Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Lesson From George

George Blanda (pictured) died on September 27 at the age of 83. Of all the pro football players I’ve seen in nearly a half-century of following the game, he was my favorite. A man among boys. Craggy ol’ George’s year of 1970, perhaps the most memorable season a football player ever had, turned my mother into a fan of the game.

And to make my mother a football fan took some doing, folks. Let me tell you.

Then again, she was a mere thirty-five at the time.

Blanda played quarterback and kicker for twenty-six seasons starting in 1949, and, in his early years with the Chicago Bears, he played linebacker as well. More importantly, though, he just loved to play. Mike Ditka, who knew him well, said he was the one of the toughest competitor he ever knew whether it was on the football field, the golf course, or playing gin at the dining room table.

But you never heard a bad word about him. He was gracious, kind and adored his family and friends. Len Dawson, former quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, said that off the field, “... he was a gentleman.”

Hmmm. Competitor. There’s a lesson to be learned here. I think I found it.

As a player, George’s goal was to beat the other team. To knock them out of the playoffs. To get to the playoffs himself by knocking the snot out of them.

Craggy ol’ George did it better than all but so very few.

So how does this apply to me? I’m not trying to knock other writers off the shelf. As if I could. Or even want to. I’m a reader as well as a writer. I wouldn’t want to knock good writers off the shelf because I want to read them.

But I am trying to get on the shelf.

Hmmm. Competitor.

Maybe that means that I’m competing with myself to write something worthy. So maybe we’re not talking real competition here. Maybe we’re talking determination, and not just in the writing. Maybe it’s the determination of getting my book in the best shape it’s ever been in and start sending it around. ‘Cause it is headed for good shape.

What would The Grand Old Man do? He’d throw a touchdown pass or kick a field goal. Hmmm. So, in addition to the short story submissions I’ve been making, it’s time to throw Catch a Falling Star out there again. To go ahead and finish Lucky 13 and to move on, just like George moved on to the next game and the next for twenty-six seasons.

Oh, to hell with these analogies, I have to get some doggone determination. I got a little off track with my 35-year high school reunion, and the wonderful visit from Brent and Michelle, and I just went on loan to another department at work which will change my schedule for awhile. Now, I have to get back on track. Bum glue. Determination. Competitiveness. Whatever-the-hell it takes, I’ve got to do it. Time is running out.

The lesson to be learned here is that in the world of professional football, George Blanda was an old man at forty-three. I’m now ten years older than that, and my career as an author hasn’t even begun. He died at eighty-three. That age is only thirty years in front of me. If I plan to be an author, and I do, then I need to snap it up.

For more reasons than just authorship.

The stories in my mind are changing, you see. I don’t view them the way I did ten years ago. Lord knows Catch a Falling Star has changed in that time, significantly. It’s taken on a real seriousness instead of the faux seriousness I gave it in the first draft back in 1998 and 1999. There’s more pathos now. The humor is a little more refined.

Better? Definitely, but ...?

There’s those other stories I desperately wanted to write back then. They’re either long gone or have mutated dramatically. Maybe that’s a good thing.

So, maybe a goal should be that I want to get stories on the page as I originally conceive them. I know I’m going overboard here, but I am convinced that some of those stories I conceived of back then but didn’t write were damn good. Losing them was bad.

Then again, Blanda was a first ballot Hall of Famer and in 1962 threw 42 interceptions, a negative NFL record that will probably never be broken. He’d say let it go, Rock. The past is the past. Over and done with. Just write your stories now. Throw the next touchdown pass. Kick the next field goal. Onward.

One last story about George Blanda. The TV show Happy Days was set in the mid-fifties. In one episode, Richie (Ron Howard) and Malph (Donnie Most) are watching a Chicago Bears game with George Blanda as quarterback and he’s just getting creamed. Malph said that Blanda is finished, washed up. Richie says, “Naw, I think he has a few years left.”

The joke was that at the taping of the episode twenty years after the show was supposed to take place, The Grand Old Man was still playing.

Rest easy, George. Thanks for all the memories.

I weighed in at 273, only gaining a pound during the reunion period, including Brent and Michelle’s visit.

Starting tomorrow, I’m on a Monday – Friday schedule working until 5:00 in the afternoon. I won’t be nearly as tired after an individual day as I am now from a ten hour shift. I’m looking forward to that, as I am to hopping back on my healthy eating regimen.

I’m also looking forward to starting the new blog. ETA Halloween. Stay tuned. As for this next week ...

I’ll let you know next Sunday how I did.

1 comment:

  1. Rock, I also miss the old warrior Blanda. And thanks for reminding me of the Happy Days episode. He left us both with fond memories.