Friday, April 3, 2015

Loss of a Legend

“History and legend have the same goal: to depict eternal man beneath momentary man.”  Victor Hugo, “Quatrevingt-treize (Ninety-Three),” 1874
 Ron Heflin; Post-Tribune photo by Stephanie Dowell
Longtime (1976-1997) Gary Roosevelt basketball coach Ron Heflin passed away at age 75.  Between 1956 and 1958 Heflin played on Roosevelt teams coached by the legendary Louis “Bo” Mallard.  Best known for guiding the Panthers, led by Glenn Robinson, to the 1991 state championship, Heflin was a Region icon.  The previous Saturday, the Panthers overcame dubious officiating to edge Anderson Highland in the Lafayette Semi State 42-41.  The team, unbelievably, did not shoot a free throw during the entire game.  Asked about it afterwards, Heflin replied tongue-in-cheek, “I guess they weren’t fouling.”  A week later, Robinson outplayed Indianapolis Brebeuf star Alan Henderson, and Roosevelt won easily, 51-32.  Heflin almost never call a tine-out when opposing teams would put on a run, expecting his players to figure out how to weather the storm themselves.  Former Bowman coach Marvin Rea, a Trester Award winner on Roosevelt’s 1987 Final Four squad, told the Post-Tribune’s Mike Hutton:

He was more like a father figure than a coach.  He was the guy that you looked up to.  He was a spiritual leader.  He was one of those guys you thought would never disappear.  He did a lot for us outside basketball.  He taught us the game of life.

What a treasure trove of memories Heflin took with him.  Hopefully many were imparted to others under his tutelage.  I thought of him when coming across in the New York Review James Laughlin’s poem “The Junk Collector”:

what bothers me most about
the idea of having to die

(sooner or later) is that
the collection of junk I

have made in my head will
presumably be dissipated

not that there isn’t more
and better junk in other

heads and always will be but
I have become so fond of

my own head’s collection.

A NWI Times editorial, headlined: “RFRA law puts Indiana back in 19th century,” makes these points:

The bad news is Indiana's governor and legislative leaders are scurrying like scolded children, attempting to fix a freshly minted law that smacks of discrimination and alienates people, harms businesses big and small, and potentially stymies revenue flowing into Indiana.

The good news is Northwest Indiana, often seen as the Hoosier state's red-headed stepchild, is responding to this legislative blunder with enough dignity and class to make us all proud.

During a damage-control press conference Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence said he “can appreciate” a perception that the state's newly passed "religious freedom" law might allow businesses to deny services to gay customers.

Just days after he signed this disaster into law, Pence is now calling for a fix by week's end — language that would be added to the law, making it clear it does not allow for discrimination against gays, lesbians or any other human being, for that matter.

While he's at it, the governor ought to reflect on his penchant for making social issues the basis for his time as the Hoosier state's chief executive. His proclivity for pushing social issues above real fiscal policy is sucking the state right back into the 19th century.

And Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, the top legislative leaders under whose watch this epic monstrosity evolved, should relinquish their leadership roles to more forward-thinking lawmakers. Northwest Indiana legislative leaders who voted for the bill also owe their constituents an explanation.

Former governor Mitch Daniels announced that he is heartsick over recent developments, which threaten to destroy Indiana’s pro-business climate he did so much to nurture.  During his two terms in office Daniels wisely declared a moratorium on social issues. 
 VU students on the march; NWI Times photos by Jonathan Miano

Valparaiso University students marched from campus to City Hall in reaction to the ill-named Religious Freedom Restoration Act and to request the Common Council to pass an ordinance protecting LGBTs.  Speakers discussed being victims of discrimination.  Mayor Jon Costas agreed to arrange a forum on campus on the matter.  Protest spokesperson Christina Crawley expressed gratitude that the city is offering “Everyone Is Welcome” stickers to willing businesses.

I know Christina Crawley from VU professor Heath Carter’s Fall History class and Archives visits doing research.  She’s from Gary’s Tarrytown neighborhood and, like IUN’s Larissa Dragu, has impressive leadership skills.  At last December’s “Realizing the Dream in Northwest Indiana” event, she showed poise and maturity as a speaker and discussion group leader.

David Letterman slammed Governor Pence, saying that “something’s gone haywire with him” and that he’d rather have Bobby Knight as governor – at least he only destroyed chairs.  The former IU coach also showed up on Letterman’s “Top Ten” list of Mike Pence look-alikes.  Others included the guy who at the bar who sends your girlfriend a drink, the real estate agent whose picture is on a bus stop bench, the guy who arrives at his high school reunion in a rented Ferrari, and the dude fishing in the Cialis commercial.

Proud to have grown up in Indiana, Letterman ridiculed the Hoosier restaurateur who vowed not to deliver pizzas to LBGT wedding receptions.  Sadly, bigots have raised a quarter-million dollars to compensate him for potential losses – sounds like a scam.  Letterman also showed clips of former President George W. Bush doing embarrassing things.  My favorite:  repeating the truism, “Sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Bush raised his right hand when mentioning the left and vice versa.

