More Than Just Words On A Page

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine about blogging. He was asking if I took a special class or studied it in college. I had to be honest and tell him that my English teachers would find it ratherhands-on-keyboard hilarious if they knew I was keeping a blog and writing on a regular basis. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best student (as evidence by the frequent rate with which I destroy grammar and the English language on this blog).  Sure, I’ve dreamed of writing a book one day, but whenever my thoughts get semi-serious, I bail. A blog is so much less intimidating.

So why even keep a blog?

In 1862 a 16-year-old kid named William Ralph Featherston put pen to paper to write a love letter of sorts. I like to think that if blogs existed back then, William would have just written a post and clicked “publish.” But there were no blogs so his letter went unnoticed. William would pass away at the age of 27. Three years after William passed away, a man named Adoniram Gordon put music to William’s “Love Letter” and got it published in a hymnal the same year. You may know the love letter by it’s official title…..

My Jesus, I Love Thee

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree.
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

I love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ’tis now.

In Mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Near as I can tell, William Ralph Featherston has no idea that his love letter ever made the impact on the world that it did. Just today, more-than-just-wordsthe words of that love letter have been rocking my world as I heard the song. I’m just one of the many, many people who cherish this old hymn. I’ll never get to meet William this side of heaven. I’ll never be able to thank him (or Adoniram Gordon) for putting it together. Yet it’s words have impacted my life.

His poem is so much more than words on a page.

At the end of this road, I guess that’s the goal of this little piece of real estate on the internet too. I don’t have a platform, vision or even mission statement. I’m not looking to write books or sell advertising space. I guess I just put it to paper (or the web) like William did all those years ago.

My greatest hope is that my kids and grandchildren will forever have an archive in my own words to look back on.

Hopefully they see my heart.

Hopefully they read my thoughts.

Hopefully they’ll know that for me… what I write is more than just words on a page.

Every Kid Deserves To Be a Hero

baseballsLike many parents in Fremont, Ohio I have spent many late nights at the park watching my kids play ball.  Having my wife be at one game while I was at the other and then switching after three innings so that we could both see our children play are great memories.  My kids are now all grown and not playing ball anymore.  I miss those times. They went by so quickly.  For the past few years, I just drive through the park to get the feeling again.  Everytime I do, the memories flood my mind.  Often, I am taken back to my playing days… a long time ago…

As a kid, I loved baseball.  I would play it as often as I could.  Game days were the best. I usually spent most of the day dreaming of playing in the game that night.  Back in 1972, the ultimate sin on game day was the fact that we were forbidden to swim. ( Is that still a rule?) So, since I could not swim, I would play out the game in my mind. With my wiffleball and bat in hand, I took my place in my backyard playing out the many different situations of the game. In my mind it was always me that was up to the plate at the crucial time…and like always it was me that delivered the mighty blow to win the game.  I would be carried off the field in honor of my athletic feat.

Who of us hasn’t dreamed about the getting the big hit, scoring the basket or catching the pass for a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game to secure the win for your team?  I believe that it’s every athletes dream that has ever played the game.

On a hot July day in the little town of Oak Harbor, Ohio something happened that I have never been able to forget.  It has been 36 years since this event and it feels like it was yesterday.

Here is what happened…

It was every boy’s dream.  We were playing a big game on that hot July day.  We were playing the best team in the league.  I did not start the game that day.  I was charged to sit the bench until it was time for me to get in my required one inning of play.  Don’t get me wrong, in my backyard I was always the hero, but in reality I was content to get my one inning and maybe one at-bat.

It was a very close game.  We had the lead 4 to 3 in the top of the sixth inning.  The coach had no other choice but to put me in the game.  I was sent to my usual place in right field and just prayed to God that I would not have a ball hit in my direction.  I did not want to be any part of losing the lead.  I would just be happy to be able to celebrate with my teammates after the game. Three outs and we would win the game.

The events that caused our lead to dwindle had nothing to do with me.  Not a single ball came in my direction.  The other team scored two runs in the top of that inning.  We now were losing 5 to 4.  As I ran to the bench after we got the third out, I looked up and saw my coach looking down at the score book.  Then it hit me…I may have to go up and bat!!! I went over and looked at the score book and saw that I was scheduled to be the 5th batter.

“Ok, maybe we can score two runs before I have to get up to bat.” I was hoping in my mind.  But fate would have it’s way that day. To my dismay, I was going to have to bat.  We had one man on second base and one on third.  Two outs and now it’s all up to me.  I reached down for the 28″ bat I used and started my way into the batters box. I am sure the sound of my knees knocking in fear could be heard in the stands.

RLLBI closed my eyes and reached deep down inside and gathered all the courage I had in my body. “I can hit this guy,” I thought to myself.  All I needed to do, was keep my eye on the ball. After all, I had done this a thousand times in my backyard.

Just a hit…a hit would at least tie the game.  If I hit it well, maybe I could score both of them and we would win the game.

“Don’t over-swing…just make contact” I told myself.

As I dug my cleats into the dirt, I tried not to show my fear.  I also did not want to look too confident. I only wanted to be the hero.

I settle into my standard Johnny Bench batting stance.

