Tuesday, February 2, 2016


  “We can’t last forever on the football field.  You get your head knocked a bit.  They’ve got to fix the helmets so your brains don’t get rattled like they do,” Ted Karras to Al Hamnik (2011)

The word concussed is now in common usage both as an adjective (suffering from a concussion) and a verb (to injure by means of a concussion).  Though the subject comes up most often in regards to football, recent research has shown it to be a problem in wrestling, soccer, and other youth sports.  The fear is that repeated hits to the head will result in long-term brain damage.  I recall a time when euphemisms like “he got his bell rung” and “he got dinged” were used to describe head hits glorified in highlight films.

Columnist John Doherty reported that, according to a recent report in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, college athletes who suffered concussions are more than twice as likely to experience a non-contact leg injury within three months of returning to action.  The report concluded:
Given the demanding environment in which athletes are required to execute complex maneuvers, it is possible that mild neurocognitive deficit may result on judgment errors and loss of coordination.
 above, Ted Karras in 2013; below, Ted and Anna
Ted Karras, starting left guard on the Chicago Bears NFL 1963 championship team, died at age 81.  Five years ago he told NWI Times correspondent Al Hamnik: “You lose your memory and everything else.  That’s my problem right now.  I got knocked around and I can’t remember things.  But I’m glad I’m alive.  I’m 77.  What the hell.”  Hamnik pointed out that the most Karras ever made for a season was $25,000, and his monthly NFL pension was just $975.  I had the honor of visiting Ted and wife Anna at their Miller home  on Shelby a couple years while working on an article about brother Alex Karras for Traces magazine.  Looking a old photos, Ted joked about his memory loss, but I could tell how frustrating it must have been.  He'd say each time that we needed to finish by 11 a.m. when reruns of Webster, an Eighties sitcom starring brother Alex, came on.
 Coach Ryan Shelton and IUN's Lady Redhawks
Friday in a NAIA contest, the 23rd-ranked IUN Lady Redhawks played the College of the Ozarks.  Up 34-32 at the half, IUN stretched the lead to 10 before the fourth-ranked Lady Bobcats rallied.  The turning point: two straight treys by opponent Cass Johnson to put her team up four.  IUN tied the score with two minutes to go, thanks to buckets by Nicki Monahan and Jayne Roach, but lost 80-76, first time this season on their home court to fall to 15-6.  A scary moment occurred when an opponent set an illegal moving pick, and an IUN player fell to the floor, hit her head, and remained down for several anxious minutes.

I paid my respects to the Karras family at Burns Funeral Home in Hobart.  In the crowded room were two photos of Ted in his Bears uniform, taken in 1963 and 2013, and several floral wreaths, including one for “papou” from his six grandchildren.  Anna told me Ted died surrounded by family and just weeks ago was singing  - as the obit noted, he had a beautiful voice and had appeared in numerous musical productions.  I said hello to sister Helene, whom I had visited while seeking information on parents Emmiline and George Karras, a Gary doctor, who ministered to working-class immigrant families, often gratis or for products in trade.  Helene said her brothers got their size from their dad and athletic ability from their mother.

Dave was announcing wrestling Sectionals at East Chicago Central, so I took James to bowling at Inman’s.  Teammate Josh Froman had a chance for a 279 game going into the tenth frame but left a seven-pin on an apparent perfect hit.  Bowling ended early, but we were pleased to discover that Culver’s opened at ten and had lunch.
 "Straight Outta Compton" cast
Of all the black actors snubbed by the Academy, Will Smith, who plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in “Concussion” is the most obvious.  Another travesty is that lightweight (in ability) Sylvester Stallone got nominated for again playing Rocky Balboa, now a trainer, in Creed, while Michael B. Jordon as Adonis Johnson was slighted.  African American F. Gary Gray directed the acclaimed “Straight Outta Compton,” but the film’s only nomination went to two white guys who wrote the screenplay.  Some want Oscar host Chris Rock to boycott the event, but I look forward to hearing his take on the subject.
 Party Animals, Trivia Night winners
I competed on Fred and Diane Chary’s team, “Presidents Gone Wild,” at Temple Israel’s eighth annual Trivia Night.  Diane had a white wig for me as well as a John Adams mask.  On our team were the Blooms (Jack as Abraham Lincoln) and Fred’s son Michael.   The Post-Tribune had won the past several years, and a big cheer went up when Party Animals beat them out.  Our table finished about eighth out of 24 entries.  I wasn’t much help: most questions I knew were pretty obvious – for example, “Hair” and Pete Seeger in the music category. I did know the song “Get Together,” and Jack Bloom came up with the name of the group, the Youngbloods, after I speculated that it was Young Rascals.  My best contribution was recognizing a glass art piece by Dale Chihuly.  I erred on what company produced the first plastic credit card. Diners Club issued credit cards starting in 1950, but the answer, to my dismay, was American Express, whose card made of plastic dated from 1959.

