Time is a Flat circle… or a Hoop

Basketball is a young person’s sport. The average NBA career is 4.5 years. The average WNBA career lasts just 3.5 years.

But then there’s Taru Tuukkanen. Not only still playing in her native Finland, but winning championships… and being named the MVP of the finals with her 13-point, 13-rebound, 14-assist triple-double. Not bad for a 46-year-old.

Excerpt above and quotes below are from this nice feature on Taru by Shelby Dermer on Cincinnati.com. (Taru played college hoops at Xavier.)

Yes, Taru’s been blessed with good genes – she’s never had a major injury. But she also has the will to keep going.

“I have the passion and a crazy mind that I cannot get enough basketball, I understand it’s not normal at all for someone to still be able to do this.”  

Taru Tuukkanen

It’s not normal. But it’s certainly admirable. Taru found something she loved, and she kept at it. The games are the easy part… it’s the long hours of practice, with no cheering crowd, that require a higher level of commitment.

Most of us never play in front of a crowd. But whatever we do, we can only get better through the hard work. The long hours. The practice. Yes, we talkin’ ’bout practice…

You’ve gotta be willing to put in the work. And you will, if you love it enough.

“I’ll know when it’s time. I don’t want to play if I’m not good. As long as there’s a team that wants me and I feel like I can give something to them, then why not keep going?”  

Why not keep going? Words for every middle-aged person to embrace. And be the MVP in a league of their own.

I’m a Quitter

I set a goal to read 52 books this year – one a week. And I was crushing it. 18 weeks into the year, I’ve got 17 books under my belt.

But I’m bailing out on my books goal.

I’m taking a page from Kenny Roger’s book (ha!) and knowing when to fold ’em.

Why? Because it was an Arbitrary Stupid Goal (also the title of a great book by Tamara Shopsin).

But mainly because I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. I’ve always preferred short stories (Ray Bradbury is my hero) and short, medium, and long articles.

I subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Cincinnati Magazine. And those issues have been piling up in my “to read” stack. I also like reading the Sunday paper. I was basically trading reading timely content for reading timeless content. There’ll be time enough for the latter — to paraphrase Kenny Rogers — when the dealing’s done. And the guilt of not reading the magazines and papers was outweighing the joy I got from the books.

I’ll still read plenty this year – including more books. But reading should bring me joy, not baggage. And I’ve learned that it’s OK to walk away.

[This post is approved by the ghost of Kenny Rogers.]

Oh, The Drama!

I’ve always had a face for radio. But my first cousin once removed is a star of stage and screen!

That’s Erika Henningsen (my first cousin once removed!) on the right. She has the lead role in Hazbin Hotel, a new animated series now streaming on Prime. She plays… the princess of Hell!

She also played “Young Gloria” in Girls5Eva – all episodes of that series are now available on Netflix.

And she originated the role of Cady Heron in Mean Girls on Broadway.

(I think that’s her future hubby Kyle Selig on the left… )

Oh, and she made her Broadway debut as Fantine in Les Miserables. NBD.

Erika posted this on Instagram last week, on World Theater Day.

Acting isn’t an easy profession. There’s plenty of drama before you even get to the drama (or comedy, or romance, or…). I’m glad Erika learned early on that you need to be resilient, and to separate your work worth from your self-worth:

“Constant rejection became a thing that was just inevitable,” Henningsen said of the cycle of auditions. “It is inevitable in this business because there is so much job turnover. I think I got used to that much faster than I anticipated, because I realized that rejection has nothing to do with my identity or my sense of purpose; it just is for that one job. And the sooner you can get over it, the sooner you can move on.”

Erika in this 2018 interview in W magazine

I’m thrilled about Erika’s ongoing success. But I’m even happier that she has an attitude of gratitude. Heck, she could even have a happy day in hell…

Victory Lap

Tomorrow is Opening Day in Cincinnati. The official start of the Cincinnati Reds baseball season has been an unofficial civic holiday for decades. [Back in my day, the Reds, the oldest team in the majors (founded in 1869), used to open the season a day before any other team… ]

It’s a big deal, with a lot of pomp and ceremony, including an Opening Day Parade organized by the merchants at Findlay Market, a public market that’s been around longer than the Reds have.

This year’s Honorary Grand Marshal will be Jim Scott, a Cincinnati radio legend. It’s a fitting honor, as Jim has participated in the Opening Day parade for 56 years, usually walking the entire route and smiling, waving, and high-fiving folks along the way.

Jim walking the parade route with his wife Donna

For Cincinnati Baby Boomers, Jim has been part of the soundtrack of their lives, starting in 1968 at WSAI, an AM station that played pop music, brought the Beatles to Cincinnati, and garnered nearly 50% of the radio audience back then. He moved to WLW-AM in 1984, as the morning host, and stayed in that time slot until 2015. If you’re keeping score at home, the final tally is nearly 47 years in Cincinnatians’ ears.

But this year will be different for Jim. In the Spring of 2022, he was diagnosed with ALS. He went public with the news last year.

