Monday, July 3, 2017

The Answer

“It was just the greatest feeling in the world to see a kid with your shoes on.” Basketball great Allen Iverson

On the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where are they now” issue is Allen Iverson, whose nickname was “The Answer” or simply AI.  He once said, “A jump shot can get you a shoe deal, a big house, a supermodel, fancy cars, a bunch of yes men, a Swiss bank account. But none of these things can get you a jump shot.”  One of my favorite players, Iverson starred for the Philadelphia 76ers for ten years, beginning in 1996, and virtually single-handedly propelled them to the NBA finals in 2001; despite being less than six feet tall, AI scored 48 points in game one against the heavily favored Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.  Iverson feuded with commissioner David Stern over his instituting a dress code, drawing this retort from AI: They’re targeting guys who dress like me— guys who dress hip-hop. Put a murderer in a suit, and he’s still a murderer. It sends a bad message to the kids.”  He had run-ins with coaches due to his dislike of onerous practice sessions, once telling a reporter: “I would never want to coach.  Why? “We would never practice.”  At present, Iverson is player-coach for a 3-man team of former NBA players.  Like 76er Charles Barkley a decade earlier, AI bonded with Philly fans because he always went all-out in games.

Sports Illustrated also profiled Philadelphia hockey great Eric Lindros. A dominating presence on the ice for the Flyers for ten years starting in 1992, Lindros anchored a line with John LeClair and Mikael Renberg nicknamed the “Legion of Doom.”  He was the sixth fastest player in NHL history to record 600 points.  Lindros feuded with general manager Bobby Clarke, who underestimated the debilitating effects of head injuries and questioned his toughness.  In the 2000 Eastern Conference finals, New Jersey Devils defenseman Scott Stevens lowered a shoulder into Lindros and knocked him unconscious. Upon his premature retirement, he donated $5 million to the London Health Science Center to study sports related injuries, including concussions, which shortened his stellar career.

Over the weekend, Phil and Delia arrived for a pool party hosted by John and Chris English on Saturday and Becca’s fifteenth birthday party on Sunday.  At the former Amy Kilgore recalled being at Maple Place for a party as a teenager.  In the water were lots of young kids, including a five-year-old who smiled at me as she ignored parent’s announcement about it being time to get out of the pool. Phil and I won three of four corn hole matches, losing finally to Dave and John English, 22-20, when the host put one in the hole on his final shot.   Wore the Burger Lounge t-shirt, a present from nephew Bob Lane, who posted a shot of Pittsburgh Penguin Chad Ruhwedel bringing the Stanley Cup to San Diego Ice Arena.
 At San Diego Ice Arena Addie Lane touches Stanley Cup held by Chad Ruhwedel

Becca doing karaoke at 15th birthday party
Phil and Dave perform "Betty Lou's Gettin' Out Tonight"
Sunday Dave set up karaoke in the basement.  After Becca’s friends held forth for several hours, the 40-somethings took over.  Phil did a rousing take on Bob Seeger’s “Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight,” sometimes substituting “and Delia, too” for a second “Betty Lou,” after which he declared, “Billy Bob is back,” a reference to his persona when the boys and their teenage Ogden Dunes friends would record “Funny shit on tape” sketches. Dave sang “I Got You, Babe” with Tina Horn.

I completed “The Texas Stories of Nelson Algren,” edited by Bettina Drew, to get ready for a discussion Friday at the Algren Museum in Miller.  Based largely on the author’s personal experiences in the Lone Star state during 1932, they deal with vagabonds doing whatever they can to stay alive during the Great depression - jumping onto freight trains, working at carnivals, often ending up in local jails or at the mercy of sadistic railroad cops, especially if black or Mexican or caught fraternizing with one.  The stories take place in the Rio Grande Valley near where former Lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez grew up.   
 Dominguez family visiting Las Flores, Mexico, June 30, 2017, across the Rio Grande border

