Every few years, I feel a need to write about the blessing of giving a blessing
I had an acute case of happy to be there.
I remember it as if it were yesterday. A yesterday pulled from a giant pile of yesterdays.
I was a guest and I was wearing two different kinds of shoes. I’d lost one when a cow manure pile’s suction had pulled it off. I don’t think anyone noticed. The shoes looked just alike other than the different colors.
We’d washed up for supper. In those days, we ate breakfast, dinner and supper.
We hoped the meal was marked for success. We were boys addicted to food. We trusted that the food would be a fine and comfortable fit for our stomachs.
We sat around the table, waiting for the blessing to be said or sung.
There were a number of common ones.
“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
“Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee. Amen.”
“Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may strengthen for thy service be. Amen.”
“I give thanks for all the wonderful food, most of which my diet won’t let me eat.”
“Thanks” is always good unless you’re having a
Some try to turn a blessing into a novel, but most truncate it severely. The main thing was to avoid disdain and disapproval.
It was hard to sound joyful over a plate of steamed broccoli and we faced an unavoidable opponent this day—a food we didn’t enjoy enough.
Salad would try to butt in, but we could stiff-arm it aside. We considered green foods other than green Jell-O to be foods that hadn’t ripened enough to eat.
The main entree was tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top.
It was easier to say a proper grace over fried pork chops, but we realized that God had created tuna noodle casserole, too.
There was a carrot on a stick. Dessert. Always a pleasure. Never a chore. Much of life’s goodness was contained in desserts. It was rhubarb pie topped with ice cream. Yum.
The youngest of the host family, a youngster my age, was asked to say grace.
“Rub a dub dub. Thanks for the grub. Yay God!”
I heard circus music. I nearly spit out my Tang. Tang was what the astronauts drank. I’d snuck a pre-grace sip of the stuff.
The blessing had proper meaning and was said
in an enthusiastic way, but it could have used
His father laughed. His mother not so much.
She encouraged him to say another one, but he refused to let the same dog bite him twice.
I didn’t hear requests to give the blessing from my parents. I usually heard, “Elbows off the table,” or “Try chewing with your mouth closed and see how that works for you.”
But my time was coming.
I recall the first time that I was asked give the blessing before a meal. There was a sea of endless relatives seated around the table.
“Allen, would you please give the blessing.”
There was no question mark at the end of that sentence. I swallowed hard. It felt like my first day as a trapeze artist.
I was then as I am now, thankful for many things and desirous to express that gratitude. All my life, I’ve had an ample sufficiency of food. For that, I give thanks.
My blessing needed to be humble. And I owed the world an explanation for my gluttony or my rampant finickiness.
I thought that must be what it feels like to be an adult. It’s that kind of stress that made adults so cranky. You can’t eat and then say, “I’d like to change the blessing
I wanted it to be more than just air filled with noise.
I wanted to make a bold move that would earn
I was in the full flower of cluelessness, so I waited
for inspiration that would come when turnips learned
I decided to do some genre bending. I’d find a way out of my predicament without a map.
I expected this blessing would be a key scene in
I lowered my voice and tried to sound like Johnny Cash.
“Thanks for letting me eat with you. Amen.”
© Al Batt 2017
The last few weeks of March, the first few weeks of April ... these are the prime cuts for sports fans.
You have two leagues — the NBA and the NHL —wrapping up their regular seasons, hopefully with a little drama and playoff implications. The two best championship tournaments in all of sports are being played — the NCAA basketball tournaments and The Masters — and hope springs eternal for the entire nation as baseball teams break camp and head off for their home openers. At no time are there more sport fans on equal footing, more engaged in the goings-on of their favorite team or sport.
I never liked the “March Madness” moniker. It’s only madness if you think that anybody outside of Duke, Kansas, North Carolina or Kentucky can win the men’s tournament. These play-in games are a joke, but I guess it’s all that some students will ever really have in terms of feeling the electricity of a national audience. It’s not like Red Bank State or Twizzler Tech is ever going to cut down any nets ... it’s just better than the programming alternatives for the night. And you have to hand it to the ladies, they have really done a great job marketing and presenting their game. The past year has been the first where I’ve heard very serious discussion and praise of the women’s game, and that’s a great thing.
And please, do not weep for Sergio Garcia. Far from the “lovable bridesmaid” the fake news media have been making him out to be — this tough-luck Spaniard who never wins anything — we can finally stop with all of that nonsense now that he has won the finest championship in all of sports — The Masters. And he’s won plenty, something like 30 tour wins, and he’s about to marry Golf Channel personality Angela Akins, who according to the failing BBC News, wears the “shortest skirt on campus.” What’s everybody so upset about? The guy plays golf for a living.
The Masters is the finest tournament in the world and one of the greatest things humans do on Earth when it comes to sports. It’s a place where the best come to shine, where people behave — ever heard of anyone getting in a fight at The Masters? — where there isn’t a cellphone (calls are free), not a speck of garbage, and food and beer are inexpensive (and tasty). The entire world outside of the National could be on fire and nobody on the grounds would know until they exited
the front gates. We need more places like Augusta in the world.
More teams make the NBA and NHL playoffs than do not. Think about that for a moment. It’s absurd, but not when your team makes the playoffs (and if they don’t, you feel terrible). It’s good to have the Canadian teams back; it just feels wrong when they’re not playing the game that gives their lives so much purpose. That said, I think this finally is going to be the Washington Capitals’ year, providing they get past the Penguins and Rangers, and beat the Blackhawks in the finals. On the hardwood, you’d be nuts to bet against Stephen Curry and Golden State, but as long as LeBron is on the floor, there’s always a chance for Cleveland.
And of course the Cubs will repeat. Good things come in pairs!
Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.
© 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.
The Best Of Jerry
“Grandpa Could Hear the
1. In 2016, Colorado’s Trevor Story became the fifth major-league player since 1900 to homer in each of
his team’s first four games. Name two of the other four to do it.
2. Which Cy Young Award winner had the
3. Since the 2000 college football season, how many Heisman Trophy winners have been running backs?
4. How many times has Los Angeles Clippers
guard Chris Paul led the NBA in assists per game
for a season?
5. When was the last time before 2016 that the Montreal Canadiens tallied 10 goals in a game?
6. Wayne Taylor Racing captured the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2017. When was the last time the team
won the race?
7. Who was the last British female tennis player
before Johanna Konta in 2016 to reach the top 10 in
1. Chris Davis (2013), Nelson Cruz (2011), Mark McGwire (1998) and Willie Mays (1971).
2. Lamar Hoyt of the Chicago White Sox had a 3.66 ERA in 1983.
3. Three — Reggie Bush of Southern Cal (2005 — later vacated), Mark Ingram of Alabama (2009) and Derrick Henry of Alabama (2015).
4. Four times — the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons.
5. It was 1990, versus Pittsburgh.
6. It was 2005, when the team was known as Sun
7. Jo Durie, in 1984.
© 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.
From Where I Sit
It was about what everyone expected last Friday night when the Iowa football team concluded spring practice with the annual inter squad scrimmage. The fifteen practices were as much about who wasn’t participating as who was. Returning stars like linebacker Josey Jewell and running back Akrum Wadley saw few snaps over the past month, the coaches not wanting to risk injury that had already claimed emerging safety Brandon Snyder and defensive linemen Matt Nelson and Nathan Bazata. Leading receiver Matt Vandeberg continues to rehab a broken foot. Snyder tore an ACL and surgical repair was performed April 17th. There’s a chance he could play in 2017.
Kirk Ferentz therefore cast a huge dragnet, searching for in no particular order, wide receivers, tight ends, corner backs, defensive tackles and a new punter to replace the graduated and all conference performer Ron Coluzzi. There’s a good chance some of those holes will be plugged by incoming freshmen, especially at receiver. Those youngsters arrive on campus
Then there’s quarterback. WHO replaces CJ Beathard? It’s a dead heat at the moment. Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers struggled in the first half and improved in the third and fourth periods. Throwing accuracy was a problem but some of that has to do with who’s on the other end of the pass. Brandon Snyder’s replacement, Jake Gervase of Davenport Assumption was the star of the night with three interceptions, one of those a 55 yard return to the end zone. Another set up the games first touchdown. Other bright spots were red shirt freshmen tailback Toren Young from Madison,WI. and tight end TJ Hockenson out of Chariton. The heir apparents at corner, counted on to replace All-American Desmond King and Greg Mabin are Manny Rugamba, Josh Jackson and Michael Ojemudia. All have sparkled at times. Four down linemen also flashed throughout March and April. Tackles Cedric Lattimore and Brady Reiff and ends Sam Brincks and Brandon Simon.
While this Iowa team will look a lot different in five months, it was fun to see what the future holds. That’s the great thing about college football. Every four years you have a generational change and other names have a chance to add their chapters to Iowa history.
By the way the Dubuque County I Club outing is scheduled for June 1st at Thunder Hills Country Club. Hope to see you there.
Five Years Dead
Five years ago, Aaron Hernandez was one of the brightest prospective players in the NFL, a 22-year-old all-pro tight end out of the University of Florida who had just signed a lucrative five-year, $40 million contract with the perennial champion New England Patriots.
During that span of time, if Aaron Hernandez had chosen to walk a different path, barring injuries, he would have made the playoffs all five of those years and would be wearing two Super Bowl rings. More than likely, he would be negotiating an extension. On April 19, he’d be joining his teammates at the White House, celebrating their latest Super Bowl victory.
Instead, sometime during the early morning of April 19, Aaron Hernandez hanged himself inside his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts, where he was imprisoned for life for murder, five days after being acquitted in a separate double murder trial.
Think about that for a moment. The man could have made millions ... won two Super Bowls as part of the best TE super tandem in NFL history with Rob Gronkowski, lived happily ever after with his pretty fiancee and beautiful daughter in their mansion with
in-ground pool, but he thought this was the better path to take:
July 16, 2012: Two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, are shot to death in their car as they wait at a
red light in Boston’s South End neighborhood.
August 27, 2012: Hernandez signs a five-year, $40 million contract with the New England Patriots.
February 2013: An associate, Alexander Bradley, is shot in the face in Florida. Bradley files a lawsuit alleging that Hernandez shot him after they argued at
a strip club.
June 17, 2013: The body of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the
sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, is found about a mile from Hernandez’s mansion in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
June 26, 2013: Hernandez is arrested on a murder charge in Lloyd’s slaying and later pleads not guilty.
The Patriots release him hours after his arrest.
May 15, 2014: Hernandez is indicted on two counts
of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the shootings of de Abreu and Furtado.
May 28, 2014: Hernandez pleads not guilty to charges in connection with the deaths of de Abreu and Furtado.
Jan. 9, 2015: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in Lloyd’s killing.
April 15, 2015: Hernandez is convicted of
first-degree murder; carries a mandatory sentence
of life imprisonment.
Feb. 14, 2017: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
April 7, 2017: The jury begins deliberating.
April 14, 2017: Hernandez is acquitted of murder in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
April 19, 2017: Hangs himself at age 27.
This is a bizarre world, and the world of sports is supposed to offer you an escape. I have no words to convey how truly sad I am that Aaron Hernandez turned out to be such a disappointment. May God have mercy on his soul and bless his daughter and family.
Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.
© 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.