New York Times op ed columnist Gail Collins called Pence’s appearance on ABC last Sunday “possibly one of the worst by a governor in television history.”  She wrote:

Last year Indiana chose “Honest to Goodness Indiana” as its new tourism slogan. Not everyone was charmed. Some critics said they’d have preferred something more cosmopolitan. Although it doesn’t seem likely they’d be happier with the runners-up, one of which was “Seasoned Just Right.”
Now, however, the slogan makes a kind of sense, especially if you throw in a little punctuation:
Honest to goodness, Indiana! Really, what were you thinking?

With the NCAA Final Four tournament coming to Indy Saturday, Republican legislators passed a face-saving rider that seemingly forbids bakers, florists, and other small businesses from discriminating against gays. We'll see.

David Malham reminded me of an April Fools Day stunt he pulled many years ago.  On the phone he pretended to be an Indian professor seeking to order a hundred copies of my book.  He recalled:

At the time I thought it a funny “we'll both get a laugh from it” prank. Had I really thought about it I would have appreciated that being on the receiving end would not be all that funny.  In my “lack of discernment” defense let me add that Shelley frequently insists on vetting some of my e-mails, saying “You think you're being funny but you're the only one laughing.”  And Michael: “My dad spends half his time writing e-mails and the other half apologizing for and explaining them.”  A niece sent me a funny anti-Obama e-mail. In response I told her that I was a member of a regional committee that was mandated to forward such “jokes” to the government.  I assured her that probably nothing would come of it but in the event she was investigated, my relationship as her uncle would serve to protect her.  I thought my response absurd and funny. Her reply: She pleaded with me not to forward it to Washington. The e-mail, she explained, was originally sent to her husband and he had forwarded it to her. He did not want either himself or the original sender to get in trouble. I apologized and told her that I thought I was only being funny (I first toyed with the idea of asking her to give me the names of at least five people who thought the joke funny).  

The Engineers won two games from All Mixed Up before Darren, their cleanup bowler got hot.  I lost most-over-average by four pins to Robbie, who, like Dick, is pushing to switch to a daytime, hundred-percent-handicap, seniors league.  With the Engineers having been in the league 60 years, Mel, Frank, and I want to stay put in Sheet and Tin, while John has no preference.  The Dingbats are considering dropping out, so maybe we can pick up a couple new bowlers.  Dick is fond of repeating how the Engineers were league champs in 1971 and 1972 and adopted Nixon’s campaign slogan, “Four More Years.”
 James Fenimore Cooper by Matthew Brady

At IUN’s annual Arts and Sciences conference Chris Young sponsored a History session entitled “The Elements That Affect the Potential for Human Influence and Experience.”  C.C. Biedron discussed antebellum ghosts, in particular spectral spirits supposedly reached during séances.  According to one cynic, rapping and knocking were becoming as common as pricking and pinching during the Salem Witchcraft trials.  The learned Andrew Griggs, speaking apparently without notes, discussed “Nature as a Character” in the Leatherstocking novels of James Fenimore Cooper set on the American frontier, including “The Pioneers” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”   Griggs astutely fielded questions from David Parnell, Jonathyne Briggs, and Kevin McElmurry.  I asked about Cooper’s view of animals.  Griggs replied that the protagonist in the series, Natty Bumppo, believed that like other natural resources, they should only hunted to harvest as food, not for mere sport.

Conference highlights included Pamela A. Lowe discussing “Using Social Media to Advance Fundraising for Nonprofits” and a keynote address by Jack Bloom on Solidarity and the Polish Communist Party, 1980-1981, entitled “Inside a Ruling Party Facing a Revolution.”
 Becca and James Lane

I picked up an Easter “Heavenly Ham” in Merrillville and chicken salad and rye bread to feed gamers Tom Wade and Dave.  We got in six board games and each of us won two of them.  Both Amun Re contests were decided on tie-breakers, with the third place finisher within 2 points of the others.  Dave’s family, who had been over the day before to dye Easter eggs, joined us for dinner.

Chancellor Lowe announced this year’s Outstanding Staff Award winners, good people all.  They included Hollis Donald, Augie Reyes, TerryAnn Defenser, Kathy Malone, and Ida Gillis.
Paul Kern with sons Chris and Colin, 2008; below, Colin after a successful dissertation defense, April 2015

I look forward to Paul Kern’s reactions to my Steel Shavings issues.  He still has a keen interest in Region basketball and IUN, where he taught for almost 40 years.  I try to emulate historian Bill Neil, who hired both of us and audited Kern’s Siege Warfare seminar after he retired.  Paul wrote: In regard to your friend Ray Smock’s comments about our throw-away society, Bill Neil coined the term ‘throw-away city’ to describe the plight of Gary.  Bill was a loyal son of Gary.  His optimistic personality and liberalism used to annoy his good friend Jack Gruenenfelder.”  On plenty of occasions I, too, annoyed Gruenenfelder, a Catholic and Philosophy professor.

I was in IUN’s library stacks searching (in vain, it turned out) for Helen Hoover Santmyer’s 1982 novel “… And Ladies of the Club” when Anne Balay’s nemesis suddenly appeared.  “Well, look who’s here,” I exclaimed.  He ignored me.  I’m his worst nightmare, I guess, recording for the historical record the horrific treatment of one who should have been a shoo-in for tenure.  I went to Hawthorn Hall to get the address of former English professor Pat Buckler, also unjustly terminated, and dropped off volume 44 to Beth LaDuke, who had previous Steel Shavings volumes in her bookcase.

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