When the real thing becomes a letdown

When I was six or seven-years-old, I saw my first drive-in movie. One of my school friends asked me to come along with his family to see the Walt Disney Productions animated feature Robin Hood.

I remember being mesmerized. I talked about the night-out for weeks. First I couldn’t get over what a treat it was to see a movie. The animation, while out-of-date now, was revolutionary at the time and seemed to jump off the screen. And secondly, I was thrilled to be able to throw a football with my friend before the movie started and then actually watch the movie outdoors.

With that idea in mind, my wife and I took our kids recently to participate in all things American: the drive-in movie. We had fun. It was a great night, but I drove away thinking the night was a letdown for my teenaged kids.

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The Challenges of Move-in Day

The first twenty minutes are the worst.

A deep melancholy silence fills the car. You feel like you should say something to your wife to crack the tension, but you’re just not sure what to say. And even if somehow the hum of the tires on the highway mercifully gives you the words that you seek, you worry that you’re just as likely to break down into a crumbling mess.

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Betcha you can’t put down this blog

I walk into the room straight out of a scene from a James Bond movie. I have on a crisp, blue suit and gray tie. I reek of class and sophistication. I walk with purpose as the crowd steps back to let me through to the center table. A roulette wheel, black jack, poker, the particular game doesn’t matter.

The room falls to a whisper as I step up to the edge of the table and nod to the dealer. I flash a slight smile and place my bet. I have everyone’s attention. The dealer goes into action. There’s a hush and in unison the crowd lets out a deep breath as I win. I nod again and let my winnings ride. Of course, I win again, and again, and again, and again.

Okay, you get the picture. That’s the dream. I’m a high roller and everything’s coming up roses.

Now here’s the reality and here’s why I’ve never been much of a gambler or even a risk-taker for that matter.

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The Next Generation of Gold

They were as different as night and day.

One wasn’t much taller than me, competed in a sport I had never watched before, and came from a country far removed from what I knew. She said little and in a language I didn’t understand, but oh how she let her performance do the talking, packing a powerful punch on her way to winning three gold medals and earning the first ever perfect score in a Summer Olympics gymnastics event.

I had just turned eight, but I understood quickly that her score, a perfect 10, was a rarity and something I might not see in a very long time.

The other crossed the finish line of the 1500m run, the last event in the Montreal Olympics decathlon, his eyes and arms raised to the sky in jubilation. On his way to the gold, he set the world decathlon record with more than 8,600 points. His athletic physique, flowing locks and easy smile would go on to sell millions of Wheaties boxes and help make it the Breakfast of Champions.

The two athletes, of course, were Nadia Comăneci and Bruce Jenner.

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‘With a little help from my friends’

When you hear former NFL Quarterback Jake Plummer describe Pat Tillman, who left a lucrative NFL career to become a U.S. Army Ranger and who died in a friendly fire incident in 2006, you find yourself wishing that you would have had the chance to get to know him too. Continue reading “‘With a little help from my friends’”

Yikes, I messed up: The power of failure

I failed. Failed. Failed with a capital F.

I looked the woman in the eye. I knew I her from high school, but I still asked her to spell out her name. She said it fast, but I got what I needed. I meticulously wrote down her comment and raced back to the newsroom.

When it came time to quote her for my story, her name escaped me. I skipped to next sentence in my story and then to the next and to the next. The minutes were ticking off. I was on a deadline. I had to get the story to my editor.

Later when my editor asked for the name, I completely butchered it. Some would call it a brain cramp, a mistake, an error. Whatever the word, I messed up the cardinal rule of Journalism: get the names right, get the details right.

I had failed.

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