America, America


I really love living where I do. The street where I live, and a few blocks on either side of mine, is listed on the National Register of Historic places. It has a high concentration of brick bungalows, which are relics from a bygone era. There’s no split-level ranches or McMansions where I live, and I hope it stays that way, too.

But on top of being in such a cool setting–I sometimes think that I live on a movie set–there’s the added benefit of living downwind from the dozen or so Indian restaurants that sit just a block away from my house. I love Indian food, even if I rarely go into the restaurants. Most days, all I need to do is take a deep breath, and the smells of all that tasty food is enough for me.

Everyone who works in those restaurants, or runs the other Indian shops in my neighborhood, is an American. It doesn’t matter if they’ve lived here their whole lives, or if they’re still recovering from a voyage over here from somewhere else. They might not all be citizens, but they’re here now, and as a result they must be treated with dignity and respect.

But that sentiment isn’t shared by all of my countrymen. The recent selection of Nina Davuluri as Miss America set off some of the most ignorant comments that I’ve ever seen on Twitter, and that’s really saying a lot.

Perhaps the foulest comment of all came from someone who used the name @LukeBrasili. He took his Twitter account down–as well he should have–but a website named Favstar shows his   tweets in all their moronic glory. Click if you dare, but remember that he’s probably not the only jackass on the internet. He’s just the most prominent one, at least for now.

Here’s what @LukeBrasili and others of his mindset don’t understand: America is the most diverse place on earth. His ancestors, and Miss America’s ancestors, and all of our ancestors came here and they stayed. And because they did that, they and their progeny can all lay claim to being Americans. I would suggest that if @LukeBrasili doesn’t like that, he should either come up to Chicago and sample the Indian food, or find some other place to live.

Miss America represents New York, a state with some of the most diverse populations in all of America, if not the world itself. And, in case he had forgotten, it’s the state that suffered the most losses on 9/11 itself. It’s only fitting that such a diverse state be represented by someone like Ms. Davuluri. Wherever @LukeBrasili lives, I’m sure that diversity gets stretched to the breaking point whenever Oktoberfest rolls around. But America is more than that, and I’m happy to make that case to anyone who wants to hear it.

Ms America (sorry, but that’s who she is) was born in this county, and has more years of American living under her belt than good old @LukeBrasili does. And yet he is somehow offended by her selection.

Or course, @LukeBrasili is not a racist (maybe he even has a black friend or two), but it’s hard to see anything else as the cause for his statements. He–from the look of his photo on Twitter–has white skin and a European background, and that equals “American” to him.

Miss America must reflect him, therefore, and the selection of anyone with a darker skin tone is not worthy. This type of narrow-mindedness needs to be challenged, it needs to be rebuffed, and it needs to be called out whenever it occurs.

Link to a post on ChicagoSideSports and in the Chicago Sun-Times

MLB Twitter

Baseball has been a big part of my life since the mid-1970s, which is as far back as I can remember anything. Twitter, on the other hand, has been in my life for just a few years. What better way to fuse the old and the new but to write about the two subjects together? That what I did, and the result is published today on ChicagoSideSports.

I’m at the point in life where Twitter seems like a fault line to me. People who don’t tweet, and have no interest in doing so, aren’t really getting social media, in my estimation. Tweets and those who send and read them are newsworthy anymore, and Facebook–while I actually know all of the people I’m friends with there–seems more and more limiting as time goes by. I’m not cool enough for Reddit yet, and some of the other media outlets (Instagram, Tumblr, and even Vine nowadays) don’t hold much interest for me yet. But when I want to learn new things online, Twitter is increasingly where I go.

MLB‘s teams have a lot of room to grow in this regard. And if this piece helps to point that out, that’s a good thing in my book.

A bridge too far (with update)

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals

The Onion is not for everyone. And that’s one of the reasons I have been a fan of theirs for so long. They push the envelope, and say the things that nobody else will. I never laugh harder at things than I do at the Onion.

But tonight was different. As they were tweeting during the Oscars telecast, someone put up a tweet in the Onion‘s account that called young Quvenzhane Wallis a terribly derogatory word. I won’t repeat it here, and I can’t link to it because it seems to have been taken down in the past few minutes. It begins with the letter C, and it’s something I wouldn’t call anyone. It’s tasteless enough to use the term to begin with, but then again they are the Onion.

