The latest Sports Illustrated has L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant celebrating his fifth NBA title (just one less than Michael Jordan) on the cover. There’s a story about a tiny “Cinderella” baseball team from Illinois, the Macon Hawks, that reached the 1971 state tournament championship, along the way defeating schools with 20 times the enrollment. Their coach was a hippie type who used unorthodox motivation methods, including playing the “Jesus Christ Superstar” soundtrack during warm-ups. In the state final inning the Hawks were losing 4-2 with one out and a man on second. The next batter hit a line drive and the centerfielder threw out the base runner at the plate. The coach, of course, should have held the runner on third since it was not the tying run, but in the excitement of the moment goofed.
The latest Rolling Stone issue, with Lady Gaga on the cover, contained a sensational article about General Stanley McChrystal, in charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. It contained critical comments from he and his staff about President Obama and his inner circle. Obama ordered him to the White House and accepted his resignation. As Chicago White Sox announcer “Hawk” Harrelson exclaims when an opposing team’s batter strikes out, “He gone!” Obama replaced McChrystal in a seemingly brilliant stroke with General David Petraeus, credited with turning the Iraq quagmire around. The downside is that the President seems to be backing away from his pledge to start withdrawing from Afghanistan within 12 months. Could we be so stupid, in the face of Vietnam and the Soviet fiasco in Afghanistan, to think we can nation-build?
Tom and Darcey hosted a summer Game weekend at their new Chesterton home. I arrived shortly after five to find Jef Halberstadt and Evan, Patti and son Aaron engaged in games with Tom and Brady, so I had an Italian beef sandwich with yummy potato salad (a darcey specialty), chatted with Darcey, and checked out how she plays Scrabble on-line. Darcey joined us for two games of Wits and Wagers (she is the undisputed champ), and I finished second in two other games before leaving shortly before midnight. Son Dave, who came late, stayed till four a.m., he later told me. Had so many other social events not been taking place, I’d have been there all weekend.
Toni and I went shopping and she worked putting the condo basement in shape while I watched the United States lose a World Cup match to Ghana in overtime. In the afternoon we went to a high school graduation party for Melissa “Missy” Brush, who plans to study to be a veterinarian’s assistant. Why not be a veterinarian, I suggested, but that’s expensive. We gave her money plus MGMT’s CD “Congratulations.” Before his untimely death Missy’s dad Tim was the heart and soul of Voodoo Chili, and Missy sometimes sang a few numbers with the band. At bars Dave would introduce her by claiming it was her twenty-first birthday. If the places didn’t serve food in a special section, she wasn’t supposed to be there.
In three performances over the weekend James played two parts in the play “What a Knight,” a musical comedy put on by M and M Productions in Hobart. As Earl Axminister in King Arthur’s court, he wore a curly wig. He was great, and 15 of his fans, including the Michiganders, were in attendance. Afterwards, we went to the Great Wall Buffet in Portage and chowed down on Chinese food - all we could eat for nine bucks each for adults and half price for kids. Needless to say, we got more than our money’s worth.
West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd passed away at age 92, having been elected to an unprecedented ninth term. A towering figure, he was “the king of pork” when it came to funding projects in his home state. In 2003 he was almost alone in blasting the Bush administration for invading a country without just cause. At lunch
George Bodmer mentioned writing him a note thanking him for his opposition to the act of American aggression. My friend Ray Smock, formerly historian of the House of Representatives, is director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. I expect to receive an eloquent email from Ray on Byrd in the near future.