The Greatest Game Ever Played

We all have favorite movies. Mine include “Planes Trains and Automobiles” “The Pink Panther” “The Shawshank Redemption” “Airplane” “Young Frankenstein” any Steve Martin, Laurel and Hardy or Three Stooges offering (yes – I know). Those – and a few others – are movies I can watch again and again – for escape (see post of January 6, 2013).  But there are also a few that I enjoy for inspiration.  “Breaking Away” “Remember the Titans“Rudy.”  These movies never get old. 

I like golf.  And the best golf movie I’ve seen – which always has my eyes misty at its close – is “The Greatest Game Ever Played” (2005; directed by Bill Paxton).  At the age of 7, young Francis Ouimet (1893-1967) gets a job as a caddy at a posh country club in Brookline, Massachusetts.  The young man learns to play golf – practicing at every opportunity.  One day a club member – Mr. Hastings – invites Francis to play a round despite member objection.  Francis shoots an 81.  With a 9 on one hole.  Francis enters a qualifying round for the U.S. Amateur Championship – borrowing $50 from his father.  He misses the cut by one stroke.  His father insists he get a “real” job.  And that’s that.  For nearly a year.

Francis works in a sporting goods store in Brookline.  One day, the President of the U.S. Golf Association enters the store and invites Francis to play in the U.S. Open.    And in 1913, Francis – age 20 – competes in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.  His caddy (despite objection and “tsk tsking” from the elites) is a 10 year old boy – Eddie Lowry – who plays hookey from school to caddy for Francis.  The result?  Francis defeats the world’s greatest golfers – Harry Vardon and Ted Ray.  And wins the tournament.  Wow! 

The movie is true and historically accurate except that in the movie Francis wins the playoff on the last hole by one stroke.  Truth be told – he dusted Messrs. Vardon by 5 strokes and Ray by 6.     

Christmas 2014

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:4-7

I can’t believe it’s Christmas. Again. Time seems to move so swiftly. The days are long but the years are fast. . . .

My best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!

Baskin’ Robins

Two large robins were sitting in a tree. It had been raining hard and they were hungry. The pair looked down and there on the ground were dozens of large thick worms. One looked at the other and gave a nod – “let’s go” he said in robin language.

The two flew down and began devouring worm after worm after worm. The sun came out and it warmed. And the pair ate more and more worms until they finished the feast.  They smacked their beaks and tried to launch. But the two had eaten so many worms that they could not get off the ground. “Let’s just sit here in the sun and rest” said the one. The other – eyes glazed over nodded in agreement and sat back to rest in the warm sunlight.

Meanwhile a huge alley cat was skulking through the bushes. He saw the two robins and slowly crept — and pounced. He ate both birds with a smile. “I just love baskin’ robins” he thought.


When our daughter Lauren was little, my great friend David devised a challenging “test” for Lauren and his son Dave. It was called the “Tickle Tolerance Test.”

The object was for the little one to lay on the ground face up. While far above, a father’s wiggling finger would begin its descent. Right towards Lauren or Dave’s tummy. Now the finger never touched Lauren or Dave. It would just descend. Slowly. Wigglingly. The wiggling finger rarely got within a foot or two before the giggling and squeals of laughter began. If anyone could stifle their laughter until the wiggling finger got within an inch or two of the tummy, the little one would get a treat. But no one survived – or passed – the Tickle Tolerance Test.

I have begun the Tickle Tolerance Test with Eve.  And – as expected – the laughter begins when my wiggling finger is far over my head.  Beginning its descent.  Heck – I’m not sure I could pass the Tickle Tolerance Test. . . . .

Hakuna Matata

It’s in the Bible – “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.  He will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22).  And Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up.”  And then there’s John 14:27 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  This is good counsel for all.  The message?  Don’t worry.   

Numerous sages have offered comment on the subject as well – “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight” (Benjamin Franklin).  “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles.  By the ears.  By the heels.  Or any other way you can manage it” (Mark Twain).  “Sorrow looks back.  Worry looks around.  Faith looks up” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).   “You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way” (Walter Hagen).       

