The newspaper visionary and the skeptical student

Selectric
The 1970s vintage IBM Selectric typewriter

I was sitting in a news writing class at Abilene Christian University in 1977 when I heard something so preposterous that it has stuck with me for more than 40 years.

Our professor, Dr. Charlie Marler, speculated about the future of the newspaper industry. He said that some day we could get our news on a TV -like screen and have the choice to print out the stories that we wanted to read.

No one laughed out loud, but I had a good laugh to myself. Yeah, right, I thought. Not sure where Dr. Marler came up with this kooky idea.

At the time, the IBM Selectric typewriter was cutting edge technology for journalists. We were privileged to be able to type our stories on one in the late 1970s for The Optimist, ACU’s student newspaper.

Fast forward four decades.  We can now see how dead-on Dr. Marler’s prediction was in the 1970s.

The fact that most of the world now gets its news instantaneously via a screen attached to a computer, tablet or phone made my old college professor appear to be a modern-day Nostradamus.

The rapid decline of the newspaper industry has been well documented. From my perspective, it began in the late 1990s as the public began finding news sources online and accelerated in the 2000s when WiFi became ubiquitous and smart phone use proliferated.

In fact, I accepted an early retirement offer in 2008 because my employer, The Oklahoman, reduced its workforce that year by 150 people or so. That ended a 30-year newspaper career that I launched upon graduation from ACU in 1978.

The Oklahoman was (and I think remains) the largest newspaper in the state. It has undergone multiple rounds of reductions in the years since I left.

All of which led to this week’s announcement by The Oklahoman. Beginning on March 26, it would no longer print Saturday editions.

The paper will be “digital only” on Saturdays, meaning it will be found only on your screen. A host of other daily newspapers owned by the Gannett corporation have announced the end of print Saturday editions on the same date.

You called it 40-plus years ago, Dr. Marler. I’m pretty sure that the “digital only” newspaper model eventually will eliminate print publication on most other days of the week.

Maybe the Sunday edition will be the only day we can actually get our hands on a printed newspaper. If we’re lucky.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so skeptical of Dr. Marler’s prediction at the time I heard it. Because cartoonist Chester Gould, an Oklahoma native, had introduced an even bigger fantasy for his Dick Tracy comic strip back in the 1940s.

It was a two-way communications device worn on the wrist.

Dick Tracy
Dick Tracy using his two-way wrist communicator.

I was a huge fan of the Dick Tracy comic strip as a kid and infatuated by the device that Tracy wore on his wrist through which he had instantaneous communications.

The future was right there on the funny pages for decades and we didn’t recognize it.

Gould’s fantasy device became reality when the Apple Watch debuted in 2015. Today, millions of people wear Apple’s incredible two-way communication device on their wrists.

Not sure who laughed at Chester Gould’s vision when it appeared in the Dick Tracy comic in the 1940s.

Or who was laughing aside from me at the outrageous prediction of Dr. Charlie Marler in a 1970s ACU classroom.

But no one’s laughing now.

Good intentions unmasked by peer pressure

As we’ve watched another rise in the number of COVID cases spurred by the highly contagious Omicrom variant, my wife and I have begun wearing our masks again in most public situations. Stores. Church. Thunder games.

I’ve been feeling pretty smug about myself in my new KN95 mask purchased on Amazon.

However, sometimes my good intentions have turned into a total failure.  I wrote about one incident that happened on a road trip last year.

Let me tell you about a more recent instance.

Last week, I was invited to the launch event for a new Oklahoma City business publication. It was a great event in which about 100 or so people attended. 

The event was held at a co-working space on Main Street downtown. I arrived shortly after 5 pm, parked on the street, put my mask in my back pocket and promptly forgot about it before I walked into the event.

I immediately ran into several people I knew and took a few minutes to network before the scheduled program began. None of my acquaintances wore masks, but I wasn’t thinking about that.

As I was chatting with someone, I saw a friend of mine who is in the public relations business walk in. She was fully masked.

Then it hit me, I had my mask with me, but had never put it on.

I was proud of my masked friend, but ashamed of my own lack of conviction, I guess you call it.

