Category Archives: Culture

Culture August 23, 2018

Baseball and the Silent Generation

When Duty Called

This is the first of a series of five posts that examines the influences and characteristics of a generation and matches them with a sport. First up to bat: baseball and the Silent Generation. They are called “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw of NBC who had books to sell. Brokaw’s focus was on the young men and women who fought in WW2 as teenagers and 20somethings with “nothing to fear but fear itself,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed it in his memorable Four Freedoms” speech. But it ignores those in the generation that didn’t fight.

Many in this generation had just survived The Great Depression, so going to war was a way to get out of a place of no hope.

With a generation spanning roughly 20 years, not everyone shared the same experience. Much of what we say about any generation usually applies to the middle half of the generation and those influences begin to wane as the next generation steps up to the plate.

Here is an overview of the Silent Generation, followed by some personal observations that link me to this  generation, of which I am part, sneaking in as the gate was closing.

Shared Influences

  • Depression
  • WW2
  • The Atom Bomb
  • The Cold War
  • Invention of TV

Credit: Carneigiecouncil.org

Major Characteristics

  • Tradition
  • Family values
  • Sense of sacrifice
  • Team players
  • Patriotic

Credit: stripes.com

Selected Icons

  • Ted Williams
  • The Depression
  • FDR
  • Pearl Harbor
  • D-Day

Credit: historyonthenet.com

Movies That Expressed A Generation’s Moods and Feelings

  • Casablanca
  • On The Waterfront
  • Citizen Kane

Credit: fanpop.com

Sport: How Baseball Matches Up

  • Don’t play by the clock
  • Play almost every day—the longest season
  • Team for defense; individual for offense
  • All infields are identical; all outfields are different
  • The person scores, not the object (the ball)

Credit: squarespace.com

What’s a Cobee-a

I was born in Bolivia and spent most of my pre-teen years there. My father was a Christian fundamentalist missionary trying to convert Catholics and find some naked tribes in the jungles who he could cloth and then convert. For sanity and to renew the family financial coffers, we came to the US every five years for a one-year furlough.

We lived in Philadelphia, in the shadows of Shibe, later named Connie Mack Stadium, one of those museum parks that lives in memory.

We were too poor to go to the games, so we listened to them on the radio, huddled around the radio as you would a warm stove on a wintery day. My father would only let us listen when he was present. He kept his right hand next to the volume dial. When the commercials came on, promoting a life of sin and degradation, in his words, the sound was gone. He’d wait a few minutes until the next batter would just have struck out or on his way to first.

From time to time, the commercial would beat him and my brothers and I heard someone yelling, “Hey, getcha cobee-a” and not much more. We had no idea what they were talking about.

One day my father went to a meeting and forgot the Phillies were playing a double-header, two full games in one day: something that is never done in any other sport—speaking to the endurance of baseball players over other sports and how they had to endure endless days fighting in WW2 and the Korean War—the one Trump is haggling over with Kim Yong-un.

Then we heard “Hey gecha cobee-a” and the rest of it, “hey, getcha ballentine, hey getcha coldbeea, hey getcha ballentine beea.” The lyrics are here.

I grew up having at least one beer at every ball after I turned 18. One time my friend and I decided to have a bear for every run. He picked the home team. The score was 1-0 in favor of the home team.

Ted Williams: The Greatest Among Some Greats

We all have our favorite baseball players, and different generations have theirs. GenZers may not be able to tell you much about Williams, but they know everything there is to know about Ichiro Suzuki. For the rest of us, Ted Williams is the greatest to play the game.

He has a record that will never be broken. Never. Some have come close, but this isn’t horseshoes.

All Williams fans, and most baseball fans, know he was the last to have a batting average over 400, 403 to be precise. He set that record in 1941 and most of say no one ever will break it. Consider that batting in the 300 mid-range is considered a big accomplishment these days.

The record I’m talking about was Williams 39-0 record as a Marine pilot in WW2 and the Korean War. He was drafted at the height of his career. There is no telling what it could have been. But this generation was about sacrifice and in Williams case he took down enemy planes like he put fast balls out of the park.

He was a batting perfectionist. Here is how Ted Williams diagnosed his strike zone. He knew what his chances of a hit were if the pitch was down and inside or straight down the middle.

Like all generations, the Silent Generation strived for perfection. For the Silent ones it wasn’t easy, but Williams created a model. Finally, baseball may be the only sport that put patriotism where its mouth was, but, we submit, only the Silent Generation was ready for the task.

Our Greek Chorus
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The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Take me out
To the ball game
Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
The Mickie Mantel
Yogi Berra Version
On the Ed Sullivan Show

Note:All players are
Silent Generation Members
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Culture August 9, 2018

Which Team Sport Matches Which Generation?

We’ll Probably Need A Referee For This One

Imagine you are into a third beer at the local pub and this subject comes up. It is likely to be more fun than it is on your iPhone riding the bus, waiting to get your hair cut or hanging out ‘til quitting time. But you could liven it up for all of us by your comments at the end of this post.

