Monthly Archives: October 2011

THEY by Rudyard Kipling: A Story for Halloween 2011

THEY  by Rudyard Kipling (Click title to go to a link of the entire story.)

She felt her way lightly to the front of the car, and with one foot on the step she called ” Children, oh, children! Look and see what’s going to happen!”
The voice would have drawn lost souls from the Pit, for the yearning that underlay its sweetness, and I was not surprised to hear an answering shout behind the yew.

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first guy to wave the flag of modern horror. Halloween, Nightmare of Elm Street, Friday the 13th have all received my accolades on this world wide web in the past. But, there is nothing like good, old-fashioned ghost storytelling.

THEY is just a that; a good old-fashion ghost story told by a master storyteller. It was published as a short book with illustrations. I originally read it as part of an anthology call DARK BANQUET: A FEAST OF TWELVE GREAT GHOST STORIES, edited by Lincoln Child. I highly recommend it!

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Best Day Ever

I went to Catholic school. Taught by the nuns of the  Order of Saint Benedict (O.S.B). The nuns of the O.S.B. were the very pillar of old-school Catholicism. Full black battle gear with rosary bead belts, shiny black boots, and a seemingly physical inability to smile in the absence of parents.

Pro discipline, duty, corporal punishment, and evoking fear in children.

Anti smiles, happiness, liberal thinking and smart-assness.

They ruled with an iron fist (or thin side of a yardstick, or cane, or crutch…whatever was within reach). This is the story of the greatest day ever. Great day for us boys, but a day of infamy for the O.S.B.

Fr. John was new at the school and the church. He was junior associate pastor, which meant he did all the duties the pastor and the associate pastor didn’t want to do. He was young and he was educated. Besides being a priest, I think he had advanced degree in psychology.  Now, none of us 8th graders knew anything about psychology (Heck, I doubt half of us could even spell it.). But, we did know anything ending in  -ology was not to be totally and completely trusted.

That particular afternoon, we were at the church for a religious education session with Fr. John. It was a classic Catholic school session on SIN. Fr. John gave a masterful presentation on mortal and venial sin.  The retired O.S.B sat in the front pew, the classes spread out in pews behind them and, although each was class supervised by their respective teacher, we could feel the retired nuns “watching” the crowd.

It was a long-standing belief, backed by volumes of empirical evidence, that many of the O.S.B had an extra eye in the back of their head. I personally experienced this extra visual sensory organ in a fourth-grade incident when 70+-year-old Sister Johanna trapped a friend of mine in a corner and was laying on him a verbal assault of biblical proportion. I stood several feet behind her, pointing and making faces at my poor friend, when a blind, behind-the-back slap landed square on the side of my head, almost knocking me down for the count. The O.S.B were no BS.

Fr. John finished his session on sin and we knew we were about to be set free with the wrap up prayer. I was already mentally preparing my recess basketball game when two spots down from me the unspeakable happened. One of our class clowns, a smart-ass extraordinaire, raised his hand to ask a smartass question. He just couldn’t leave well enough alone. We were halfway to recess, what was he thinking? Fr. John acknowledged the hand up with a “Yes, son?”. The heads of the O.S.B snapped around to find the raised hand.

Young smart ass stood up, grinned at us as we rapidly slid away from him in the pew,  and asked the loaded question,”Father John. Is cussing a venial or a mortal sin?”

The line of the O.S.B relaxed in their front pew. A crack of a smile broke through the stone facade on one or two of them. This was an easy one for Father John, they thought, it was a softball lobbed over the middle of the plate for the young priest.  All was good.

Thank God for psychology, for what came next was totally unexpected and turned a normal, bland day into a miraculous one.

“Neither.” Said Fr. John. The O.S.B. collectively cringed in their seats. The students snapped to attention. Game on.

Smartass was as shocked as the rest of us. “You mean it’s not a sin?”

“No. Cursing and bad language is more a sign of ignorance than an act of sin.”

Smartass was stupefied. For the first time in eight years of school, he was speechless.

Fr. John asked the stunned crowd if there were any other questions. There were none. So he led us on a final prayer and dismissed us. I floated out of the church on cloud nine. The O.S.B sat frozen in totally disbelief. This ordinary day had suddenly, miraculously transformed into the BEST DAY EVER. Why?

I was longer going to hell for poor language choices!

I was just going to be an idiot!



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Football is NOT Life, A Reprise

I originally wrote this post last year for me, to help me get over myself being down in the dumps over another year not coaching football. I wrote is as a therapeutic reminder that, even though I miss coaching dearly, this great game of football is not, and should never be, the MOST IMPORTANT thing in life.

I am re-posting the blog piece, Football is NOT Life, for you.  You know, you folks out there who have let things slip out of focus in the Fall of 2011. The ones who are half crazed with the emotion and the frustration and the disappointment associated with sports, especially when things are heading south in a hurry.

Everybody wants to win, it is written in the marrow of our bones. However, not everybody can win and we need to remind ourselves there are worse things in life than losing a game of football, no matter how much it hurts.

Respect the kids and respect the coaches. Respect the work and effort everyone invests, no matter how disappointing the outcome is. Please read this post and think about it. If it helps, then pass it on to the next person before we adults take all the fun out of this great game.

Football is NOT Life! (originally posted on September 21, 2010)

I know this may sound highly irrational and maybe even a bit hypocritical coming from me, but contrary to what the t-shirts say, FOOTBALL IS NOT LIFE!.

Football is the greatest damn game ever invented, but it is not life.  Football is intensity, competitiveness, sportsmanship and violence, but it is not life.  Football requires immense strategy and teamwork, but it is not life.  Football provides education, drama, entertainment, and a solidarity which binds communities, campuses and fan bases throughout the nation, but it is not life.  Football is universal, it is played by presidents and paupers, genius and idiot, big and small, aggressive and passive, rich and poor, but it is not life.  Football should not be all consuming.  Football should not be the top priority.  I know this for a fact, I have tripped and fallen down that hole before (see my story).

Football can be like a package of Oreos, both need to be consumed in moderation.  You’ve been there, you open the package of Oreos and leave it out on the counter.  Sooner, rather than later, the whole package is gone and you don’t feel so good.  But if you open that package and only take a couple of Oreos and place the package in the cupboard for a later date, they not only taste spectacular, but last and satisfy for days upon days.  Football is not life.  It should be taken in moderation and/or with a tall glass of milk, (1% or skim preferably).

Football has it’s proper place, it has it’s proper perspective. Football is not the primary reason for the existence of high schools, colleges and universities.

Yes, football is important.  It is important to compete.  It is important to work hard to be the best coach or player you can be.  It is important to compete with purpose, pride and passion.  But I think Coach Paul Lane said it best with his prioritization of the sport, “Faith, Family, Football, in that order”.

Football is important to me.  But football is not life.  Let’s work to keep football in it’s proper perspective and place. I would hate for you to get a football belly-ache.

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