Long Story Short: We could be heroes

6/11/18



illustration by JP Thimot

 

Sports talk

I’m the rare Buffalonian who’s not into sports, but sometimes I feel an obligation to comment on sports-related news items. So here goes.

 

Does anyone else think Josh Allen, the new quarterback for the Bills, looks a little like a young Jim Kelly? Maybe it’s my imagination. In any case, the media is certainly giving him a hero’s welcome. Check out this picture of Allen in the Buffalo News. The camera gazes upward at the strapping farm boy, head held high, silhouetted against the big sky that spans the golden prairie (actually plowed farmland, but very flat). It looks like something from a social realist propaganda poster.

 

Allen’s is a heroic underdog story too. The California country boy was snubbed for college scholarships and spent his first post-high-school year in a community college. He went on to play for Wyoming but had a checkered career there. Eventually he caught the eye of the NFL due to his incredibly powerful arm that can hurl a football like it was shot from a cannon. But he lacks accuracy. He has been described as “a project,” meaning he has potential, but needs work. And no one really knows how that will turn out.

 

Allen was drafted by the Bills, and now the question is whether he will begin the season as the starting quarterback. A few days ago, Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly met Allen, and liked what he saw. Not because of his throwing ability, but because he talks to the other players. Apparently, that’s a good thing for a quarterback.

 

Speaking of “Buffalo’s quarterback” Jim Kelly    

Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards (ESPYs) in July. No, not for coming back four years in a row to be beat by a series of Super Bowl opponents, but for being diagnosed with cancer three times without giving up. The award was named after Jim Valvano, who delivered an emotional acceptance speech when he received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for bravery in facing cancer. As far as I know, Ashe did not get an award for contracting AIDS. But he did face the illness with courage.

 

I give Kelly credit; he’s setting an example on how to confront adversity head on, rather than succumbing to despair. That’s what these awards are actually about. Scientists and doctors do the real fighting against cancer and other diseases. Patients can only face them with courage and a positive attitude, and then follow the doctor’s orders. Kelly, of course, has excellent health insurance, and enough money for the best treatment available. That makes facing adversity a lot easier than for the uninsured and impoverished. Nonetheless, Kelly is an inspiration for others.

 

While we’re talking about Buffalo sports heroes

There’s a new Buffalo Sabres hockey hero, and he hasn’t even been signed up yet. In fact, Rasmus Dahlin, the young, blond Swede with Speed (I coined that), is just the Sabres presumptive number one draft pick at this point, and the draft is still eleven days away. Dahlin is a wunderkind on ice, the best defense prospect to come along in a very long time. And the Sabres won first pick in the draft lottery, the reward for finishing dead last in the NHL. (You can relive that exciting lottery-winning moment here.) People are saying this player could be the anchor for the blue line for the next decade. Of course, Sabres coach Phil Housley, won’t even acknowledge that Dahlin is the league’s first pick, but everyone knows. Housley has however, acknowledged that the first-round pick will bear a heavy burden. Expectations will be huge. Dahlin’s experience so far is two seasons with the Swedish Hockey League and a stint as an Olympic competitor—at age seventeen.

 

And that’s the thing; this kid was born the year the war in Iraq began. He’s now just eighteen—awfully old for a war, but mighty young for a pro athlete. He was in Buffalo last week for the NHL Combine, where prospective draft picks are run through their paces in a variety of grueling physical tests, and put on display for general managers, scouts, sports science experts, and the media. They’re poked and prodded and put through interviews and psychology tests. At some point, most of the athletes throw up.

 

The News has done at least ten stories on Dahlin. WKBW reported on his opinion of Buffalo chicken wings (they’re too spicy). At one point there were nearly a dozen cameras and twice that many reporters surrounding Dahlin, as he sat on a stool and answered questions. One can only imagine what this does to a young man’s head. Does it just grow bigger; or explode?

 

The takeaway:

These aren’t firefighters, or emergency medical staff, or search and rescue team members. They’re people who play games for large amounts of money. Somehow that makes them heroes worthy of intense scrutiny.

 

End of sports talk.

