Friday, February 25, 2011

My Dad and The Gipper

This month marks the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan  and I can't help but bring to mind my Dad's almost mystical connection to the great communicator.


The two great men had remarkable parallels in their lives. Both were born in 1911, only 37 days apart.


Both  came from humble homes where their fathers struggled as salesmen, Reagan's father Jack selling shoes in Dixon, Illinois, and my dad's father, also named Jack, selling automobiles in a little town called Oswego, New York.


Ronald Reagan spent his teenage years as a champion swimmer establishing his beautiful swimming stroke in the currents of the Rock River.  My father swam the  frigid waters of Lake Ontario in upstate New York, later establishing the never broken record for total distance swimming for the City of Cleveland.


Both men lamented being a 'tweener, that is,  too young to serve  in World War I but  too old to join up for World War II.  Reagan used his  acting skills to promote the sale of war bonds as his contribution. My father joined the War Department as a lawyer and became the man responsible for acquiring the real estate needed to build a little structure called the Pentagon, constructed in record time in the middle of a war, to this very day the  largest office building in the world.


Dutch Reagan  and Jack Lynch were both enthusiastic young Democrats who idolized Franklin  Roosevelt. Later in life, both men became Republicans, disenchanted with the movement of the Democratic Party to the left.


It was no surprise as my parents closely followed the political ascendance of Ronald Reagan through the years, closely identifying with the patriotic principals that became a hallmark of the Reagan era.


Fate eventually caused Dad to rub elbows very briefly with the man who would be our 40th president. In  1976,   Ronald Reagan had the temerity to challenge Gerald Ford, a sitting president, for the Republican nomination. Bob Hughes, chairman of the local Republican Party, called our home to ask a favor.


 Ronald Reagan would be in Cleveland for a day. None of the local Republicans wanted to offend President Ford. Hughes asked if Mom or Dad could  drive the upstart Reagan around Northeast Ohio attempting to muster  support in the Buckeye state. My dad had to leave for court after saying hello to Governor Reagan so my mother spent the day driving the future president from place to place in my dad's maroon Lincoln Continental.


            Imagine Jack Lynch's disappointment when his alter ego lost the nomination to Ford in the last real convention fight in American history. The 1980 victory that followed four years later brought a tear to his eye.


            Both men reveled in their Irish ancestry. Tip O'neil, then House speaker, called Reagan the greatest Irish American in history. Jack Lynch, despite his many achievements, was most proud to be known as the only man  twice selected Irishman of the Year at the downtown St. Patrick's Day parade.



Perhaps the similarity I remember most is the unseverable bond both men had with their  spouses. Those of you who remember Nancy Reagan gazing adoringly at her beloved Ronnie as he stood on a podium  saw the same worship that made my mother's tender, sweet love for my father an ambitious standard  that few  relationships achieve.  Reagan's alzheimer's  in his last years didn't dampen Nancy's love and I was on hand to personally observe Jackie Lynch's dedication to her one and only Jack to her very end.


After mom passed away, Dad lasted only a couple more years, seemingly counting down the days when he could join his long-lost love in heaven.


After Dad left this world  in the springtime(just like Reagan), a faded photograph of the President remained on their mantle with a hand written note:  Dear Jack and Jackie, thanks for all your help, (signed) Ronald Reagan.


Dad and  President Reagan may not of been part of the Greatest Generation, but the two of them were a rare breed indeed.


So here's to the 100th birthday of the Gipper, Ronald Wilson Reagan, and John Kennedy Lynch.  Irish eyes are smilin'.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Watching Obamavision

Ten seconds left in the game. Kobe Bryant shoots a three as the clock reads zero and the shot is…




And with that, history will soon be made.


The President is seizing control of the Emergency Alert System to present …himself.


Last week, the Federal Communications Commission and Homeland Security announced plans to have every radio and television station interrupt their broadcast with a mandatory test message from Barack Obama.


It's chilling.


This reminds me of the recent Tom Cruise remake of HG Wells' War Of The Worlds. The film describes aliens who bury themselves underground on earth, only to emerge years later when summoned to launch an all-out attack.


In this case, the aliens hidden underground are found in the form of  little black boxes that have been installed by Federal mandate  in every cable and broadcast radio and TV station in America. These boxes now allow Washington to seize control of the host broadcast station with the flip of a switch. 


Up until now, the alien boxes have remained secretly hidden from public knowledge. But our president has decided it is time to emerge.


With the system  complete, our great leader has determined that he should be the first to test drive this awesome force of technology.


Ray Somich, President  of  WELW Radio in Eastlake, fears the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome may apply. Somich argues that   with mandatory Presidential  interruptions of a broadcast,  a true emergency broadcast might be ignored by cynical consumers who assume it's Obama at it again with another test.


Somich is right, but I am more disturbed by the idea that the President can now force his voice and image before us, whether we want it or not.


 Cartoons or cooking shows. History  Channel or Hybrid hogs.  O'Reilly or The Office. He is coming at you, no matter what you are viewing or listening to.



