Champions Overcome

One of the myriad ways in which I am a lucky man is based, at least originally, on proximity. I am fortunate enough to live in Central New York, where I have the pleasure of reading the writings of the great Sean Kirst.

Sean has been writing for our local morning newspaper for a couple of decades now. For much of that time he has been for me the window through which a lot of our problems and issues take on a human face. It may be easy to dismiss data and theory, it is much more difficult to dismiss people. Especially as Sean introduces them to us. He has been our local treasure. Now, of course, you can read his work from wherever you are at syracuse.com.

It was while reading this morning’s column that I found myself repeating a strongly held belief.

Champions overcome.

Of course, “champions” terminology is lifted directly from athletic endeavors, where there is very often a winner and a loser. Sports can be nuanced, but not nearly as frustratingly so as living a life. Back when I was a radio broadcaster, more than being a big sports fan, it is this reason that made me prefer doing sportscasts to news. In sports, the worst thing that happens most of the time is that somebody loses a game.

Sports champions are made by excelling over the long haul, but they rarely go without defeat. In the National Football League, for example, there has been a single championship team that has not lost a single game in a season. That was 42 years ago.

In that way, sports are very much like life. Some of us will have an easier time. Some of us will struggle. All of us will lose, and to ultimately succeed, all of us most overcome.

We overcome our past. We overcome our present. We overcome disabilities and weaknesses. We overcome enemies and friends. We overcome ourselves.

What defines champions, in sports and in life, is never giving up. We can rest. We can reflect. We can reassess. We must keep going.

We must overcome.

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

B&W TextingI just read a blog entry on the extinction of the physical QWERTY keyboard phone, and it bugs me. The main info isn’t surprising of course, but I think what it suggests is misleading.

Even after a year and a half on a full touch Android device, I still only endure it (keyboard-wise). I prefer the physical keyboard regardless of having “gotten used to” typing on glass and the added assistance of the fine SwiftKey keyboard app.

More than that, it seems to me that the manufacture of phones doesn’t match the public’s desires. I saw a survey within the last year (on a general tech site not biased by being BlackBerry-centric) that indicated more than 80% of the respondents actually preferred a physical keyboard. That blew me away. I doubt if replicated the number would be that high consistently, but it certainly raises the question of whether there is a true market share for QWERTY phones still.

Anecdotally, many of the folks I know who have specifically talked about this issue with me seem to be prioritizing other things more highly than actually preferring the touchscreen typing experience (there are no iPhones or Galaxy S#s with a physical keyboard).

What I think has actually happened is twofold.

First, QWERTY king BlackBerry shot itself in the foot time and again with bad decisions, compounded by an inability to meet deadlines or to market well. Those bad decisions were related to its phones specs and the “app gap” much more so than the fact that people really didn’t want a physical keyboard.

Secondly, other manufacturers who have made physical QWERTY phones did a generally crappy job of it. For whatever its other significant shortcomings and failures, BlackBerry perfected the physical keyboard.

Just as phone manufacturers obviously think everyone wants bigger and Bigger and BIGGER phones (we all don’t!), the impression is also that we all prefer typing on glass. I have a pretty strong feeling that simply isn’t true.

 

My Most Important Job

I have known since I was very young that the most important thing I would ever do, should I be so blessed to have the opportunity, was to be a good father.

Fatherhood, parenthood, is sometimes about hard choices. It’s about consistency and a 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week vigilance. It is the constant push and pull of knowing when to pull close and when to let go. In grand strokes, it’s about striving to make the world better for our kids, while helping them to grow to be a constructive presence in that better world.

Reading an op ed from Sandy Hook dads Mark Barden and David Wheeler this morning, I was reminded again of something David had said in the unthinkable days following the events of December 14, 2012. As a father, they are words that rang deep and true for me. They are words I have tried to push down when they come up, at least to some degree, so as not to be swallowed whole by them.

In talking about the loss of his 6-year-old son Ben, and good intentioned people telling him and wife Francine that they “can’t imagine” the pain the parents were enduring, David said that he wants us all to be able to imagine it. That only in imagining it will we create the will for truly transformational change.

That is the thing that dares not speak its name.

The truth is, I haven’t been very successful at avoiding my own imagination. I am most often aware of how lucky we are, how lucky I am, and of the general fragility of life. Other times, out of nowhere, I am stricken cold by a flash of what could happen.

Yet, we must imagine.

It wasn’t until members of Congress could look in to the already-gone eyes of a dying Robert Kennedy that they broke a deadlock and acted to pass the Gun Control Act of 1968.

I’m sure you have seen the statistic. As I write this, there have been 74 school shootings since December 14, 2012. One thing that the Sandy Hook shootings accomplished was to create a more active and mobilized gun control movement. Organizations like Sandy Hook Promise, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Mom’s Demand Action are acting as centralized points of activism and unified protest.

Even more than the cohesive effort, however, this ongoing battle requires courage.

We have unfortunately seen too often courage from victims’ families in the sheer will of facing another day, and trying to create something good from something so horrible. We must all be courageous. We must, as RFK put it, risk the “disapproval of our fellows.” Most importantly, we must be courageous enough to imagine the unimaginable.

We must change.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. May our children live in a safer and more just world.