 

 

Six angry men

An open or public forum is a place where free expression is protected under the First Amendment. Streets, parks, and sidewalks are traditionally designated as forums open to public discourse.

 

You can add Wegmans cafés to that list. On a recent visit, a table of senior citizen men carried on a loud and lively political conversation that drew everyone’s attention. For a while it was just an animated discussion, then Donald Trump came up and voices were raised. There was one ardent Trump supporter among the six men. The others expressed disapproval. I took notes.

 

Conversation highlights (as accurately as I could take them):

Trump supporter: What’s wrong with him?
Several responders at once: He lies. He lies every day. He lies about everything. Trump supporter: Greatest president we've had 100 years.
Man 1: Are you on medication?
Trump supporter: Greatest president we've had in 100 plus years. And you better get used to him because he's going to be around for four more years. He's going to get reelected.
Several responders at once: No, he won’t.
Trump supporter: He’ll be reelected in a landslide.
Man 2: He’s going to be impeached.
Trump supporter: The strangest thing is, everybody hates him; no one voted for him, and yet he is still the president.
Man 3: He lost to Hillary Clinton by three-million votes.
Trump supporter: No one voted for him and he is still the president. And he hasn't gotten us into a war. That's all the Democrats do; they get us into wars. Every war was started by a Democrat. We beat the Indians, then after that...
Man 2: What about Bush?
Man 1: Tell us about the Indians.
Trump supporter: Democrats are warmongers. All they do is start wars.
Man 2: What about Nixon?
Man 1: Tell us about the Indians.
Trump supporter: Who was the president that got us into World War II? Roosevelt—a Democrat.
Man 1: Tell us about the Indians.
Trump supporter: The Vietnam war was started by a Democrat.
Man 4: The best president we ever had was Harry S. Truman.
Trump supporter: I would be willing to bet every dollar in your wallet that you voted for Trump.
(A brief lull in the conversation)
Man 1: Tell us about the Indians.
Trump supporter: Who did you vote for?
Man 5: Jimmy Griffin.
Trump supporter: Who?
Man 5:
Jimmy Griffin.
Man 2: You’re talking about the president; he’s talking about the mayor.
Man 1: Tell us about the Indians.
(mumbled conversation)
Trump supporter: Hey, to be the leader of this country you got to be sick.

 

The takeaway:

As the men filed out—their peaceful lunch assembly concluded for the day—one of them turned and said to another: “I love the guy, you know? He’s a character, but I love the guy.”

 

It occurs to me that perhaps with age comes the wisdom to vigorously wrangle, quarrel, and bicker, and still respect one another as friends. In my book, that makes these men very wise.

 

 

Ahh, smell the aroma

If you’re fond of the odor of dead bodies, you’re in for a treat at Buffalo’s and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

 

The details:

Corpse flowers typically bloom every seven to ten years. They are the second biggest flower in the world (think Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors). The Botanical Gardens has one of the rare plants, and by the time you read this it might have bloomed.

 

About that name

The scientific Latin name for the plant is Amorphophallus titanium, and it’s indigenous to the rainforests of Sumatra, Indonesia. It looks like a Hollywood prop from a Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie (Jane would get trapped in it and Tarzan would have to save her again). The plant (or specifically the flower) has been named Morty by the staff at the gardens. (Fun fact: humans love to anthropomorphize plants and animals.)

 

But the plant’s common name is corpse flower, which comes from the fact that it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms. It even raises its “body” temperature to ninety-eight degrees to mimic a freshly dead corpse. It does this to attract dung beetles, flesh flies, and other carnivorous insects, which are the plant’s primary pollinators.

 

Morty is about to bloom again, this time after only four years! The bud stands about four and a half feet tall, but it’s closer to the ground this time, so visitors will have a better look at the plant (not to mention a better sniff).

 

The takeaway:

BREAKING NEWS: Morty started blooming at 10 p.m., Sunday, June 10. The bloom only lasts a few days, so don’t wait. If you want to visit it (him?), expect to stand in line. Marty is a very popular dead-smelling dude.  

 

Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

 

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