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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Super Bowl, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Why football cannot last

By Anthony Scioli, Ph.D.

“Just look at the gladiators… and consider the blows they endure! Consider how they who have been well-disciplined prefer to accept a blow than ignominiously avoid it! How often it is made clear that they consider nothing other than the satisfaction of their [coach] or the [fans]! Even when they are covered with wounds they send a messenger to their [coach] to inquire his will. If they have given satisfaction to their [coach], they are pleased to fall. What even mediocre gladiator ever groans; ever alters the expression on his face? Which one of them acts shamefully, either standing or falling? And which of them, even when he does succumb, ever contracts his neck when ordered to receive the blow?”

The above passage, with the exception of two minor word substitutions on my part, was written by Cicero 2,000 years ago. My point is that his description of the sacrificial gladiator of the ancient amphitheater can be applied all too easily to the players who currently do battle on the modern gridiron.

I am convinced that football, in its present form, cannot last. I will put aside the physical carnage that piles up every weekend, the torn cartilage, broken bones, blackened, bruised and ripped skin, the shredded muscle fibers; I am not a physician. However, I am a psychologist. From my perspective, I believe that the greatest health crisis precipitated by football involves the brain and the mind, especially for those at the professional level, and particularly for those who are retired, and have suffered one too many concussions. For these former gladiators, there is a great risk of succumbing to severe, life-threatening forms of hopelessness.

The hopelessness that descends upon the retired professional football player should not be a surprise. It is understandable if you begin with some knowledge of what changes occur in a soft and mushy brain that has been repeatedly concussed, or more bluntly, tossed and smashed from side to side within a bony skull-box. Repetitive brain trauma can result in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

CTE has been detected in the brains of ex-football players well as former boxers. In CTE, there are signs of a spreading tau protein that normally serves a stabilizing function but becomes dislodged, primarily from the axons which transmit nerve impulses. The floating Tau form a spreading tangle of tissue that disrupts brain function. Rare diseases can precipitate this pathological cascade but so can repetitive head trauma. CTE has also been found in the aged, and those stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. The most commonly affected areas include the frontal lobes (decision-making, planning, willpower), the temporal lobes (memory and speech), and the parietal area (sensory integration, reading and writing). The most common emotional symptoms in those suffering from CTE include depression, anger, hyper-aggressiveness, irritability, diminished insight and poor judgment.

On 2 May 2012 former football star Junior Seau shot himself in the chest with a .357 magnum. Eighteen months earlier, Seau had driven his SUV off a cliff following an arrest on charges of domestic violence. He claimed that he had fallen asleep. Back then, many in his circle of friends and family hoped and prayed it was the truth. His brain was sent to a team of researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine. Their tests revealed a brain besieged by CTE.

A little more than a year earlier, in February, 2011, Dave Duerson, also a former professional football player, similarly committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He had texted a message to his family indicating that he was “saving” his brain for research. Three months later BU School of Medicine confirmed “neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions.” In high school, Duerson had been a member of the National Honor Society and played the sousaphone, traveling Europe with the Musical Ambassadors All-American Band. He attended the University of Notre Dame on both football and baseball scholarships. He graduated with honors, receiving a BA in Economics. Duerson played eleven seasons in the NFL.

Whenever interviewed, the researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine are reluctant to affirm a cause and effect link between CTE and suicide. They provide the typical (and not unreasonable) response that multiple causes often underlie human behavior, including suicide. While generally true, a case such as that of Duerson seems to beg the question, what else besides CTE could have led a formerly intelligent, well-organized, responsible, and successful individual to morph into a desperate failure that ends his own life at the age of fifty?

Anthony Scioli is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Keene State College. He is the co-author of Hope in the Age of Anxiety with Henry Biller. Dr. Scioli completed Harvard fellowships in human motivation and behavioral medicine. He co-authored the chapter on emotion for the Encyclopedia of Mental Health and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Positive Psychology and the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Read his previous blog articles.

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Image credit: Stockphoto image via OxfordWords blog.

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2. Who turned the lights out at the Super Bowl: Beyoncé or Bane?

When the Super Bowl at the Super Dome was plunged into darkness by a blackout last night, Twitter immediately pointed the finger at two possible suspects—halftime entertainer Beyoncé ,who doubtless needed a million hair dryers to get her 'do just so, and alight those neon Busby Berkeley tributes.