But as the father of a nine-year old daughter, I would want to rip the head off of anyone who used such a term in describing my daughter. It sounds bad for the Onion to do this, because it is bad. Really, really bad. She’s nine and–movie actress or not–this is an insult that nobody should have to endure.

The tweet seems to have been taken down, and perhaps this story exists only on Twitter for the moment. But that doesn’t give the Onion a pass, either. It’s still out there in cached screen grabs, and it will get commented upon, as it should be. A statement and an apology–both of which are totally out of character for the Onion–must be made.

The parents of every young child (or at least the ones who use Twitter) are waiting to see whether children should be left alone, or whether they are satirical fair game. I’m hoping it’s the former.

UPDATE: The Onion has issued this apology, which is all that they could do once this tweet went out. Hats off to them for owning up to this as they have.

More to do with love


The Pete Rose story has died down by now, and I’m grateful for that. Life has moved on, as I knew it would, and it’s strange to think that it’s not even been a week since the story first appeared anywhere. Our culture and the 24-hour news cycle it has created–or that we have all been thrust into–is on full display with this story.

One story I have to tell about the whole affair unfolded last Saturday. Some baseball card collectors were especially unhappy with me that the story was ever written in the first place. Whether they hated me or not I can’t say, but it was clear they hated the negative publicity this story had created. There were accusations that I was trying to get fame and notoriety (I was not), and that I left out important exculpatory evidence for why Pete Rose’s name was not mentioned on this year’s Topps baseball cards. So I decided to engage these people on Saturday, since I had some downtime while at an ice skating competition.

Later on that evening, I went to see Romeo and Juliet onstage, and one of my favorite lines from the play occurs in Act I, scene 1, in the aftermath of the initial street brawl in Verona. Romeo, coming upon the scene of the fighting after it has finished, states that “Here’s much to do with hate, but more to do with love.” And I feel like, in some way, that summarizes my Twitter exchange with the angry card collectors.

As I say, I’m willing to leave open the question of whether any personal hatred was shown to me. But I’m quite clear that the result of the piece I wrote was hatred of what the story revealed. Card collecting is a serious thing for some people, and anything that puts the primary card producer in a negative light won’t be greeted favorably by them. The old idea that the enemy of my friend must also be my enemy seems to apply here.

But I’m not anybody’s enemy. I don’t have any ill-will towards Topps, either now or when I wrote the piece. As someone said to me, Topps and baseball cards have brought too much joy to too many people over too many decades to be thought of in a bad light. I love baseball, in large part, because I was able to buy these things and have them at a time in my life where I didn’t own very much else. That counts for something, all by itself.

What I love, secondary only to the love I have for my family, is the game of baseball. And that’s where Romeo’s “more to do with love” part enters into this for me. Is it silly to cling to a love of this game, when it has done so much to alienate fans like me? Mega-million dollar player salaries, labor unrest, restrictive licensing deals, and a perpetual pattern of squeezing fans for more and more money all seem to make baseball less and less appealing than it once was. But the game also has a poetry that football and basketball and soccer and hockey and golf and on and on could never match. I write about it all the time on this blog. I’d sooner gouge my eyes out than give up on baseball, and if that’s not love, please tell me what is.

I seem to have come to a truce with the card collectors, at least in the sense that accusations aren’t being hurled my way on Twitter anymore. And I appreciate this very much. A large part of Twitter, as I see it, is the ability to say something to the world, with the expectation that at least some people will read it. And when that something is about a topic you care deeply about, it’s far better to let those things out than to keep them bottled up inside.

One of the card collectors told me that “baseball card collectors are a passionate bunch.” I appreciate his comment, as it reminds me of the tagline for this blog, which states that “the world needs all the passion it can get.” I write this blog to show the world what I’m passionate about, and baseball is clearly one of those things.

