The Worst Football Hit I Ever Experienced

If you had the pleasure of playing football with me, you know I wasn’t the top talent to ever go through Beardstown High School.  In fact, it seemed as though I got progressively worse as my experience grew.

I’m joking.

… Mostly.

I loved running the football.  Loved it.  Defense, though?  I didn’t care for defense a whole lot.  Initiating contact wasn’t really my thing.  More on that in a moment.

Honestly, I thought about getting hurt back then–a lot.  More specifically, I worried about breaking my neck.  I know now it’s pretty unlikely, but it happens in football more often than people think, and it sometimes even results in paralysis.  I knew I wasn’t great at football–not even good enough for a small college.  (Not that I had my sights on a small college).  The thought of permanently injuring myself for a sport that wasn’t going to take me very far … it always lurked in the back of my mind.

During my junior year, I broke a bone in my left hand while at practice.  I thought it was a sprain, so I kept playing on it.  My right hand is my dominant hand, so it wasn’t too bad.  Three months went by before I went to the doctor.  I thought it was a sprain–everyone thought it was a sprain.  Turned out a little tiny bone was broken kind of where the thumb attaches to the hand.  I had to wear a cast up to my shoulder for three months.  The same cast.  (I actually ran track with it on, which made it, well, a little smelly by the time our relationship ended.)  Needless to say, that was enough football for me.  I didn’t play my senior year.  There’s more to the story … but I won’t get into it here.

When I think about my old football days, one hit sticks out to me more than any other.  Keep in mind, I got tackled all the time.  I played second-string on varsity, so I had to practice against the first-string defense, which resulted in getting hit a lot.  The fact that one hit is as vivid today as the day it happened over twenty years ago is pretty astounding to me.

We were playing a game during the daytime on our home field.  I couldn’t begin to tell you who we contested.  I was playing secondary on defense.  Remember how much I liked defense?  I saw a running back break through the line and so, without even thinking, I rushed at him.  We hit helmet to helmet and both fell to the ground.  Everything went instantly quiet.  I didn’t have a ringing in my ears–just the opposite.  Everything went silent.  I popped right back up, and so did the other guy.  The whole thing lasted only a few seconds.  I looked over at my coaches and saw one of them, usually a pretty stoic guy, losing his mind and congratulating me on the hit.  The game continued.  I didn’t have a concussion or any other injury, but even in that moment the impact struck me as unnatural and it still does to this day.

I imagine that guys at the collegiate and professional level experience those kinds of hits literally all of the time.  I can’t even begin to fathom what that must be like.  More and more research is coming out connecting football collisions to brain damage, and let me tell you, that one hit I had scrambled my circuits for a moment or two, no doubt.  It’s probably one of the most violent blows I’ve ever experienced.

I wish I could tell you that I miss those glory days.

I don’t.

I love to watch football.  I love the sport.  I especially love the Chicago Bears.  But, I’m totally fine without playing tackle football ever again.  Even though it was my senior year and I’d played since seventh grade, I was relieved when I finally had the guts to give it up.  Isn’t that crazy?  I felt like it took more courage not to play.  I don’t begrudge anyone who lets their children play tackle football, but there’s no way in hell I’d let my son play the sport–if I had a son, that is.  That single time I got my bell rung told me all I personally needed to know.

I don’t think of myself as a wimp, but maybe you do after reading this.  If that’s the case, that’s fine.  I’ve been called a lot worse, trust me.  But take it easy on those families who don’t let their kids play football.  Give those boys who don’t want to play a break.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid injury.  Some might say it’s even smart to try to preserve your health if it doesn’t seem as though a professional career awaits in the future.

Below is a picture taken by Ralph Sabetti for the Beardstown newspaper.  My mom kept a scrapbook of all my childhood and teenage doings.  She gave it to me a few years ago.  I’m running the ball with pure joy in my heart.  I’d like to tell you that I broke the tackle that guy is about to put on me and ran for a touchdown, but I honestly don’t remember.

I’m guessing not.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

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Dan Le Batard, Alexa, and Me

Alexa and the Amazon Echo always kind of freaked me out.  Amazon is pretty direct in admitting that the Echo is always listening for “Alexa,” its activation phrase.  And then, about a year ago, stories started circulating that people could hear a faint laughter emitting from it.  This unsettled me to the point that it inspired a horror story.

However, some family members recently bought a few Echos for their house and, admittedly, they were super cool.  My kids loved asking Alexa questions and, personally, I found the option of just asking about the weather or any other kind of information without having to run to my phone or laptop pretty enticing.

Unfortunately, the idea of that thing always “listening” still gave me the creeps.

I bet you’re wondering what any of this has to do with Dan Le Batard.

