faith, life, depression, struggle

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: Thinking about family

I'm home alone today, trying to make something positive of this situation. I don't mind being alone; I spend a lot of time this way. It's always harder on holidays, especially this one.

This morning, I did some research on my father's side of the family. Thanksgiving has a football connection, of course, so I was trying to find more information about my uncle, Samuel "Corky" Gaines. Uncle Corky played for the University of South Carolina back in the 1950s, then was drafted late by the New York Giants in 1957. He decided to make more money by heading north, for the CFL, and was drafted by the Montreal Alouettes. It didn't work out well, according to this Sports Illustrated Vault article from 1959:

The players who have the hardest time adjusting to Canadian football are linemen from split-T teams. Take the sad case of Corky Gaines, a guard from the University of South Carolina. At South Carolina they played possession football. The quarterback rarely calls an outside play, and if he throws a pass the coach throws him in the briar patch. All the offensive guard does, therefore, all game long, is run into the man ahead of him. But in the Canadian wide-open game the guard must also pull out and hit the end, pull out and lead the interference, and drop back and protect the passer. Though the sage of Montreal, Coach Peahead Walker, was willing to keep Gaines on for his defensive ability at $9,000 a year, the young man became so confused that he fled to a London, Ontario semipro team to play the same game for $1,200.

The whole article is worth reading, just to see what a different world professional sports represented back then, and what Canadian football meant to black Americans in particular, who could work regular jobs facing less racism and then play football, too. Here's another choice bit:

Many more imports, year-round residents, intend to become citizens when their five-year waiting period is up. One of them, Hardiman Cureton, the All-America guard from UCLA, is a man without a country. He has been charged with draft evasion in the U.S., and there is a bench warrant out for his arrest if he steps over the border. He has a year and a half to go before he can become a naturalized Canadian. In the meantime he has a good position with the H. G. Barter and Son engineering and drafting concern, a new home and few regrets. "I love the change of seasons, the buds in the spring, the golden-brown leaves of autumn, the soft white snow in winter," he said quietly, staring at his hands, a little embarrassed at the words that came out of his mouth. "This is where my wife and I want to raise our children."

Canada, according to many of the Negro players, is a land almost without prejudice. Two—Johnny Bright and Rollie Miles—are teaching and coaching in white schools, something they could hardly do back home. As a matter of fact, it is easier for any player to have any job in Canada. Before the season begins, American clubs have a training and exhibition-game period that lasts two months, then practice every afternoon. In Canada, preseason training lasts only two to four weeks, and working players take their summer vacation to coincide with it. From then on they rarely miss a day's work, as football practice doesn't begin until 5:30 p.m.

"Even when we play what we call double-headers, games Saturday and Monday nights," Vancouver's By Bailey, a successful salesman, said, "we get back to Vancouver by 3 a.m. Tuesday. I'm at my desk at 9 a.m. sharp."


Think of it: Playing a pro football game Saturday night, another Monday night, and going to work on Tuesday morning. That's old school.


As for Uncle Corky: He was a combat veteran of the 82nd Airborne in the U.S. Army, was a POW in Vietnam, and to my knowledge still lives in Fayetteville, N.C., near Fort Bragg.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ancient Sumer backgrounder

Good ol' Britannica.com. I'm glad I still invest in a membership there. Got curious about ancient Sumer after seeing The Fourth Kind, a so-so horror movie with some odd elements combined (and some rather dishonest Blair Witch-style faux-backstory-marketing) for pretty spooky effect. Anyway, Sumer, within the context of a big article on Mesopotamia:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/376828/Mesopotamia/55467/Sumerian-civilization#toc=toc55467

I've often wondered what life in an ancient civilization would be like from day to day. Harsh and oppressive, I imagine, but beyond that, what? The food, the music, the family and community, the culture ... Hard work, worship, subsistence. One of my favorite popular history books is A Distant Mirror, a great book by Barbara Tuchman about life in 14th c. Europe, which was almost uniformly awful but no less fascinating now to read about.