The card collectors who took me to task on Twitter have their passions, too, and while they may not overlap with mine exactly, they’re no less valid than my passions or anyone else’s. I thank them for their passion, and their willingness to share it with me. It wasn’t necessarily fun to mix it up with them online, but I’m glad to have engaged with them, and I’m also happy that Shakespeare provided me with a line to put this into some perspective.

The social media president

Over the next four years, there will probably be many instances where I can look at President Obama and say “I like what he just did” It was like that when he sang “Sweet Home Chicago” at the White House recently. When Mick Jagger hands you a microphone, and Buddy Guy wants you to sing, and B.B. King is playing his guitar for you, you just have to go with it, and that’s exactly what he did.

And so it was when members of the U.S. Gymnastics team went to the Oval Office to meet the President lately. McKalya Maroney became an internet meme with the “not impressed” look on her face at the Olympics last summer, and the President not only knew about it, but he asked her to make that face with him, then had a picture taken of it, and then sent it out on Twitter, where it’s now gone viral.

Whether you like social media or not, it seems that the President is fully on board with it, and is willing to use it, too. As someone who not only writes a blog but has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, and a few others I can’t think of right now, I say good for you, Mr. President. You’re blazing a trail for other public officials to follow, if they’re smart enough to see the possibilities that it has.

Quarterly Report #4

Picture from The Greenville, SC Blog

How quickly the time flies! This report, in keeping with the tradition I established after beginning this blog a year ago, is meant to take stock in what I’ve done, and where I see things heading in the months ahead.

First things first. The blog celebrated its first year in existence last month, and I see no sign of slowing down. I think about writing in this space a lot, and when big things happen in the baseball world, or in the real world, commenting on it here my first instinct. Telling my blog, and anyone who may ever happen upon it, what’s on my mind at such moments–and all moments, if I’m being honest about it–really is therapeutic for me.

With that said, my level of baseball writing in this space has fallen off lately. The horrible Cubs team that we’ve seen for half a season now is undoubtedly one reason, and another is that I’ve found other outlets for my baseball writing. And, to top it off, I have discovered that writing about life experiences wholly unrelated to baseball can be pretty fun, too.

I’m toying with the idea of dropping out of the BBA, so that their tweets of new postings on my blog won’t disappoint someone who wants news on the latest draft results or thinks that baseball can best be understood through stats like BABIP. Any changes in this regard will probably be made over the coming few months.

I also got to do some fun things like present my daughter’s poetry to the world, collaborate (in a sense) with Josh Wilker, who is the best writer I know of on the Internet, and pat myself on the back for making a much-needed lifestyle change. None of these would have been possible a year ago, so I’m happy that I can do all these things now. I recommend having your own blog to everybody I know, even though few will ever take the necessary steps to make it happen.

A story I haven’t written about yet might be instructive for where things are heading. I was in the Old North Church in Boston recently, and I stumbled upon a pew (or maybe it was a box) with a nameplate on it that read “Capt. (my name), 1724.” I told my children they can refer to me as “The Captain,” but they haven’t yet taken me up on this offer.

But the idea of being the captain of this space appeals to me a great deal. I set the course, I determine where this is going, and I achieve a degree of control that I never have had in everyday life. Things might go great, or things might go badly, and it’s all up to some combination of my efforts and things that I have no control over. And I get do what I love doing along the way. It sounds like exactly what I’m looking for.

Whether this new sense of things leads to a redesign of the blog, a renaming so as to set up a concurrent Twitter account (@BlueBattingHelmet is a few characters more than what is presently allowed), or a spin-off of the baseball content from everything else is still to be determined. But everything changes in life, and the old ‘Helmet won’t escape this truism, either.

So as Year Two begins in these parts, I’ll hope that this enterprise continues to be a source of good things for the Captain that runs it.

Avast, ye good readers! Thar’s some good sailing up ahead!

The Eddie Van Halen effect

Today was the first day where my blog counter has settled back to its normal level. That could mean 20 page views a day, and it could mean 2,000. But in truth, it’s somewhere in between. And unless somebody gives me an ice cream cone when the page views reach a certain level, the number is completely meaningless. Even so, I still pay attention to it.

Roughly 48 hours ago, the number of page views for this page shot up dramatically. And the old record for “most views in a day” went by the boards in a hurry. I was originally at a loss to explain why, but blog traffic is blog traffic, right?