I wasn’t practicing what I’ve been preaching.

Was it absent-mindedness, bowing to peer pressure or misguided confidence that my vaccinations and booster shot have made me bulletproof?

I’m pretty sure it was peer pressure.

Because of the Omicrom variant, COVID is racing through our population, both here in OKC and nationwide. None of us are bulletproof.

We all need to do better. I need to do better.

I’m a Mac (fanboy): Apple ads across the years

Imamac
John Hodgman (left) as PC and Justin Long as Mac (Apple photo)

It’s no secret that I’ve been an Apple fanboy ever since I first read about the company and how it was founded in the 1970s in a Cupertino, Calif., garage by two guys named Steve.

In fact, my first computer was the Apple II, which brought personal computers to millions of people back in the day.

I’ve also been a fan of its advertising campaigns across the decades. Along with its groundbreaking technology, Apple has always taken a different and memorable approach to advertising its products.

But it gained notoriety in 1984 with the debut of the Macintosh.

Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl ad, which skewered IBM while introducing the Mac, is hailed as perhaps the most groundbreaking ad ever. It only aired one time. In case you missed it or it’s been a while, you can play it below.

Then, co-founder Steve Jobs left the company when he was fired by John Scully, the CEO he hired. Apple wandered in the wilderness for a decade before Jobs returned, first as interim CEO and then with the full title.

One of Jobs first and most memorable acts upon his return was to launch Apple’s Think Different campaign. I loved it, and apparently millions of other people did, as well. The company’s sales began to soar. Watch the ultimate Think Different ad here, that celebrates The Crazy Ones.

Another well received Apple ad campaign was known as the Switcher ads, featuring regular people who had switched from PCs to Macs.

My favorite Apple ad campaign of all time was the I’m a Mac campaign that ran from 2006 to 2009. I’m a Mac was actually a series of short vignettes starring Justin Long as the Mac and John Hodgman as the PC.

Long was one cool dude, while Hodgman was hopelessly uncool, out of date and out of touch with popular culture.

But mostly, the ads were funny, which hooked me immediately.

Although it’s been 12 years since the ads were aired, you can easily find them on YouTube. Here’s my favorite I’m a Mac ad of them all, featuring Patrick Warburton, who also played “Puddy” on Seinfeld.

Enjoy the comedy.

BREAKING NEWS: Just saw this from the Wall Street Journal about Apple Inc.

Apple Inc. became the first U.S. company to reach $3 trillion in market value, the latest milestone in a pandemic-era surge that carried shares of the iPhone maker and other large technology companies to unprecedented highs.

Apple shares crossed the milestone when they topped $182.856 Monday. The share price has more than tripled since the pandemic lows of March 2020, adding around $2 trillion in market capitalization.

2021: The year in BlogOKC

blog2As we put 2021 to rest and welcome in the promise of 2022, I decided to look through a year’s worth of BlogOKC and see what was important to me over the past 52 weeks.

For the record, this is the 45th post on this blog for 2021. And I decided to rank the top 10 posts that meant the most to me over the past year. BlogOKC touched on a lot of random topics, from noodling to road rage to the COVID vaccine and more.

I hope you’ve found them interesting. So, the blog countdown begins right here:

No. 10 from August 18
Road Trip! Noodlers and Rain Delay Theater

When my friend Ed learned that the Tulsa Drillers were going to change their name to the “Noodlers” for a weekend to honor the sport of hand fishing, he not only wanted to go see them play, he ordered a Noodlers cap that very day. Ed, his son, Cade, and I made an August road trip to watch the Noodlers, who won on a walk-off home run. But not before we waited out a two-hour rain delay.

“I won’t give a play-by-play of the game except to say that neither team scored for the first seven innings. So it went into “extra innings” where a player was placed on second base to start each extra inning at bat. ‘Free baseball!’ Ed yelled, his theme whenever a game goes into extra innings. We won’t debate the merits of the free base runner in extras.”

No. 9 from July 24
Why the Unvaccinated are taking a political stand

I was fed up with the anti-vax crowd by mid-July, and I’m still fed up with those who refuse the COVID vaccine. It’s all a political statement by the Trump crowd, because we’ve faced vaccine mandates as Americans for decades before this one arrived. I stand behind what I wrote in July.