If you’re not familiar with Dan Le Batard, he co-hosts a program called The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz on ESPN Radio.  I discovered these guys a few years ago and I listen to them almost religiously.  Dan is a former sports writer who ventured into TV and radio as he foresaw the decline of print.  I find Dan’s sense of humor clever, but he’s also very insightful and, in my opinion, often calls things correctly.  He recognizes the ridiculousness in sports and isn’t afraid to contradict popular talking points.  Half of the time, he doesn’t even talk sports even though it’s technically a “sports” show.

Stugotz is every boneheaded sports fan to have ever existed, and we love him for it.  He speaks in cliches, he wins arguments by making you prove him wrong, and if you haven’t done anything for him lately, then what have you really done for him?  Jon Weiner is playing a character with Stugotz, but mostly in the same way your teacher plays a character.  Stugotz is Jon Weiner, and Jon Weiner is Stugotz.  I imagine that Stugotz is just Weiner enhanced and unfiltered.  The guy is so popular, he has his own army.

I listen to these men virtually every night as I cook and wash dishes.  Their radio show ends around noon, but they strip the morning program down to it’s best moments with a podcast available on ESPN.com.  You can find their archives here: http://www.espn.com/espnradio/podcast/archive/_/id/9941853

So what does this have to do with Alexa and the Amazon Echo?

Often, when I’m doing dishes and enjoying the show, one of my children comes into the kitchen and asks me a question.  Because I listen to it loudly enough to overtake the sound of water, pots, and pans, I have to dry my hands, go to my phone, and then hit pause.  After I deal with whatever they need, I then push play again and go back to my dishes.  This typically happens a few times a night–night after night.

I got to thinking … wouldn’t it be nice if I could just say “pause” or “volume down” instead of going through that whole process?  There was just one problem.  I didn’t think ESPN entertainment would be available through Alexa. I kind of figured the whole Amazon and Disney competition would render that an impossibility.

However, I did a little research, and it seemed that because The Dan Le Batard Show With Studgotz is available through many podcasts outlets, it should be generally retrievable by Alexa via the internet.

There was only one way to know for sure.

The next time I was at my family’s house, I approached their Echo.  I said, “Alexa, play The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz.”

A half second passed.

It felt like a century.

And then … I heard that wonderful music coupled with Papi’s introduction.

I ordered my Echo that night.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

President Donald Trump Has Exceeded My Expectations

President Donald Trump has always been a unique figure during my lifetime.  I grew up with him acting as a bombastic promotions man.  Yes, I knew he was in business, but I primarily experienced his face on board games, appearing on World Wrestling Entertainment television, talking with Howard Stern on the radio, feuding with Rosie O’Donnell, hosting The Apprentice, and  showing up in movies like Home Alone 2.

When Trump pondered running for president in 2004, 2008, and 2012, I don’t think many people took him very seriously.  He was notorious for pulling huge publicity stunts, after all.  So, to be fair, when he officially ran and won in 2016, I was amazed.  I was shocked not only because he actually stayed in the race throughout, but also because he managed to win.

However, in my opinion, Donald Trump has always been about making a splash and building his brand.  That’s just my opinion.  I absolutely believe that he wanted to win the presidency.  I didn’t believe, though, that he actually wanted to deal with the day-to-day, nonstop drudgery of being president.

Because of this belief, as well as Donald Trump’s penchant for controversy, I didn’t think he’d complete the first two years of his presidency.  I truthfully thought he would find a reason to resign–to go out on top.  If he didn’t resign, I assumed he would be impeached because, again, Donald Trump has always bent the rules and admitted as much.  That kind of thing eventually catches up to people.

But, President Donald Trump has exceeded my expectations.  Yesterday, January 20th, 2019, marked two full years in office.

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  (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Back In Touch With An Old Friend …

A few days ago I struggled to make a dent in a book that will remain unnamed.  As it happens, a student in my class raved about an old Stephen King book he’d just finished — Pet Sematary.

Like you, I know about his classic novel, Pet Sematary.  I seen bits and pieces of the old movie on TV throughout the years.  However, I’ve never actually read the thing.  If you’ve visited this site for awhile, you know I’m a Stephen King fan.  His nonfiction is always sublime.  I could read his thoughts on all manner of subjects day and night.  He’s one of the few contemporary writers who strikes me as both present and wise.

His fiction, though, it a little hit or miss with me.  I’m not an admirer of his work past the year 2000 (with the exception of his Dark Tower books).  Much of it strikes me as inflated and meandering.

The classics, though?  You know it.  For the most part, those babies are tight, fast, and going places.  Unfortunately, I haven’t read as many of his classic titles as I would like.