Looking at the search engine terms was enough to identify the issue. It turns out that Eddie Van Halen was trending on Yahoo (they lifted the idea from Twitter, most likely). People went to Yahoo, saw that Eddie Van Halen was trending, and they clicked on the images tab, which led them to this image and related post. I have to admit, is is a cool pose that Eddie is in, so I must have chosen the image well. Some people thought so, apparently.

So the above graph’s numbers for the past two weeks, which had been pretty consistent, had to shrink dramatically to accommodate the new, inflated numbers of the past two days. As the numbers settle back to their usual range, the past two large days will drift leftward on the chart, and will eventually drop off altogether. But it will be fun to see a distorted chart for the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been a Van Halen fan for several decades now, and I love the idea that I helped to provide people with an image–one which I had cribbed from another web site–of the greatest guitar player I’ve ever seen perform live. Now that people have moved on to other things, and Eddie Van Halen isn’t trending anymore, the numbers again look like they normally do. But it was fun while it lasted.

Where the traffic comes from

After checking my Gmail and Facebook accounts when I get online, this blog is usually the third thing that I look at. A guy from Jersey Shore, which I’ve never watched, has something that he calls GTL–gym, tan, laundry. Mine is a different type of progression altogether: GFB–Gmail, Facebook, blog. Not nearly as much fun, but that’s how I do it.

The page view statistics for this site aren’t very interesting, but I wanted to do a little bit of interpolation from them, anyway. And in the process of doing so, I learned something that I didn’t really want to know, but I’m glad I learned, anyway. And those are sometimes the best bits of insight to have.

These numbers are a couple of days old, but the basic premise still holds true, which is that Google–and Google Images in particular–rules the roost when it comes to driving traffic to this corner of the Internet. Consider the following:

  • Of the XX,XXX number of total page views I’ve received over the 9 months or so I’ve been doing this (and, as I said, the real numbers don’t matter), fully 70% of them have come from the “Search Engines” category. For every page view that comes from Facebook, Twitter, and other people’s blogrolls and blog comments, there are two that come from internet searches. Fair enough.
  • Of those search engines, fully 89% of them are from Google Images, and another 7% are from Google itself. Doing some quick math, that means that Yahoo!, Bing, and the others who compete with Google account for just 4% of that pie. That’s enough to survive, but only as a faint image on a screen that’s presently dominated by Google.

So what this means, from a quantitative perspective, is that if you’re reading this post, you probably did a Google images search for one of the many things I’ve written about. And if you wound up here without doing a Google images search, you’ve clearly beat the odds. Finish reading this and then go find a card game as soon as possible. And you can share your winnings with me at a later time.

Thanks for reading!

A rapid fall

If what I’ve been reading on Twitter in the past 20 minutes or so is true (and how could Twitter ever get anything wrong?), former Penn State coach Joe Paterno is close to death. It’s shocking what has transpired with him since the Jerry Sandusky story broke last fall. The fall from the lofty pedestal he occupied just six months ago is startling.

I wrote a post alluding to this story here. To amplify on it just a bit, I hope that his family is at peace, because the frenzy will be pretty intense in the days ahead. Our culture seems to feed on depravity these days, and the Sandusky/Penn State story has it in spades.

There won’t be anything resembling the outpouring of grief and accolades that there would have been for him last year at this time. And many people will also draw a connection between his removal as football coach and the decline in his health. It’s hard not to see some parallel between the two.

Joe Paterno’s career as a football coach was one that we won’t see again. And hopefully such a rapid fall from grace won’t be seen again, either.

Then and now

After taking my little one to skating practice this morning, lacing up her skates and listening to the details from a sleepover party last night, I went out to the car and found a penny in the parking lot. As I have written about before in this space, I picked it up and looked at the year the penny was minted. And the year I saw–1986–may well have been the most momentous one in my life to this point. In fact, it was the turning point.

The picture above shows me as I was in 1986. I’m in the middle column, at the bottom of the page. The picture was taken by a local photographer, and it appeared in my high school yearbook as well. Seniors had their pictures published in color, while everyone else had to settle for smaller pictures in black and white. Rank has its privileges, both then and now.