I had the privilege of working with Jim, as his morning show producer, back in the mid-90s. At a station with a bunch of talk radio blowhards, Jim was the friendly voice who started your day with a smile. Among a subset of the staffers, he caught a lot of flak for being “too nice.” But I worked with Jim long enough to know that his radio personality wasn’t shtick, it was just a heightened version of Jim. WLW-AM was part of a radio conglomerate that owned 8 stations in the market (if you’re looking for Reason #1 of why I got out of radio, consolidation is the correct answer.) Jim did more charity work than the rest of the on-air personalities at all the stations, combined. Charity auctions. Golf outings. Fundraisers of all sorts. And if there was a speaker’s fee, Jim donated it back to the charity. Sure, all those public appearances helped his name recognition and his ratings. But that’s not why he did it. He did it because he truly was, and is, a nice guy.

In the March issue of Cincinnati Magazine, Steven Rosen wrote a nice feature about Jim’s decades-long involvement with the parade, and his positive attitude in the face of one of the cruelest fatal diseases. Check it out at the link above.

“Being in the parade to me will be a statement that I’m not going to quit. I’ll probably be in a wheelchair, but I probably won’t be the only person there in a wheelchair.”

Jim Scott, in the article linked above

This parade may be the last chance for us to show some love to Jim Scott. He deserves every smile, wave and cheer we’ve got. It shouldn’t be a somber send-off; it’s a victory lap.

Legendary baseball player and manager Leo Durocher famously said “nice guys finish last.” Leo got it wrong in this case, because Jim Scott is the people’s champ.

Illustration by Remi Geoffroi for Cincinnati Magazine

Right now on the Findlay Market home page, there’s a link where you can send a message to Jim.

If you know Jim, please do so. Actually do it even if you don’t know him.

Age vs. Rage

Writing about politics isn’t my strong suit. (Some would say plain old writing isn’t my strong suit… to those detractors I say “me can write gooder!”)

But I’m going to wade into the roiling, boiling waters of American politics – feel free to move on and wait for my next sure-to-be-less-polarizing post about music, or kids, or maybe even puppies.

I think most folks would agree that both candidates in the upcoming presidential election leave a lot to be desired. It’s a sad commentary on our political system that this is the best we can come up with.

That said, I’d rather err on the side of old age when the other option is pretty much the same age + rage.

The kindly grandpa vs. the crazy uncle.

The politician who knows how to get things done vs. the business man who has filed for bankruptcy multiple times.

The guy who has known the pain of unfathomable loss vs. the dude who doesn’t have an empathetic or sympathetic bone in his body.

The person with 50 years of public service vs. the fella with 90+ indictments.

A gentleman who understands “We the People” vs. a guy who only knows “Me, me, me.”

The Commander in Chief vs. the Demander in Chief.

A leader with substantial foreign policy experience who supports our allies vs. a person who has a man-crush on dictators.

But it’s not just about demeanor (or meaner). The track record speaks for itself – check out these stats and facts from this article on Bloomberg.com:

The economy added 14.8 million jobs over the first three years of his term, more than any president in US history over the same period. What’s more, unemployment has held below 4% for the longest stretch since the 1960s. Yet many workers have been dissatisfied as soaring inflation wiped out wage gains and then some in 2022. Last year, though, income increases began to outpace price increases.

America’s cost of living, which surged to a four-decade high during Biden’s first two years, is poised to return to its pre-pandemic level this year — when family wealth across income groups is more robust than at any point in the new century.

Access to affordable health care is Biden’s crowning achievement. The number of uninsured Americans hit an all-time low of 7.2% in the second quarter of 2023, while the number of people who signed up for an Obamacare plan for 2024 surged to 21.3 million.

American households are wealthier and in better financial shape than ever before by almost any measure. Even with a bear market in stocks in 2022 and elevated inflation, Federal Reserve data show household net worth rose to a record $156.2 trillion at the end of the fourth quarter of 2023, from $131.4 trillion at the end of 2020. The stock market, where more than half of all households are invested, has surged.

Preliminary data suggest that inequality continued to narrow in 2023. Even better, the improvement — unlike during Biden’s first two years — was due to rising real wages, at least for some Americans: Lower-income workers saw gains, while median and higher earners saw barely any increase at all, after accounting for inflation.

Since his inauguration, the S&P 500 Index has returned about 45%, more than double the total returns of the rest of the world’s developed-market equities. 

The US was in the midst of its worst spasm of violence in decades when Biden took office, with the homicide rate rising 29% in 2020. It rose again slightly in 2021, but started to fall that autumn. There was a slight year-over-year decline in 2022, then an 11.8% drop last year — the sharpest on record ­— according to estimates by AH Datalytics.

Not to mention the infrastructure bill, a sweeping climate change measure, capping the cost of insulin…

Overall, the blood pressure of America is back to normal after four years of crazed bellowing that left us all on edge and at odds.

Look beyond the age. Look at the record.

The choice is up to us.

Both excerpts above from Tom Nichols in The Atlantic.

Feel free to disagree. That’s what makes America great.

Political rant over. See you next time… with puppies!

Green is Growing!

This recent story by Elizabeth Weise in USA Today had a lot of good news for all the people who share Planet Earth.

Here are a few excerpts:

Wow, the lowest greenhouse gas emissions since 1987 – that’s amazing!

It’s not enough, of course. The article says as much. But we’re headed in the right direction… and momentum is a powerful force.

Let’s keep on the sunny side!