So anyway, as I listened to a student rave about Pet Sematary, I thought to myself, “Yeah, let’s do this!  It’s October; a trailer for the new film adaptation recently released; I’m not enjoying the book I’m currently reading — this is perfect timing!”

I literally put the book down that I was not digging and picked up Pet Sematary.

Ah, as soon as I started reading, it felt like I’d just reunited with an old friend.

I know the Pet Sematary years were a rough patch for King.  He’s very much on record with his addiction struggles.  I’ll be darned, though, if he wasn’t at his peak during those tumultuous days.  I’m in no way suggesting he should go back under the influence — absolutely not.  His style and voice during that time, though, were just so easy to get lost in, and remains so to this very day.  (That voice is still present in his nonfiction, by the way.)

Pet Sematary, like his other works from that era, connect with me in a way his current work does not.  I’m having an absolute ball reading it.  King’s appeal is obvious — there’s a reason he’s been a best selling author for almost fifty years!

It’s wonderful to pick up a book, start reading, and feel instant comfort.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Boys Will Be Boys … But Will They Be Men?

Let me first say this from the outset: I have no problem with little boys.  Believe it or not … I once was a little boy myself.  So this article isn’t going to bash little boys or demean them in any way.

However, it is going to be tough on grown men who still act like they are little boys …

Yesterday, President Trump said, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of.  This is a very difficult time.”

I can’t know President’s Trump heart and soul, but this quote struck me as misguided.  Taken by itself, the single quote isn’t awful, though I would argue that it would be scary for anyone to be guilty of something they may not be guilty of.  I’m sure many can relate to this fear.

But what President Trump is actually saying is that it’s a scary time for young white men to be accused of something for which they may not be guilty.  Logic dictates that this must have been his true message.  I think we can all agree that young black men have been found guilty for centuries when they were actually innocent.  We could in fact argue that most minority men have endured this hardship as well, no matter what the race, creed, or color.

By that rationale, false accusations is not anything new for any young man who isn’t … well … white.  Therefore, I think I stand on solid ground when I say that President Trump’s subtext was meant to specifically refer to young white men.

As a middle-aged white man, I’m here to offer a bit of news.  Men, if you behave yourselves, if you take others’ feelings into account, if you are polite, if you keep your hands to yourself, and if you act as a general gentleman, you have nothing to fear.

My personal opinion as to what President Trump is insinuating is that it’s a scary time for young men because they no longer get to do what they want, when they want, to whom they want without fear of consequence.

There’s an old saying that I’ve heard time and again: “Boys will be boys.”

I often hear this cliche whenever a little boy is almost being held accountable for bad behavior.  I say almost, because when it’s time to serve an actual consequence, the phrase “boys will be boys” often arrives in its stead.

Broadly speaking, it’s hard to make little boys behave.  I recognize that.  It takes routine, boundaries, and actual consequences.  For many adults, that’s an ongoing fight they just don’t want to have.  As a result, though, little boys are conditioned to believe they can do what they want, anytime they want, without much fear of getting in trouble.  And, as children, that’s fine.

The problem, however, is that these little boys can potentially grow into men who can’t break this bad habit.  I’d like to think that with age comes maturity and responsibility, and for most this is true.  With the #MeToo movement’s revelations, though, it’s clearly not the case for all.  We’ve had too many men using their power — whether it be political power, financial power, or physical power — to commit atrocities against others.

Sadly, it appears that for some, hearing “boys will be boys” throughout their childhood may have led to a lifelong motto.

I wish all little boys grew up to be men — real men.  Responsible men.  Loving men.  Kind men.  Compassionate men.  Disciplined men.  Ethical men.  Inspiring men.

Obviously, I wrote this article not only in response to President Trump’s quote, but also because of the ongoing saga between Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.  I admit this is a very difficult situation due to the fact that both of them, under oath, swear that they are 100% sure of what they are saying.  They are both credible, intelligent, respected individuals.  Yet both of them also have glaring inconsistencies in their accounts.  Like with President Trump, I can’t look into their minds to know who is telling the absolute truth.  But I do know this — no matter how much time has passed, no matter how many details can’t be remembered, no matter how esteemed the accused, we must insist upon a society that makes men and women feel safe to seek justice.  We cannot shame victims into remaining silent.  We cannot, by default, give sexual abusers all of the power.

Therefore, I must disagree with President Trump.  His idea of a scary place is all wrong.

A nation that refuses to give victims the benefit of the doubt, a society that encourages men to objectify and abuse women, a government whose leadership is primarily comprised of powerful white men willing to turn a blind eye towards sexual misconduct, and a country where men prefer to behave like little boys … that’s a scary place.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)