The book that this page was taken from appeared in was what we all called the “Freshman facebook.” It’s funny how today everybody knows about Facebook in a different sense. But I, and all the rest of my classmates, were in a facebook of a different sort. And this is helpful for getting at who I was back then.

My name appears along with my nickname and home address. I never actually lived in Springfield, Illinois, but in a small village–a suburb, actually–that bordered Springfield. In hindsight, I wish I had just put Jerome, Illinois as my mailing address, since it did set me apart from nearly everyone else that I knew back then. But setting yourself apart from the herd is not something that the 18-year old version of me wanted to do. Thankfully, I’m more willing to do that now.

Below my address (and somebody lives there today, but not me or my family) are my interests which, if I had been completely honest about it, would have also included drinking beer, but I couldn’t publicly own up to that. The interests that I was willing to share with all of my soon-to-be classmates are kind of funny: basketball (Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, particularly), baseball (anyone who’s ever read this blog knows about that), and rock music (see yesterday’s post about Van Halen’s tour for evidence of that). The basketball interest has faded somewhat, but the other interests are still right up there, a quarter of a century later.

Below my interests are the place I graduated from high school (which no longer exists) and my intended major. I viewed political science as my pre-law major, and even though my school didn’t have a pre-law curriculum, I had every intention at that point in my life of becoming a lawyer some day. Fate had other ideas, as it so often does, but without fate I wouldn’t have been in Northwestern’s freshman facebook to begin with (there’s more about that here).

I drove home from the skating rink, turning 1986 over in my head, and thinking about how different I am from the person who occupied that space at the bottom of page 52. I wondered what the 2012 me and the 1986 me would say to each other. That sort of thing pops up on Twitter every so often, with a hashtag like “#thingsIwouldtelltheyoungerme.” I have become, in many ways, what the younger me wanted to become, but would never say so publicly.

I’ve lived into my 40s, which I’ve learned that not everybody gets to do. I have a family, with a wife and a dog and two kids I would do anything for. I also own a house in a historic part of a city that I love almost as much as my family. I drive two cars–a hybrid and a minivan–which didn’t exist back in 1986 but serve their purpose very well. I have seen some of the world, which the 18 year me had not yet done. I have a career that has allowed me to do some interesting things, while not also consuming my every waking moment. I drink coffee–which the 18 year old me would have thought impossible–but I don’t drink  alcohol, which the 18 year old me would have though equally as impossible. And I still love rock and roll, and am looking forward to concerts by some of the same performers that I listened to back then. The 18 year old me would have really loved the Loop.

The place I’m at in life today is the result of the course I began charting back in 1986. I was on my own, for the first time in my life, and I enjoyed all of the freedoms that came with this. But I stayed on the path, not knowing where it was going to end up. And this morning–as I’m hearing my older daughter laugh with a friend in the next room while writing down some thoughts to share with the wider world–I must say that I am happy with how things have turned out.

One of my favorite songs back in 1986 was “Foreplay/Long Time” from Boston’s debut album. The lyrics of that song include the lines “I’ve got to keep on chasing a dream/or I may never find it”. I left my parents home in 1986 to chase a dream that I couldn’t define very well back then, but what I’ve found since then fits the bill better than anything I could have imagined. I’m not a millionaire or a celebrity or anything that a typical 18 year-old fancies himself to be one day, but I am a middle-aged, middle class dad who knows what really matters in life, and has everything that he needs to have. And I’ll take that every day of the year.

Twitter and the #Newt

As ubiquitous as Twitter is today, it sometimes helps to remember that it’s only been around since 2006. That means that the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama defeated John McCain, is the only one to have occurred in Twitter’s existence.

I remember how, in those days back in 2008, candidate Obama had a healthy presence in all of the social networking sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, you name it. He never really extolled it in any way that I remember, but I remember being impressed with the way Obama embraced social networking. It seemed that he recognized its potential in a way that none of the other candidates did.

It’s now 2011, and another presidential election season is coming around the corner. President Obama is sitting at 11.5 million followers on Twitter, and has almost 25 million “likes” on Facebook. If a social media presence was all a candidate needed–and it most certainly is not–the election would be a runaway of historic proportions. But nobody is expecting that it will be that at all.