Trivia Night was a chance to see many old Miller friends.  Greeting me when I arrived at Temple Israel was Bobbi Galler, whose son Andy got Phil interested in working at the IU campus TV station.  Bobbi and Larry Galler used to host New Year’s Day chili and beer parties; that’s where I watched the 1979 Cotton Bowl where Joe Montana led Notre Dame, down 34-12 late in the third quarter, to a 35-34 victory over Houston.  Saying hi were Linc Cohen, who had been at Woodstock in the summer of 1969, and Jack Weinberg, a leader of the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement and, closer to home, the Bailly anti-nuclear fight. Weinberg’s team last year was the Marxists; this year they were dressed as cyclists and went by the Cranks (there is a Calumet Crank Club in Northwest Indiana for bikers).  Gene Ayers and I commiserated over the passing of Ted Karras.  In a recent Ayers Realtors Newsletter Gene had written about working at Jack Spratt’s ice cream shop when Ted came in with two Bears teammates, tight end Mike Ditka and defensive end Ed O’Bradovich. 

Gaming with Tom Wade and Dave, I went one for four, winning St. Petersburg thanks to getting the Warehouse, which allowed me to keep four cards in my hand.  For lunch we made ham sandwiches on marbled rye bread, which reminded Dave of the Seinfeld episode where George’s parents take a loaf of marble rye to girlfriend Susan’s house and then his dad sneaks away with it when the hosts don’t serve it.  George then attempts to replace it with another loaf while they leave their apartment.  When Jerry goes to buy one, a woman in front of him purchases the last loaf.  After she refuses to sell it, he snatches it and calls her an “old bag.”  Of course, George gets caught trying to retrieve it from Jerry with a fishing pole.
 rye snatching scene from Seinfeld
Rereading “Olive Kitteridge” by Elizabeth Strout, I’d forgotten some of the minor characters that weren’t in the brilliant HBO mini-series, such as hardware store owner Harmon, whose wife Bonnie one day announced that she was done having sex.  At the marina diner Harmon sat next to a young couple smelling like pot (he didn’t mind) and talking loudly about a friend being a bitch lately, upset because she found out her boyfriend had a “fuck buddy” – a sex partner to whom she had no emotional attachment.  Harmon heard the girl say, “I mean, who cares.  That’s the point of a fuck buddy.”  Later on the phone, Harmon asked his son if he’d heard of fuck buddies and was told, “That’s the thing these days.  Just what it says.  People who get together to get laid.  No strings attached.”  At the time Harmon was having sex with Daisy Foster on a weekly basis, courting her with donuts, but found himself falling in love and (to quote Strout) “waiting for the day, and he knew it would come, when he left Bonnie or when she kicked him out.”

The protagonist in Young Adult author John Green’s “Looking for Alaska” (2006) was fascinated with the final words of famous people, such as Frank Sinatra saying, “I’m losing it.”  The last words of benevolent Henry Kitteridge as he got out of the car at Shop ‘n’ Save to buy milk, orange juice and jam were “Anything else?”  The final line in “Olive Kitteridge” has Olive thinking: “It baffled her, the world.  She did not want to leave it yet.” 

Paul Kern posted several emails regarding his and Julie’s “California or Bust” trip:
  January 30: In Texas and New Mexico the Border Patrol was much in evidence. We passed through two check points with dogs sniffing our car, saw many Border Patrol squad cars as well as helicopters that we suspect were Border Patrol. I felt like we were in East Germany or Franco's Spain instead of the United States.
  January 31: Crossing the Mojave Desert, we were buffeted by high winds and then were blinded by a torrential downpour. Finally we were hit by a blizzard. We're holed up in a motel in Tehachapi, CA waiting out the storm.
  February 1 (a.m.): We're stuck in Tehachapi [in Kern County]. Highway 58 to Bakersfield closed because of icy conditions. May open later today, but may not.
  February 1 (p.m.): Highway 58 opened late this morning under police escort and we were able to escape Tehachapi. Made it to West Sacramento around six, ending a three thousand mile road trip. Colin brought us a Chinese dinner and now we are settling into the condo we are renting for the next two months.

Charley Halberstadt and I had our ups and downs in duplicate bridge, but, more often than not, how we did was out of our hands and dependent on how our opponents bid and played.  My worst hand: Charley over-called Chuck Tomes (above) with a good spade suit but nothing else.  With ten points and five spades I jumped from one to four spades, and Charley went down three, doubled.  My best moment: Charley opened light with an Ace, King, Queen of Hearts and little else.  I had just two little Hearts but 17 points and bid Two No-Trump.  Very reluctantly, Charley raised me to Three No-Trump.  We each had four Clubs, with me holding the Ace, King.  I made it on the nose for high board when Clubs split 3-2, allowing me to cash in a low Club.

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