“As one who is proudly vaccinated, I reluctantly keep my mask at hand. I fear more disruptions loom in our future. All because of the unwilling who are making a political statement by shunning the vaccine. So, what’s the point of all of my rambling? What we’re seeing in the unvaccinated is a collective display of the Ugly American. The me-first. The selfish who would never consider doing something for the greater good.”

No. 8 from Nov. 28
Drive-thru rage and the shame of it all

Yep, I embarrassed myself in the Starbucks drive-thru line.

“The young man rolled down his window, and I started screaming: ‘What are you doing?! Couldn’t you see I was sitting there with my blinker on waiting to pull into the line?’ The guy responded: ‘how was I supposed to know?’ I screamed again that he should have seen the blinker, and then he said ‘I’m leaving.’ He quickly backed out and left the lot. I went back to my car. My wife said I was lucky he didn’t jump out and punch me. Suddenly, my righteous indignation gave way to an incredible sense of shame. What had I done? I was the old man screaming ‘get off my lawn!’”

No. 7 from June 17
A REAL ID adventure on the Mother Road

My daughter and I had a grand misadventure on the Mother Road as we sought a tag agency where we could get her a REAL ID.

“ ‘We don’t do driver’s licenses here, never have,” he said (with a straight face). “But you can just walk in at the Chandler agency, which is about 15 miles east on Route 66.’ I was laughing again as we walked out the door. My daughter was fuming, because I had us on a wild goose chase. We headed east again on the Mother Road.”

No. 6 from July 31
A Vintage Coffee Shop Idea for the 2020s

My friend Ed really is an idea guy. And he hit on a good one with his concept for a vintage coffee shop.

“ ‘I think we ought to open up our own coffee shop,” he finally said. ‘We’ll call it Vintage Coffee. No espresso machine. No fancy pastries. Donuts only.’ I laughed at the thought of a straight coffee-only coffee shop run by a couple of old school geezers. ‘We’re going to offer only Folgers, Maxwell House and Sanka, which was my father’s favorite coffee,” Ed continued. ‘It’s like a step back in time.’ “

No. 5 from Jan. 3
A Salute to 1971, the coolest year, from a cool kid wannabe

I read an article on New Year’s Day about what an awesome year 1971 was, which happened to be the year I graduated high school. I was hit by a wave of nostalgia.

“So, why did this article hit me so hard? I think it’s because I had never really given any thought to how many years had passed since Graduation Day in 1971. And how I’ve lived sort of my own version of Forrest Gump’s life in the intervening 50 years, still trying to be one of the cool kids and never quite making it.”

No 4 from June 23
For crying out loud: Ted Lasso packs emotional punch

I stumbled on to Apple TV’s Ted Lasso in early June and was hooked right away. I loved his corny, well intentioned motivational tactics that almost worked.

“But Ted Lasso delivers what I see as an awesome message about having a positive impact on people around you — even those who may not be ready to receive it. I’m not crying. You’re crying.”

No. 3 from May 24
We need a Streetcar with a purpose

I love the Oklahoma City Streetcar. The problem is, you can’t really plan a trip and go from Point A to Point B on it.

“New routes would be a major financial hurdle at this point. But the Streetcar needs desperately to connect the OKC Innovation District, the OU Health Sciences Center campus and the Capitol — and NE 23rd Street — to downtown. Someone please make that happen. Then we would no longer have a Streetcar to nowhere.”

No. 2 from July 1
A True Crime Story: Driving While black

My son, who is African-American, was pulled over in July for no apparent reason other than he was a Black male driving East on I-40. I was outraged, as a father should be.

“From my perspective, this was a clear case of racial profiling. Young African-American male driver. Texas tags. Driving alone on I-40 headed east. ‘That’s just the way it is,’ Ryan told me. ‘Every time I’ve been pulled over the cop asks ‘do you have drugs? Do you have guns?” As a 60-something white man, I’ve never been asked by a police officer if I had drugs. Or guns.”