It is against this backdrop that Newt Gingrich made what amounts to a very laughable claim last Summer. He claimed that he had more followers than all of the other Republican candidates for president put together. According to his Twitter page, he has approximately 1.4 million followers. That’s far more than his opponents, but still just over 10% of the followers that President Obama has.

After the number of Twitter followers that a candidate has became an issue in the presidential campaign, the story came out last that more than 90% of his followers are not real. So I decided to do a bit of investigating on my own. If a candidate is going to crow about his Twitter followers, why not see if it’s legit? The man wants to run the country, after all.

The first tip-off to a fake Twitter account, in my view, is the lack of a photo to go with the user’s profile. Who doesn’t want to show their face to all of their tweeps, right? (it means Twitter peeps, if you couldn’t figure it out. But I’m sure it wasn’t hard to figure it out, either). No profile pic, no actual person behind the account, in my book.

So I scrolled down the page of Newt’s Twitter followers and came to @paulthebraniac. He has a Twitter account (but it doesn’t show up when you do a Twitter search for the name), a real name (Paul Arent, apparently), but no picture to show us what he looks like. He hasn’t yet sent out a tweet (not even of the “Testing. 1, 2, 3” variety), so apparently he’s kind of shy. He also follows two people (or two Twitter accounts, anyway). The first is @cspan, and the other is @newtgingrich. And that’s apparently all that matters to Paul in the world. I have to believe this is a fake Twitter account, because anyone who chooses to follow nothing other than C-SPAN and Newt Gingrich hasn’t got too much of a life, to begin with.

There are at least one million others who follow Newt Gingrich on Twitter. Hopefully all of them have a story associated with them, but I’m not going to go beyond the one I’ve pulled out here. And if you don’t have some doubts about the man already, this blog post probably hasn’t done anything to diminish his standing in your eyes. But for me, who would eat the keyboard I’m typing this out on before I would vote for Newt Gingrich, the case of @paulthebrainiac raises one more reason why his candidacy for the presidency can not be taken seriously.

Apparently I’m from the olden days

The other night, my younger daughter and I were having dinner together. I told her that Halloween was a week away, and at this time of year, when I was her age, one of the big happenings was the annual airing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” It was a big deal when it was on, I explained to her, because if you missed it you were out of luck until the next year.

She look bewildered as I explained that in a world without VCRs or DVRs, and without on Demand or the internet, there was just one time when you got to see Charlie Brown get rocks in his trick-or-treat bag, or Linus convince Sally to wait in the pumpkin patch all night, or see Snoopy pretend to be the World War I flying ace. I really did look forward to it, and watching it on TV helped to confirm–if any confirmation was necessary–that it was almost time for tricks or treats.

My daughter then informed me that she had never seen it before, and I know a parenting moment when I see one. I dug out our old copy of it on videotape (since the $2.99 cable fee for watching it on Demand seemed too high) and we went to the old VCR and put it in. I think she enjoyed it, and I know I did, because Halloween just seems to be the unofficial start of the holiday season for me. Thanksgiving comes pretty quickly, and then Christmas, and just two months later it’s New year’s eve.

My daughter told that she’s glad she didn’t grow up in the olden days like I did. I got a laugh when I heard that, because I’m sure I said something similar to my parents at some point in my youth. Anything new that come along, like electricity or color TV or wireless cellphones or whatever else you can think of, makes life impossible for children to imagine without it. It made teaching history just about impossible, since kids probably though that Benjamin Franklin took long bathroom breaks, or George Washington had lots of followers on Twitter.

Having lived through the olden days myself, I have to say that it wasn’t really that bad. I wish I had some of the cool things that my kids have now, but it’s impossible to miss something when nobody’s thought it up quite yet. And whenever these cool new things seem antiquated–which is bound to happen at some point–hopefully they’ll be able to embrace whatever comes along to replace it.