The setting of “A Holiday in Texas,” a classic example of social realism, is an outdoor feast on the lawn of the Double-O ranch, complete with beer on ice, that owner Boone Terry threw for his 15 hands upon his return from Argentina.  After bragging about his loyalty and generosity toward his workers, the big blowhard got drunk and revealed his true nature:
  Ah’m the big bull o’ the Big Bend country, tha’s what ah ah’m – bigges’, toughes’ bull in th’ whole state o’ Texas – ever’thin’ – ever’ acre an’ ever’thin’ in it – ever’ man, woman and chil’ – where’d you bastards be if it weren’t fo’ me, eh? Who’d feed such a lousy crew like you, anyhow?  Ever’ goddam man o’ you stinks t’ heaven, ah kin kick the gut out o’ any six o’ you with ‘un hand behin’ me.
Someone called for young Scott Naylor to fetch his guitar and lead them in song.  With his boss listening, “foolish with drink,” Naylor sang these words:
Oh, I love my boss, and my boss loves me
And that is the reason I have no money.

I went to my boss to draw my roll,
He figured me out ten bucks in the hole.
So I’ll sell my outfit as fast as I can,
And I won’t punch cows for no damned man.
When the men pressed Naylor for something livelier, he sang:
Rise up, fields and workshops,
  Rise up, workers, farmers,
To battle! March onward
   March on, world-stormers!
The songs and beer having lulled Big Boone to sleep, Naylor arose, “spat once at the boss’s feet, and walked slowly away from the big white house toward the ranch house, where already the shadows were lengthening toward night.”

Led by Polina Shaganenko, Director of Overseas Communications
for Mariupol Regional Television, a Ukrainian crew a half-dozen strong interviewed me at the Calumet Regional Archives concerning how the loss of industrial jobs has hurt the city of Gary.  They also questioned John Trafny and Mike Olszanski, both former steelworkers and historians.  Polina would translate questions for me and relay my answers to the interviewer. Summarizing factors hastening Gary’s decline, I brought up economic, demographic, and political conditions, including hostility from Republican legislators downstate and federal neglect, and then broached the subject of racism, in particular the irrational anti-Richard Hatcher sentiment by bankers and corporate tycoons who acted as if they wanted America’s first black mayor to fail. President Obama would face the same relentless opposition from racist Republican partisans.  After the interview, as a token of appreciation, Polina gave me a shopping bag containing a miniature wooden easel, a small jar of red paint, a tiny brush, and a gift-wrapped, postcard size scene of the city of Mariupol.
 Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, Mariupol, 2007

Located in southeastern Ukraine, Mariupol is just miles from territory seized by pro-Russian insurgents and still in danger of attack. Approximately 35,000 steelworkers are employed in its largest mill, whose future is in jeopardy. The TV crew, arriving from Chicago (two teenage relatives were wearing Chicago Blackhawk caps), will visit other communities coping with deindustrialization, such as Cleveland, Youngstown, Flint, Detroit, and Pittsburgh.  Olszanski wrote Polina this note: There are many, many questions I have about what is happening in your country today, and it is extremely difficult here to get reliable, unbiased news on the situation. Perhaps you could recommend some reading? I realize the situation is complicated, and has a historical element that goes very far back. I would like to try to understand it as well as I can.  Thank you and best of luck with everything.  Be safe!”

I’ve been perusing h the oral history papers Steve McShane’s students wrote about duplicate bridge players.  Here’s McKenzie McKnight’s opening paragraph about Dottie Hart, one of my favorite former partners, whom I played with when Terry Bauer was on vacation.
  On a Thursday morning, I pulled up to a duplex to see Dottie Hart bent over watering her flowers in her pajamas and slippers. Smiling to myself, I thought, “I’m glad I’m not the only one that dressed for comfort.”  Dottie kindly invited me into her clean and comfortable home. As we settled into chairs, she was distracted by the scene on the television of James Comey testifying before a Congressional committee. As I set up my phone to record our interview, she smiled over at me and said, “I’m afraid I’m going to miss this. I can’t stand Trump.”
above, Dottie Hart; below Terry Bauer and Jim Carson

1 comment:

  1. Great seeing you this weekend Jimbo! Love that you documented the karaoke night and Becca's birthday party...that was so much fun!