The goal here is not to get total agreement but to have some fun playing around with the idea: Do sports mirror cultures? Some may make a case for rugby or ice hockey as a match up with the Millennial generation instead of our choice of basketball. Eric is on his honeymoon, but when he gets back he will be posting on why basketball matches his generation. He plays the game, has a podcast with two of his buddies on “necessary roughness” that focuses almost exclusively on basketball.

There is general agreement on the years for the respective generations. There are some alternative names for some of the generations, for example, Baby Boomers are sometimes aptly called The Me Generation. There is also some consensus on the general characteristics of different generations and the factors that influenced them growing up. Obviously, an event that happens in one generation influences the next generation or previous generation and some events cut across all generations, such as 9/11. Choosing five icons is tougher, more an informed editorial guess, but a tricky one. We have studied four sites and settled on the University of Missouri Extension group, but now they require you to sign up for a class. There is general consensus among the various sites. We take it from there and hope you will join the conservation.

I can hold my own on the first two generations since I was born at the end of the Silent Generation and take most of my influences from the Boomers. I take Eric’s observations about Millennials. I need another beer when we start talking about GenXers who followed the Boomers and GenZers, those born in this century and who’s generation is just ending. Some have suggested ice-hockey for GenXers. We opted for soccer which is global and the most watched sport in the world. There are no team time outs in soccer and only two substitutions. It requires the most endurance to play—something GenXers might well claim for themselves.

One final important editorial point: not everyone in a generation has the same influences, characteristics, icons. Not everyone stood in a bread line during the Great Depression and not everyone went to the front lines in the Vietnam War—it fact less than 30 percent made it to the front lines. (Read the comments in the link below: some interesting details.)

Not all in the Silent Generation where patriotic, some were traders. Some would say The Beatles were more of an icon for the Boomers than Elvis. The Beatles certainly took some notes from Elvis. The average of those killed in the Twin Towers on 9/11 was between 35-39, making them GenXers. GenZers were not born yet, their generation was just beginning. And GenZers may be the only generation that has seen the US at war for their entire generation.

We are also influenced by the icons of our era and tend to see a sport through the eyes of the star how played in our generation: Pelé, Johan Cruyft, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, or in basketball Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordon, Larry Bird, LeBron James, and if you are from Philadelphia, Dr. J. And so on. But the goal here is not a personality matchup, rather the whole of the generation and a match up with five major characteristic a sport.

Credit: sfaq.us

In the end, when we parse some of the generational differences, we are all Americans and have a shared cultural DNA. Of that there is no question.

There will be five more posts in this series of generations and sports. In chronological order, starting with the Silent Generation and Baseball.

Here is an overview of our first call:

GENERATION YEARS SPORT
SILENT ’26-46 Baseball
BABY BOOMERS ’47-64 Football
GENERATION X ’65-80 Soccer
MILLENNIAL ’81-20 Basketball
Y-GENERATION ’01+ Lacrosse?

While you are welcome to jump ahead or mix it up, feel free to do so. We will use the same structure for all the generations so that we end up with parallel construction.

Then each of us in the editorial group will write a post about how we see the matchup through our experiences. The point will be clear: Any individual in any generation can love any sport at any time. No one is forced into a locker here.

We hope you will join the conversation.

Credit: drinkoftheweeek.com

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Culture July 24, 2018

Dispatch from The Isle of Man: Number 3

The Sting in the Tail: Football’s Coming Home.

It has been a strange 31 days for me, someone for whom soccer is a passion and who has watched with interest the performance of England’s soccer team, aka the Three Lions, at the 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia this past month.

Why Three Lions?

They have a history going back to the 12th century, when a standard with three gold lions on a red field was carried into battle to inspire the troops.

As The Guardian reports, “The first one came from Henry I—known as the lion of England—who had a lion on his standard on taking power in 1100. Shortly afterwards he married Adeliza, whose father also had a lion on his shield, and to commemorate the event he added a second lion to his standard. In 1154, two lions became three when Henry II married Eleanor of Aquitaine, who—yes, you’ve guessed it—also had a lion her family crest.

Later that century, Richard the Lionheart (1189-1199) used the three golden lions on a scarlet background as a symbol of the English throne and, after that, it appeared on the Royal Arms of every succeeding monarch.

I say “strange” because, like many other England supporters, I had given up on my team ever being successful again. Too many false dawns since 1966 when, as a callow youth, I witnessed England’s one and only success in an international competition, beating West Germany that year in the FIFA World Cup. (Historical Note: German reunification did not happen until 3rd October 1990)

Credit: autographauctions.co.uk

Since then the emotions of England supporters across the subsequent 26 International competitions that have taken place. They have ranged from enduring two close shaves but, more often, abject failure, i.e. either not even qualifying for the final stage of the competition, or, perhaps even worse, having qualified, only to suffer earth shattering defeats to humble countries such as Iceland, as happened in the 2014 competition.

In every competition there can only ever be one winner so why should England football fans think they have any greater right to win the competition than any other soccer loving nation with a deep history in the sport?