From the Red Sox to the Red Ivy

The Theo Epstein signing is official, and the press conference to announce it will be held at Wrigley Field tomorrow. The Red Sox have indeed let the only winners they’ve ever had go, just as I dared them to do. So now we have our guy, and he’s getting his guys into place, and the quest for RIO (Red Ivy in October) can begin. We need a name for this, so I’m calling it #Theo4RIO. Look for the hashtag on Twitter shortly.

The ivy on the Wrigley Field outfield wall turned red back in 2003, which I (and most Cubs fans) had never seen before. I’m sure it turns red every year, but the Cubs usually don’t play deep enough into the fall to let the fans see it. I don’t know if it’s red now (I will try to confirm in the next few days, if the news reports don’t beat me to it), but if we see the red ivy again, it will mean Theo’s doing his job.

His name is Theo and he dances on the sand…..

A bit of Tumblr in the real world

I haven’t used Tumblr too much, but it seems to have lots of possibilities. Not every place on the web allows you to share things to it with a click (are you listening, WordPress?), but going to your own dashboard and adding a link, or a picture, or anything else you want isn’t too difficult. It appears to have more possibilities than Twitter, though it will probably never be as ubiquitous. If you’re on it already, feel free to give me a follow here. And if you’re not on it, don’t you need one more social media account to keep up with?

My favorite thing about Tumblr, though, is the healthy number of “FY” accounts that it offers. For the uninitiated, the Y stands for yeah, and the F you can figure out for yourself. Type in just about anything you can think of with “FY” in front of it, and something will probably come up. FYBaseball is here. FYChicago is here. FYRocknroll is here. Feel free to experiment at your leisure. And yes, some of the other things you can think of are probably on there as well.

As I was driving out to my office in the suburbs earlier this week, I saw the billboard above off in the distance. Not only does the P look like an F at first glance, but since I knew about the “FY” accounts on Tumblr, my mind first thought that’s what the billboard actually said. I’m certain that whoever paid for the billboard to go up on the well-traveled, and therefore rather pricey, stretch of highway near O’Hare Airport knew what they were doing.

It’s not easy, or particularly smart, to be taking a picture of something when you’re traveling at 70 miles an hour. But this made me laugh, and since you may or may not be coming to Chicago in the near future, consider this a bit of virtual tourism on your part. You’re welcome.

Here’s the story….

Would my life have been better or worse without Sherwood Schwartz? I ask that because–unlike thousands of others who work in television–his contributions really did impact my life. As a kid, I watched every episode of Gilligan’s Island, and even when I had seen a particular episode before, I would still watch it again anyway. I guess I had nothing better to do.

For some reason, the episode where the castaways were spelling out “S.O.S.” with burning logs for a spacecraft flying overhead, but Gilligan’s bumbling turns it into “SOL,” which happens to be one of the astronaut’s names, sticks in my memory more than it should. But there were a hundred other episodes just like it, and I would still watch any of them, to this day. If I still watched much television, that is.

But the theme song is what really made Gilligan’s Island unique. I remember going on my first field trip at school, in Mrs. Hasara’s kindergarten class, and on our way we started singing the Gilligan’s Island theme song. The memory of how cool that was is still with me nearly four decades later (although “cool” isn’t how I would have described it until the Fonz came along). Remember the scene where John Candy led a group of strangers in singing the Flintstones theme in “Plane, Trains, and Automobiles”? It was like that, but with five year olds.

Gilligan and the rest of the castaways would have been enough to cement Sherwood Schwartz’s place in TV history, and in my own life as well. But then he followed it up with The Brady Bunch. Are you kidding me? The two shows I probably spent the most time watching as a kid, and the same guy was responsible for both? Amazing.

So back to my original question: Did Sherwood Schwartz make my life better or worse? Better, in the sense that I still carry all of these memories around with me as a grownup, and because all of the “What have you learned today?” moments that Mike Brady had informed my worldview on some level? Or worse, because I could have spent all those hours at something more constructive than following the lives of characters I had nothing in common with? Reading books, maybe? Developing a talent for something? Really, almost anything might have been better than feeding the television beast.

In the end, the fact that Sherwood Schwartz had such an impact on my life is remarkable enough. Television was the medium I grew up with, for better and for worse, and his stamp on that medium is beyond question. And when you can say that, then it’s been a life well-lived.