No 1 from Dec. 9
Traffic Stop on the Lake Road

I was pulled over on the Lake Hefner Parkway — by my wife. And had to write about it.

“Then it hit me why Solomon was shouting GiGi! My wife Paula, his grandmother, had cut us off on the Lake Road and was pulling us over. So, I pulled in behind her. She hopped out of her car and began running to our car. I imagined the worst. Had someone in our family died and this is how she was going to break the news to me, here on the shoulder of the Lake Hefner Parkway? I rolled down my window and she said, ‘I think I left my phone in your car.’ What?

BONUS 
From Oct. 20
Fan’s message to the Thunder: Let’s Play to Win

My righteous indignation over the Thunder’s tanking strategy comes out in a lot of places: on Twitter, in texts to my friends Steve and Ed, and on this blog.

As the NBA season began, I called for the Thunder to play to win. Now.

“Here’s to the new season and hoping the Thunder will be over-achievers. Let’s not chase the luck of the lottery once again.”

Merry Christmas from the Family

The Stafford Christmas gathering in Fort Smith, Ark., December 2021

We’ve spent hours (and hours) listening to Christmas music since October, mainly because my wife keeps the radio on her car tuned to a local station that plays nothing but holiday tunes for two full months.

So, that means I’ve had the opportunity to hear plenty of Christmas songs that I love, as well as many that are total clunkers. But they still get airtime.

Here are a few of what I would call secular Christmas songs that are in heavy rotation, as they say in the biz, and what I love or hate about them.:

Happy Xmas (War is Over)

This is a total non-religious ode from John and Yoko to the hope that Christmas and the New Year bring the world. It’s become a favorite of mine over the years. I love the youthful voices in the choir. It’s played over and over throughout the season.


So this is Christmas and what have you done?
Another year over, a new one just begun.

And so this is Christmas,
I hope you have fun,
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy new year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

Little Saint Nick

Might as well tackle one that makes me cringe whenever I hear it. I don’t object to the first line as does my friend, Dan, but it’s like the Beach Boys brought surfer music to Christmas with this cringeworthy song. Yuck.


Christmas comes this time each year
Ooh, ooh

Well way up North where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas
That you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends the whole year workin’ out on his sled

It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)…

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Yes, this is a total novelty song, but it cracks me up every time I hear it. Was it really Santa and his reindeer that whacked Grandma? Or perhaps Grandpa had a hand in the “accident?”


Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe…

Now we’re all so proud of grandpa
He’s been taking this so well
See him in there watching football
Drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel…

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Dean Martin version)

This song brings images of Christmas cold and snow and being close to the one you love. Dean Martin brings a sort of smugness to the delivery of Let It Snow that appeals to me for some reason. Also, are there some comparisons to this song with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” another (slightly more controversial) song that Dean Martin sang as well?


Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
Since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It doesn’t show signs of stopping
And I brought some corn for popping
The lights are turned down low
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

When we finally kiss goodnight
How I’ll hate going out in the storm
But if you’ll really hold me tight
All the way home I’ll be warm…

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I simply must go
Baby it’s cold outside
The answer is no
Baby it’s cold outside
The welcome has been
How lucky that you dropped in
So nice and warm
Look out the window at the storm
My sister will be suspicious
Gosh your lips look delicious…

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Another novelty song that dates back to the ’60s, but I’m fascinated by the incredible number of insults the song makes to the foul Mr. Grinch. It’s in the regular rotation of the local Christmas music station.


You’re a mean one
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus
You’re as charming as an eel
Mr. Grinch, you’re a bad banana
Mr. Grinch, with the greasy black peel

You’re a vile one
You got termites in your smile
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile…

Wonderful Christmastime

This is a huge departure from, say, Helter Skelter or Back in the USSR, for Paul McCartney. But his music has grown lighter and more sentimental since his Beatles days. This song is way overplayed on the local Christmas music station.