The answer is very simple.

Dammit we invented the game!!!!!! Surely, we have a divine right?

Credit: chevygirl574.wordpress.com

Sadly however, other countries have been playing the game better than us at international level for quite some time now. For heaven’s sake, even the USA soccer team has beaten us on two occasions! Slowly but surely, the England soccer fan base had become disillusioned with its players. Too many false dawns, which brings us nicely to 2018.

Because now, suddenly, things seem to be different.

Gareth Southgate, (aged 47), the English born and bred manager, understands the importance of the national team to the country’s psyche. In the space of less than two years he has achieved a significant culture change by steadily changing the narrative about what it means to play for your country and he has galvanised a disparate group of young men into a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

England did not win the 2018 FIFA World Cup but, looking to the longer term, perhaps it now has something even more significant, the emotional reconnection with its fan base?

Perhaps this reconnection is best illustrated by the crowds watching the games in Russia and at home, all singing “football’s coming home,” a reference to a song released by two English comedians in 1996 about the England soccer team titled the “Three Lions,” which included the phrase “football’s coming home.”

Of course, there is a wonderful irony in England fans singing “football’s coming home” that has probably passed over many of their heads. Referring back to the title of this dispatch, the sting in the tale here is that our French cousins, in what they might call a dénouement, would contend that, in 2018, football did indeed come home to its rightful place, which is France, not England.

We English may have invented and codified the game but is was a Frenchman by the name of Jules Rimet, a French football administrator and 3rd President of FIFA, who is recognised as the founding father of the World Cup concept, first played in 1930. Such was his standing in the game that the original trophy was named in his honour.

That fact should help to keep us arrogant, soccer loving: we invented the game, English in our place!

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
The Lion Sleeps Tonight

England Soccer Team
Chillaxing before they
Head to Qatar in Four
To hear the Lion roar
Once more…
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Culture February 7, 2018

How Baseball Mirrors America

There is something about sitting up there in the bleachers or down on the hot corner at third base that captures the spirit, mood and geography of the country.

There was a time when baseball was considered America’s favorite pastime. Then came steroids, night games, cheaters, and betters—further reflecting American culture as it moved from easier-paced pastoral life to a frenzied city jungle. The game hasn’t changed much and the traditions linger from stick ball to softball, from Little League to The Show. Above all, the poetry remains and Casey will get to play another day.

Consider how baseball reflects American culture:

  1. It’s the only team sport where the person scores not the object
  2. You come home to score. You don’t “invade” the opponent’s turf
  3. Every infield has the same dimensions—there is no variation
  4. All the outfields are different in terms of distance from home plate and type of wall
  5. Everyone places offense and defense
  6. Defense is a team effort. Offense, for the most part, is an individual effort
  7. Anyone can make the difference in the outcome at any point in the game
  8. The game is not played against the clock: it can go on “forever”
  9. _____________________________________

This is just a start. Your turn at bat. You can fill in the blank and add extra “innings”

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
John Fogerty
"Put me in coach, I’m ready to play"
Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Baseball, like other parts of American
culture, can get out of control, especially
when we think we are right, but the ref
called him out.

Billy Martin
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Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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Culture January 21, 2018

Every Generation Has Someone Who Sings For Them

Beyoncé with “Bootylicious” may not be on your playlist.

Imagine that. You in blue suede shoes down in Yorktown. Music is a universal language that sings a song for each generation. You may still listen to Elvis, play Paul Simon’s “Graceland” over and over again, but a part of all of us was dented the day the music died.

Song writers, singers, performers and musicians are not bound by a generation’s interest or taste in song. But some capture and define a generation. Duke Ellington was an integral part of the Silent Generation for those raised in the 40s-50s. The Beatles cut across more generations and early Baby Boomers 60s-70s couldn’t get enough of them. The crossover hip-hop/rap innovation of Hamilton is new but it works backwards for generational interests.

The point here is that structure–the need for sound and song in our life–cuts across all generations, but the content changes from generation to generation. In our cultural exchanges it better when we talk about how a certain performer speaks to you rather than saying my singer is better than your singer. Your music is so out of date. When are you going to get some hip in your playlist? What’s with this Blind Boy Fuller stuff? And John Philip Sousa is a what-did-you-say?

There is no intention to be definitive about which singer fits which generation, rather to open up the possibilities and listen for the common chords.

A great book on this subject is New York Times jazz and pop critic Ben Ratliff’s Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty. He connects songs to themes. For example, when we listen for slowness, he says we “may detect the surprising affinities between the drone metal of Sunn O))), the mixtape manipulations of DJ  Screw, Sarah Vaughan singing “Lover Man,” and the final works of Shostakovich.”

Wow. Cool. Gotta update my playlist. Who’s on your list?

 

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Oh, Pretty Woman

Roy Orbison back up by
Bruce Springsteen
T. Bone Burnett
Elvis Costello
Tom Waits
jd lang
James Burton
Bonnie Raitt
Jackson Browne
JD Southern
Glen D Hardin
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Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
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