I spent much of today in the presence of a bunch of young athletes making speeches. And I gotta say, unaccustomed as all of them were to public speaking, they blew me away with their insight, intelligence and unique perspective on the world.
We all have this preconceived notion of the dumb jock, a stereotype that's a staple in every teen TV show, movie and especially all those cheerleader flicks I used to catch at the Drive-In.
But today's experience got me thinking about my own high school athletic career -- which to be perfectly honest consisted mostly of going to Gym Class -- which every kid in my first year of high school detested.
This was not because Phys-Ed (as it was known back in the day) took place in some dank, musty gymnasium with flickering halogen lights and a drafty change room.
Nope, we had a brand new school with state of the art amenities. What made us hate it was -- along with your text books you had to buy a gym uniform, which consisted of really short white shorts, a white T-shirt with the school logo, sneakers and -- a jock strap, which none of the 14 year olds I hung out with had ever seen before.
The waitress at the Woolworth's lunch counter even yelled at us for pulling them from the boxes they came in to check them out while waiting for our post shopping burgers and cokes.
This "uniform" meant that not only did you have to get naked in front of a bunch of other guys twice a week when you had Phys-Ed (or four times because you had to get both in and out of your jock strap for each class); but you had to stay naked for 15 minutes at the end of the class while everybody crammed into a communal shower.
I guess this was the school's way of making sure we took at least two showers a week. But still...
On top of that, the Gym teacher was a guy who liked to yell a lot and clearly had interest in whatever he was supposed to be teaching because he had football or basketball plays to think up.
This changed about midway through the year, when the lady gym teacher took over to teach us some gymnastics. Not only did she know her stuff, she looked really good showing us how to do it. Although that meant there were some who had to take a little extra time to cool down before we hit the showers -- if you know what I mean.
But it turned out gymnastics was actually something I was good at and some of us even ended up doing presentations of "gymnastic skills" on Parents Nights or when somebody notable visited.
The Gym Lady, a real keener, wanted to start a team to compete with other schools. But somehow, that never happened and a year or so later, I was just too artsy and theatrical for that sort of thing -- and besides, the really cool guys didn't want to be thought of as jocks.
As coincidence would have it, one of the social media feeds I checked after today's revelation of the true nature of jocks included the video that follows.
And quite honestly, I can't imagine ever being this cool.
Elton John's playing my town this weekend and the place can't get enough of him. Everybody's lining up to hear Sir Elton (or should that be Sir Reggie?) sing all of his hits, with the reviewers cooing about how he sounds as good as he ever did and exactly like the original vinyl.
And that vinyl era would be about the time I first saw Elton in concert. Recalling the night with some young whipper-snappers this week, I mentioned that I was pretty sure Ted Nugent had been on the same bill. Which wouldn't've caused that much consternation in the 1970's but struck these guys as extremely unsavory.
"The gun freak hunter guy?"
Well, yeah. But back then Ted was pretty much a guitar freak hunting little more than some "Wango Tango". But I digress....
Driving home I considered how much Ted and others changed over the decades, while some like Sir Elton changed hardly at all -- save for maybe swapping out Marilyn Monroe for Princess Di to get a second Number One out of "Candle in the Wind".
Can "Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting" really have the same impact coming out of the throat of a 70 year old?
But perhaps real artists change as they age, investing their songs with the insights and experiences the intervening decades have brought them.
Or perhaps -- it's the songs that need to evolve, rearranged to bring out imagery and emotions we never knew they could contain.
Take Aerosmith's "Dream On" for example. Place that in the hands of Postmodern Jukebox and the mouth of an inspired talent like Morgan James and see what happens.
Life, as I understand it, is supposed to go on -- not stand still.
A year ago, as the game clock wound down, my local WHL team, the Victoria Royals, were poised to win the 7th game of their Division final in their quest to hoist the Memorial Cup. The arena was electric. Fans counted down the final seconds. "3-2-1...". And then with 2 tenths of a second on the scoreboard, the bad guys scored. I've never seen a crowd deflate so fast. We all stared in stunned disbelief. Players collapsed on the ice. You could've heard a pin drop over the intermission before the overtime that followed. And in that overtime -- we lost. It was a crushing defeat. Not only for the team but the entire town. And in an effort to come back as this season began, a banner was strung that read "Unfinished Business". We all knew what it meant. Last night we clinched a spot in the playoffs. The business is still unfinished, but we're closer to seeing the job get done. Coming back from loss is hard. The initial feelings of hurt, anger and frustration are difficult to shed. And once they're gone, what's left is an emptiness. One easily filled with depression, recrimination or the simple desire to just give up. Loss is tough. Getting back up is tougher. Getting on with the job is the toughest thing of all. No one I know has faced a larger climb up that mountain of late than a Palm Desert, California band known as "The Eagles of Death Metal". "EODM" were the band onstage at the Bataclan venue in Paris on November 13, 2015 when it was attacked by Islamic terrorists. 88 of their fans and the band's merchandise manager were slaughtered. I'm not sure it's possible to describe the bond that is formed between performers and audience during a live performance. Suffice it to say, the emotions are as intense for one as the other. Those onstage may be creating the vibe. But the energy of the audience is what fuels their fire. Consider it the ultimate co-dependent relationship. One can't survive without the other. And when one is brutally torn away before the other's eyes, the shock is intense and often permanent. That it did not happen to the "Eagles of Death Metal" and how the band found its way back is profoundly captured in a recent documentary by Colin Hanks entitled "Nos Amis" which covers not only the aftermath of the Bataclan tragedy, but the band's ultimate return to first making music and then taking it back onstage in a still wounded Paris. Catch the documentary during its current rotation on HBO if you can. And make it a must if you're struggling to overcome something bigger than you've ever faced before. The entire Paris concert where "The Eagles of Death Metal" finished their own "Unfinished Business" can be found here. May the healing power of Rock and Roll uplift you. And Enjoy Your Sunday.