 While there is wisdom in the aforesaid quotations, there may be a better way to say it.  “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “there’s no problem“).  “Hakuna Matata” is a song title in Disney’s The Lion King.  My granddaughter associates me with Pumbaa (to be “silly” in Swahili) – the odoriferous warthog who “sings” the song.  But listen to his message.  Watch for 3 minutes and 49 seconds.  You’ll smile.  Promise.   Oh watch it.

Run Over

My parents taught me early to keep my eyes open.  And to watch for coins on the street or sidewalk.  In my post of August 2, 2012, I spoke of picking up pennies, nickels, dimes, dollar bills — whatever (cell phones, wallets, fine jewelry – some mighty fine).   I still do. My eyes are glued to the ground.  And yes – I still pick up pennies.  All monetary finds go into a bowl for a year-end charitable donation.  It’s become a game.  Kind’ve a personal challenge.  To see what I can find.         

Every day I catch the train and go downtown to my office. Every day I walk across the train tracks. And as I do, I slow. Looking. I have never put a coin on the railroad tracks (to do so would probably invite a SWAT team invasion). But I do look for those errant “run over” coins that have been placed on the tracks — and lost — by others. Over the years, I have acquired a nice collection.  Nineteen flattened coins to be precise.  A few quarters.  Dimes.  Nickels.  Pennies.  Each one I’m sure has a story.  Just as each lost coin has a story.  The good thing is that if I ever run low on cash, I can always take these run over coins to the bank and trade them in for unscathed versions.  One dollar and thirty-six cents by my count.     

The Story of my Day

My granddaughter Eve is 2 years 11 months old. As I’ve mentioned before, she is an avid “reader.” And listener. She loves books and stories. Last weekend, Donna and I were babysitting.  Eve and I played kitchen (I pretended to eat – and be enthusiastic about – wooden food – oh that’s delicious – yum yum).  And then we spent time building blocks (confusing for me as Eve has a unique perspective on how blocks should be arranged).  Anyway, shortly before noon, Eve asked if I would read her some stories. Are you kidding? I’d love to!

So Eve grabbed a couple of favorites and we read. Then I thought I’ll tell a story. So I began telling the story of a little girl named “Eve.” And I simply retraced her entire day (awoke cheerfully at 5:00 a.m. saying “it’s morning!”; was led back to bed to “sleep a little more“; up again at 6:45 a.m.; bathroom; downstairs for breakfast; then off to school; and on and on).  When I couldn’t “remember” the names of her friends at school – hmmm. . . what were their names – she chimed in with the details.  Well Eve was mesmerized.  She listened intently.  Hands clasped behind her head.  Enjoying immensely hearing “Popi” tell the story of her day (though nowhere near the enjoyment that I had from telling it).  As Eve’s “day” wound to a close, I was paid a great compliment.  She asked me to tell the story “again.” 


All Noise

Kevin Peraino’s recent book Lincoln in the World has a wonderful quote on page 44: 

The curmudgeonly former president [John Quincy Adams, then serving in the House of Representatives] had little patience for the rowdy new brand of expansionism embodied in ‘Mr. Polk’s War.’  In the House chamber one day, legislators cheerfully debated among themselves about the correct pronunciation of the word ‘Illinois.’  Overhearing the conversation, Adams snapped that judging ‘from the character of the representatives in this congress from that state, I should decide unhesitatingly that the proper pronunciation was ‘All Noise.'” 

Things have not changed much since JQ’s time.  Today, Illinois is dead last of all states in recovering from the Great Recession.  Illinois has the worst unfunded pension debt ($110 billion) of any state.  The worst S&P bond rating of any state ($187 billion shortfall).  The highest borrowing cost of any state.  The most unpaid bills.  The only state – with California – that gets an “F” for being business friendly.  It has among the highest state taxes (which are going up).  Jobs are leaving Illinois at the rate of a thousand a day.  Businesses are leaving in droves.  As are citizens.  Food stamp growth has outpaced new jobs 2 to 1 in the last four years.  Chicago’s population today is less than it was in 1920.  Regulations are suffocating and inconsistent.  The State has been run by a buffoon and some hoodlums.  On Election Day, a new Governor was elected.  A glimmer of hope for Illinois?  Not if Mike Madigan can help it. . . .