Wonderful Christmastime
The moon is right
The spirits up
We’re here tonight
And that’s enough
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime

The party’s on
The feelin’s here
That only comes
This time of year
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime
Simply havin’ a wonderful Christmastime…

I could go on and on about the dozens of secular Christmas songs that we hear all the time or have heard over the years. The Chipmunk Song, anyone? But I’ll end this with a few lines from a favorite of mine from Robert Earl Keen, because everyone has a big, messy family gathering over the Christmas holiday, right? (Disclaimer: alcohol plays no role in our family gatherings)

Merry Christmas from the Family

Mom got drunk and Dad got drunk
At our Christmas party
We were drinking champagne punch
And homemade egg-nog

Little sister brought her new boyfriend
He was a Mexican
We didn’t know what to think of him
‘Til he sang “Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad…

Fred and Rita drove from Harlingen
I can’t remember how I’m kin to them
But when they tried to plug their motor home in
They blew our Christmas lights

Cousin David knew just what went wrong
So we all waited out on our front lawn
He threw the breaker and the lights came on
And we sang “Silent Night, oh Silent Night”…

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Traffic stop on the Lake Road

lake road
The Lake Hefner Parkway

I was focused on the sports radio banter this morning and negotiating heavy traffic on the Lake Hefner Parkway when my 2-year-old grandson began shouting “GiGi! GiGi!”

I didn’t pick up on it immediately.

However, Solomon was relentless from his car seat in the back. “GiGi! GiGi!”

Suddenly, a red Ford Escape cut sharply into my lane just in front of me. I looked at it and thought that it resembled my family’s vehicle. Then the Ford Escape slowed, put on its blinker and began pulling to the shoulder amid the heavy traffic.

That’s when I saw it. The small sticker on the bumper. That WAS our car. Then it hit me why Solomon was shouting GiGi! My wife Paula, his grandmother, had cut us off on the Lake Road and was pulling us over.

So, I pulled in behind her. She hopped out of her car and began running to our car.

I imagined the worst. Had someone in our family died and this is how she was going to break the news to me, here on the shoulder of the Lake Hefner Parkway?

I rolled down my window and she said, “I think I left my phone in your car.”

What?

Apparently, she had left the phone in the car when she buckled Solomon into his car seat. And her phone was critical to her work-from-home job.

After we left for Solomon’s appointment, Paula realized she didn’t have her phone, jumped in the car and began chasing after us. She managed to catch up on the Lake Road, but couldn’t get my attention until she cut me off with Solomon shouting “GiGi!,” his favorite name for her.

Paula crawled into the back seat and said “call my phone.” I called it and her phone began ringing from the back seat. She couldn’t find it and crawled back out.

“Call it again,” she said. I called, and it started ringing. She crawled across the back seat again.

I glanced back and saw it.

Paula’s phone was sticking out of the back pocket of her jeans. It had been there the entire time.

We both (sort of) laughed when we realized where the phone actually was.

And I’ll never let her live it down.

Oklahoma, we have all been here before

Jenni

It seems like deja vu all over again for Oklahoma.

I’m talking about the similarities between Lincoln Riley’s unexpected departure from OU this week and that of Kevin Durant from the OKC Thunder in 2016. The feeling of being blindsided. The widespread anger.  The loyal hero who steps up.

As I read Jenni Carlson’s column in The Oklahoman this morning on how Bob Stoops has further endeared himself to OU fans by stepping up in the wake of Lincoln Riley’s departure, another name instantly came to mind. 

Russell Westbrook.

Russ pageRuss stepped up big time in 2016 after Kevin Durant unexpectedly abandoned the OKC Thunder ship. He said “why not” and signed a 3-year contract extension before the season even began.

Here’s how he was quoted by espn.com:

“There’s nowhere else I would rather be than Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said at a news conference to announce the deal. “You guys have basically raised me. I’ve been here since I was 18, 19 years old. You guys did nothing but great things for me. Through the good and the bad, you guys supported me through it all, and I appreciate it. Definitely when I had the opportunity to be able to be loyal to you guys, that’s the No. 1 option. Loyalty is something that I stand by.” 

It was an incredibly feel good moment after the anger generated across the state when KD announced on the Players Tribune on July 4 that he was taking his talents to the Left Coast. His announcement prompted me to write a blog post with some lyrics from The Beatles that were appropriate for the occasion.