The President should  resist the urge to force himself into our homes. He may not be using battering rams to break down the door, but make no mistake.


Americans won't like it. And some will fear it.


And some, like me, believe making the face and voice of the President ubiquitous is another step toward the Brave New World that Aldous Huxley imagined when he portrayed a society where freedom is but a distant memory.


Please don't do this, Mr. President. Those black boxes are reserved for emergency messages.


We will watch you when we choose to.


It's bad enough when we worry that Big Brother is watching us.


 Now Big Brother is forcing us to watch him?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Popp Goes, Not The Weasel

The other night I traveled to the gymnasium at Richmond Heights High School to watch the boys formerly coached by Jason Popp score another overwhelming victory in their first game since Popp's removal.  The Richmond Heights mauling of Independence High School kept intact their remarkable  undefeated season.


Now I want to be crystal clear.  There is no place for demeaning language,  personal verbal attacks, or  use of the "N" word when coaching anybody, especially impressionable young men at the High School level.


Coaches should be role models who remember that Job One is molding young people into  solid citizens.


However, the Richmond Heights outcome may end up sending the wrong message.


In this case, the boys on the team took matters into their own hands and threatened to boycott the games,  an action that was sure to derail the Richmond Heights Spartans  march to a championship title clearly within sight. A letter expressing parental concern further empowered the students as it gutlessly was sent to the Superintendent anonymously, without signature.


                  The Richmond Heights Superintendent Dr. Linda Hardwick suspended Coach   Popp for the rest of the season with pay, directing him to attend sensitivity training.


This official response  told those boys that the students were in charge of their team, not their coach.  The Superintendent also made it clear that winning was so important that sacking the coach was OK if that was the only way to get the boys to agree to play.  She seemed to agree with Vince Lombardi's false value system that inspired his slogan, Winning is Everything.


The coach admitted his mistakes but this punishment rewards a mutiny not  justified by the kind of atrocities that made Mr. Christian a hero struggling against Captain Bligh.


 This was a dedicated coach acting insensitively and boorishly to be sure, but unlike the cruel Captain of the HMS Bounty,  Coach Popp's actions obscured his authentic  concern for these overachieving kids.


 If the boys had boycotted with  Coach Popp still in place, the season might have been lost but who cares?  Bulletin to Richmond Heights Educational leaders:  Winning isn't everything. The coach deserved admonition and correction from on high, but not the kind of result that tells the inmates that they can run the asylum.


    The novel Lord of the Flies tells us that children in charge leads to a form of carnage.  Unfortunately, in this case  the casualties of this carnage include the ability to work within a system of properly authorized leadership.  Coaches throughout the country shudder for fear that they may be the next victim.


 General George Patton was a difficult often vindictive leader, but following him was vitally important to the success of the American Army.  Woody Hayes  abused his players at Ohio State,  but he left in his wake a long list of Hall of Famers who now are grateful for the way he toughened them to face the challenges of the real world.


Basketball teams are not the same as armies, I realize that.   But sometimes learning the lessons of being a good soldier can be found on the hardwood floor as well.  Just not in Richmond Heights.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sir Elton's Unworthy Lifestyle

Well, here's a column sure to kill my chances of being invited on Oprah.


You see, Elton John's music was kind of a background to my growing up. Crocodile Rock. Bennie and The Jets. Rocket Man. And, of course, the poignant Your Song.


When Princess Diana died, he turned Candle In The Wind into an anthem to the most beloved Royal of them all. The Queen of England made him a Knight of The Realm. Unstoppable, the modern Elton cranks out  hit Broadway  musicals like Billy Elliot.


Then it happened.


I was at the checkout counter at Walgreens and Sir Elton creeped me out.


 An Us Magazine cover stared back at me, and I did a double take. It featured a photo of Elton and his civil union partner David furnish holding an infant  next to a headline that proclaimed "Elton's baby!"


Go ahead. Sick the hate speech police on me.


It creeped me out because I'm sick of a culture that tells our children that any lifestyle is okay if it reflects who they are.


The idea that anything is morally unacceptable has disappeared.


The article tells us  that Papa Elton and Dad David first tried to adopt a child from the Ukraine. Elton describes the Ukraine's ban on adoption by gay couples as "draconian." They were sad and disappointed.


That's when Mr. and Mr. John went the surrogate mother route, complete with a donor egg united with unidentified sperm.


Unidentified because they didn't want either dad known as the biological father, so as Elton breathlessly exclaimed, "We both donated!"


How wonderful!


How creepy.


Don't we want the best for children, including a dad and a mom? Elton's millions won't fill the void in the momless house.


  Homophobic?  No.


 But I do have a phobia. I fear a society that makes  kids wear helmets to ride a bike, but is willing to push them out into a world of gender confusion without boundaries in sexual behavior.


The New Testament warns it is better for one to have a millstone tied around one's neck and be thrown into the sea, rather than lead children into sin.


Sir Elton, I love the music.  And no one can wear a pair of giant sunglasses the way you do.


But please quit creeping me out. You and Us magazine can get along fine without the millstone.

Sir Elton's Unworthy Lifestyle