(NOTE: I am an Indians fan.  I have been my whole life, but back in 1973, there wasn’t a whole lot of players on the Indians squad that young boys would try to emulate.  So, just like about every other kid I knew, we took turns trying to look like Joe Morgan or Johnny Bench of the Cincinnati Reds)

First Pitch…  here it comes…  right down the middle…  it’s perfect… I grip the bat harder with my hands and start to swing and I suddenly stop myself.

“STRIKE ONE!!!” the umpire bellowed.

I didn’t want to seem too eager…”Make him pitch to you” I told myself as I stepped out the batters box.  I reach down and grab a handful of dirt and rub it into the bat.  I would be ready if he threw another pitch like that.

Next Pitch…  here it comes…  it’s perfect! SWING

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, my memories begin with the crack of the bat, and the sight of the ball rising high into the crisp blue sky of summer. My mind raced…  “It was perfect and I got all of it!” I thought to myself.

Then something happened that had never happened before.  I don’t know why I did it but I did…

I put my head down and start to head to first base.  I was sure it was gone and I started go into my  backyard “home-run trot” around the bases.

As I round first base, I  keep my head down and keep on my trot around the bases. Thoughts of being a hero were rushing through my head.  I couldn’t wait to hear the cheers from my teammates, coaches and fans. It was exactly how I played it out a few hours before in my backyard.baseball

I reach second base,  my teammate is still standing there.  I wanted to tell him to run, because I just hit a home run.  But the look in his eye told me something was not right.  He was looking at me like I was the village idiot. Then suddenly I hear the sharp laughter of the fans, not to mention the cries of laughter from the opposing team.

“What happened? There is NO WAY that they caught the ball,” I thought to myself.

Then it hit me… no, they didn’t catch the ball… it fell well short of the fence and in foul territory!

I stop my trot around the bases, hoping to find a place to disappear.  There is no escape from the laughter of the opposing team and the snickers from my own teammates.  I pan the crowd to see who exactly saw this and to my dismay…just about everyone.

I look to see my coach just shaking his head…

I really don’t remember the last pitch.  Just the umpire yelling out, “STRIKE THREE!!!”

I have told this story over the years with many different endings. Sometimes, it’s another player who does this embarrassing act.  I then get to make fun of him. Sometimes it’s me.  I usually get a hit to tie the game.

Not often, but sometimes I tell the story as if I hit the home run to win the game.  I tell the story with as much conviction as any story I have ever told.

So, maybe it’s not exactly what happened.  But that’s the way it should have ended, and that’s the way I like to remember it.

And if dreams and memories sometimes get confused… oh well… that is as it should be, because I believe that every kid deserves to be a hero.  Even if that hero may stretch the truth every now and then.

It’s My Camelot

-af2df12ad21143c0I love you Cleveland.

One week ago… right around 9:45 I was less than pleased. Chris Perez had just blown a critical save for the Indians…..again. With so much riding on every win and loss at that point of the season, my beloved Indians could not afford to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It doesn’t help when Perez is serving up the home runs (2 in the 9th inning last night) has been less than appreciative of the fan base and his own teammates. But there we were.  Staring in at the face of defeat. Another disappointment.

Too many times I’ve seen this movie. Too many times I’ve witnessed the heartbreak. The “Cleveland Sports Heartbreak” is usually played before any meaningful game on sports networks.

With apologies to Journey….for a few minutes I stopped believin’.

Then this happened….


By now you’ve probably heard about it or read it on facebook. We Cleveland fans got pretty excited. It was one of those memorable moments that doesn’t make that heartbreak loop they always show. It was one of those “where were you when” moments.

It was then I started to believe again.  To begin to believe in the possibility.  The possibility that this year may be “our year”. 

It is something that I cannot fully explain… being a Cleveland fan is not something that I chose to be.  It chose me.  It is a common bond… a common purpose…  it is a sense of belonging regardless of the wins or the misery of losing.  It is being part of a family.  Being a Cleveland fan is the core of who I am as a sports fan. 

In reality, it isn’t about how many Championship rings we have or don’t have.  That really is temporary. Regardless of their record… regardless of who they trade or draft… regardless of how they lose… they will always be my team.

I know that people will continue to make their rude comments and have their fun at the expense of Cleveland. That will never change. But those that make their comments just don’t get it.  Yes… I know and I am prepared to never win a championship during my lifetime.  But as a Cleveland fan I have something that most sport fans will never have… a sense of belonging… a sense of family… all sharing in the possibility of what could be.

It’s why I love Cleveland Sports. It is why I love this city.

I know… it’s a dump, but it’s our dump. It’s our Camelot.

As Sean Connery said in the movie “First Knight” –

This is the heart of Camelot, not these stones, not these timbers, these palaces and towers. Burn them all and Camelot lives on, because it lives in us. Camelot is a belief that we hold in our hearts.

I say…

This is the heart of being a Cleveland sports fan, not these fields, not these stadiums, these bleachers and statues. Burn them all and Cleveland lives on, because it lives in us. Being a Cleveland sports fan is a belief that we hold in our hearts.

Cleveland and our sports teams are indeed a belief that we hold in our hearts. 

I know this magic ride the Indians and Browns are taking me on will come to an end.  I know there are other teams that have bigger payrolls and better players.  But I hold a belief in my heart and I am compelled and drawn into the possibility of what “could be”.

I hope I never ever lose that. 

I love you Cleveland.  You’re my Camelot.