Now we have Coach Stoops stepping up as interim coach at a critical time for Sooners. On Twitter, fans heaped praise on Stoops not only for stepping in but for the calming comments he made at the news conference announcing his temporary return.

And why not, to borrow Russ’s famous phrase.

Drive-thru rage and the shame of it all

drvie thru
The scene of the crime

I’ve recently discovered that I’ve operated under a false image of who I am. I assumed as a follower of Christ, I would always turn the other cheek.

Turns out that the real me came out in a Starbucks drive-thru here in OKC.  My wonderful self-image was destroyed when I got behind the wheel.

I’ll set the stage.

My wife and I, along with our 2-year grandson, were heading out to Dallas for a brief getaway for a couple days.  I wanted a cup of coffee before hitting the highway. So we drove to a local Starbucks, which had quite a line of cars in the drive-thru.

The line went all the way out to the parking lot of the shopping center in which it is located, so I put my blinker on and waited my turn, leaving room for other cars in the busy lot to pass on my left.

I was waiting patiently to pull into the drive-thru when a small car rushed by me on the left and wheeled into the drive-thru. I was beyond incensed.

Before I realized it, I jumped out of my car and raced over to the line-cutter’s car and rapped hard on his window.

All the while, my wife was pleading with me to come back to our car.

The young man rolled down his window, and I started screaming: “What are you doing?! Couldn’t you see I was sitting there with my blinker on waiting to pull into the line?” The guy responded: “how was I supposed to know?’  I screamed again that he should have seen the blinker, and then he said “I’m leaving.”

He quickly backed out and left the lot. I went back to my car. My wife said I was lucky he didn’t jump out and punch me.

Suddenly, my righteous indignation gave way to an incredible sense of shame. What had I done?

I was the old man screaming ‘get off my lawn!’

michelle millben
Michelle Millben

About two days later, I saw a post on Facebook from Michelle Millben, an Oklahoma native who lives in Virginia. Michelle is an incredible public speaker whom I heard a few years back at the Oklahoma WISE Conference, and have followed her posts ever since.

Anyway, Michelle told a story about playing peacemaker for a couple of guys who were about to come to blows at the gas pumps of a service station.

She saw what was happening and approached the pair, speaking in a calming voice.

I admire the way that Michelle diffused the situation and played the peacemaker for people she didn’t even know.

As for me, the only way is up from the depths of my behavior. Michelle’s post and my crazy rant have really helped me to reassess my own demeanor.

I hope I can be the peacemaker in the future, and not the old ‘get-off-my-lawn’ guy who hangs his head in shame today.

An OKC Field of Dreams and ghosts of baseball past

fieldofdreams
A group of OKC adults turned the Northeast High School baseball field into their own ‘Field of Dreams’ for an afternoon

Moneyball is one of my favorite movies. It shows the impact that using computer statistics to drive player development had on Major League baseball and the Oakland Athletics in the early 2000s.

The movie features a host of memorable scenes, including one where Oakland outfielder David Justice asks new first baseman Scott Hatteberg what he feared most at the position.

Hatteberg had been a catcher all of his professional career, and to that point had never played even an inning at first base.

“A baseball hit in my general direction,” was Hatteberg’s honest reply to Justice’s question.

That’s exactly how I felt Sunday afternoon as I stood in right field at the Northeast High School baseball field.

I was there at the invitation of my friend, Russ Florence, who invited a group of fellow adults to “have a catch” with him.  A lifelong baseball fan, Russ began his informal monthly “catch” several months ago.

It was sort of a Field of Dreams-come-to-real-life opportunity for those of us who once played the game or have followed it all of our lives.

The baseball dreamers who came out Sunday included several guys my age or older, a few younger and a couple of women who showed more agility than most of their male counterparts.

I dug my old baseball glove out of the closet and joined about a dozen others at the Northeast field.

Unfortunately, the experience revealed exactly how the passage of time has robbed me of athletic ability, real or imagined.

Once upon a time, I thought of myself as a pretty good baseball player. Now that was in Little League in College Station, Texas, followed by Pony League as a 13- and 14-year-old.

