCPO-TV

 

This was my 5th consecutive Paddlefest, and my 4th in a row with my friend and co-worker Matt. More than 1,400 folks made the trek, and nary a special friend of Ned Beatty in sight. The weather was perfect, the water was calm, and the scene was serene.

Photo courtesy of WCPO-TV

Can’t  wait ’til next year.

Party on, Garth

IMHO, The Band was one of the greatest bands ever. They never really got their due, probably because their name was too generic, and their association with Bob Dylan relegated them to backing band status in the minds of many casual music fans.

Within The Band, Garth Hudson, who turns 78 today, is easily the least well-known. All the others sang, and had their particular niche – Levon Helm, the Arkansas kid with the distinctive drawl, Robbie Robertson the hotshot guitarist and main songwriter (although Levon would dispute that), Rick Danko with his quivering falsetto, Richard Manuel with his soulful voice, put to use most memorably on “I Shall Be Released.” And there in the background was the mad scientist/keyboard wizard/genius, Garth. The strong, silent type. But let’s not forget that it was Garth who recorded the famous “Basement Tapes.” It’s Garth who has done the most since The Band broke up, doing session work and recording with dozens of artists, and still performing to this day.

It’s time to sing the praises of the unsung hero and “glue guy” of The Band. Happy Birthday, Garth, and here’s to many more!

Here’s a nice interview with Garth about the Basement Tapes. And check out Garth’s work in the middle of this song:

And here’s Garth on piano just a couple of years ago on his 76th birthday. Dude can still work it.

 

 

 

Once in a blue moon… it’s a cycle

My friend Phil organizes a late-night bicycle ride every month on the night of the full moon, and every time I’m able to attend I thoroughly enjoy it, even though I stay out waaay past my bedtime and miss out on my much-needed beauty sleep.

Phil calls it the “Fool Moon” ride  because the folks that go are a hearty (and hardy) band of court jesters from all walks of life: teachers, lawyers, engineers, writers, builders, publishers, social workers…even an air care nurse. We meet at 8PM, leisurely ride for 10 miles on a bike path and pull off to a spot near the Little Miami River where a large tree has fallen. The tree serves as a makeshift buffet table for the nibbles that everyone brings. Last night kimchi soup and venison were on the menu. We build a fire (and by “we” I mean “folks other than me because I’m not much of an outdoorsman”), eat, drink some adult beverages and engage in very lively (albeit sometimes rather juvenile) conversations. In the wee hours, we’ll put out the fire, pack up and head back to our cars.

Phil has been organizing the ride for years, and will go in pretty much any weather, year ’round. I’m a wimp, so I typically only ride in the warmer months, and only if full moon falls on a weekend. Last night was a blue moon, and it was a picture-perfect evening for a ride – not many clouds, and a temperature in the low 60s. 11 cyclists made the trip, from folks in their 30s to septuagenarians. There’s something very peaceful – and very primal – about being outdoors, in a secluded area of a forest, next to a river, near a fire, under the light of a full moon. It engages all your senses in a way that few other experiences can. Laughs ensue. Time flies.

On the ride back, there are a few clearings on the bike path where you can turn off your bike’s headlight and just let the moon be your beacon back home. It’s mystical. Magical. I find myself wishing the full moon happened more often. But if it did, it wouldn’t be as special.