Here’s how it went five decades later on a warm November afternoon beneath a bright blue sky.

First, we warmed up by playing catch with a partner about 40 feet away. I put most of my throws into the ground in front of him or several feet to his left.

My shoulder ached after about 15 minutes. My glove hand screamed with pain from catching baseballs in the heart of the mitt.

Then came the real embarrassment. I stood in right field as Russ hit flies and grounders to players stationed at infield and outfield positions.

He hit one in my general direction.

My feet felt like they were in quicksand as I “ran” toward it. I could not bend over far enough to even make a stabbing attempt at a catch.

I hung my head in shame. No one seemed to notice.

Russ hit about three other balls in my direction. I managed to catch one on the bounce barehanded, but caught none before they hit the ground. I decided if a ball wasn’t hit within three feet of where I was standing, I had no chance.

But the day wasn’t a total loss. I had the opportunity to visit with some old — and new — friends. The weather was pleasant watching from the dugout, where I spent much of my time.

“It really scratches an itch for a lot of people,” Russ told me afterward. “None of us is as good as as we once were — or as good as we THINK we once were. I’m glad you were there.”

Thank you, Russ, for inviting this ‘ghost’ of a former player to experience your OKC version of the Field of Dreams.

Even if it brought home a sobering reality of aging.

Don’t let your facts get in the way of my beliefs

encyclopedia2
A set of Encyclopedia Americana from the 1960s.

When I was a kid, we had a big set of Encyclopedia Americana in our house that was my go-to Google-of-the-day for every bit of fact finding and trivia that drew my interest.

Once, when I was a teenager, my dad and I had a disagreement over some fact about a foreign country or its people, I can’t remember which.

However, my dad was spouting an opinion as fact that I was certain was wrong. So, I grabbed an encyclopedia, looked it up and read the part to him that proved that he was wrong.

“Now you’re taking it too far,” he said, clearly irritated.

Translation: don’t let your facts get in the way of my entrenched beliefs.

Anyway, I’m writing this because we’re seeing people in our society make up their minds and cling to ‘alternative facts’ when clearly there is no evidence to back them up. Or there’s evidence that shows that it is wrong and they still cling to their beliefs.

The dispute over vaccines, for instance. People would rather take their Uncle Jimmy Joe’s word that the COIVID-19 vaccines are making thousands of people sick or, worse yet, killing them, than accept statistics kept by health care professionals and scientists that show vaccines are incredibly safe and effective.

I’m pretty sure it’s really an issue motivated first and foremost by political beliefs. Red state. Blue state.

But we all stake out our territory on different issues and refuse to budge even when we’re smacked in the face by reality. I’m sure I’m guilty, as well.

And that leads me to an issue that really disturbed me this week. One of my neighbors whom I like and enjoy hanging out with in his driveway, stated as fact that a high-ranking OKC city official gets a cut from every concession sold at Scissortail Park because he made a donation to its construction.

I ask him to offer some proof. “They reported it on Channel 9,” he said.

If it had been reported on TV or in the newspaper, and there was evidence to support the allegation, the story would be huge and talked about by everyone in the city. The official would likely lose his job.

scissortail park1
Scissortail Park in early November

Instead, it’s told as fact by a retired OKC resident who is skeptical about the whole MAPS program and Scissortail Park, as well. He doesn’t need actual proof, because he heard the story told as fact from others who share his point of view.

I even ran the allegation past a respected reporter for The Oklahoman that I trust and who told me that “none of it is true.” I’m taking his word for it, because, if true, it would have been a giant Page 1 headline.

The disturbing aspect is that my neighbor repeats the story to anyone who will listen, and in my far north OKC neighborhood there are a lot of takers.

I think some of it has to do with the fact that our neighborhood is so far out of the city’s core that people like my neighbor don’t see the benefit that MAPS and Scissortail Park have brought to our city.

As I walked back home after the encounter the other day, I couldn’t help but think of my dad and his long ago wrongly held opinion-as-fact. Even the Encyclopedia Americana couldn’t budge him off his belief.

Sad to say, that’s how it is with a lot of American society today.