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3. Extended IRON MAN 3 trailer and new stills

Disney has released the EXTENDED (well, really extensive) trailer for IRON MAN 3 a brief snippet of which was shown on the Super Bowl in the posh post Beyoncé spot.

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4. Football, festivity, and music

By Ron Rodman


Sports fans eagerly anticipate television broadcasts of their favorite sports, whether it is baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, boxing, golf, auto racing, or any of the other events aired on the tube. In the USA, the biggest television sports event is undoubtedly (American) professional football: the National Football League. In 2011, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was the highest-rated program on American TV; nine of the ten most-watched shows that year were NFL games or pregame shows (the other was the Academy Awards), and each of the 21 biggest audiences in TV history are Super Bowls. Football’s popularity may be attributed to the coincidence of the NFL season with the American holiday season (i.e., Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, New Year’s Day, etc.). For many sports fans, football on TV is synonymous with the holidays, and vice versa.  One might say that football is part of American holiday festivities.

Professional football was broadcast on television as far back as 1939, when the Philadelphia Eagles played the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 22nd. Games were not telecast with any regularity until the 1950s, but after the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants — the so-called “Greatest Game Ever Played” — football on television gained an enthusiastic following. The DuMont Network and ABC broadcast games in these early years, but NBC and CBS soon bought the rights to broadcast all professional football, with CBS broadcasting the NFL games, and NBC broadcasting AFL games.

By the early 1970s, NFL football became so popular that telecasts featured “pregame shows” that had high quality sets, analytical commentators (many of whom were former players or coaches) and, of course, catchy musical themes — all done to add an air of festivity to the broadcasts of the games. CBS offered one of the first pregame shows dating back to 1961, eventually becoming “The NFL Today,” in the 1970’s. The program was introduced by an upbeat, “light rock” musical theme, with a sort of light rock motif.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The theme was updated in 1982, adding a disco-style “wah-wah” guitar, and omitting the trombone glissando.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The arrangement was tweaked again in 1983, with the alteration of computer-generated visual images.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Not to be outdone, NBC had their own pregame show, “The NFL on NBC.” NBC became the sole broadcaster for AFL football games in 1964, and when the league merged with the NFL in 1970, NBC retained rights to the AFC games, with CBS taking the NFC. (ABC began airing “Monday Night Football” in 1977.)

The musical theme of “The NFL on NBC” in 1973 featured a driving brass section with “wah-wah” guitar, and a jazz-like sax solo:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Unlike CBS, NBC changed its musical themes frequently. Here’s composer by John Colby’s 1992 theme to the show:

Click here to view the embedded video.

And the 1995-97 version by Randy Edelman:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like the CBS theme, the latter two NBC themes are festive, almost joyful, reflecting the playful nature of sports telecasts.

The Fox Network entered the NFL TV market in 1994 when the network outbid CBS for NFC games. The theme for its show, “Fox NFL Sunday,” was composed by Scott Schreer, Reed Hays, and Phil Garrod, who pitched three separate songs to Fox, who then spliced them together into one.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The use of the minor key and heavy percussion of the Fox theme creates a more serious tone than the more laid-back light jazz/rock themes of its predecessor. The theme leads to a perception that the broadcast is less about a festive game of skilled athletes, and more about a life-or-death combat by gladiators.

Fox’s gladiatorial theme was soon imitated by both NBC and CBS, who in turn used minor key, martial music for their own broadcasts. In my September blog post, I wrote about John Williams’ theme to NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” called by at least one fan as “Football’s Imperial March.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

What caused the shift from festive athletes to combative gladiators in American pro football TV broadcasts? It may have much to do with America’s militaristic posture during the past decade (two wars fought), or television networks’ desire to align the game with the combative, hyper-masculine ethos that emerged from the post 9/11 era.

However, I would contend that we haven’t lost the festive spirit completely in pro football on TV. While the “Fox NFL Sunday” theme has become nearly synonymous with the NFL with its serious, militaristic tone, if we listen to the opening motif of the theme, we might detect a resemblance to a portion of a famous winter holiday song:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The song is Leroy Anderson’s famous “Sleigh Ride,” sung here in a classic recording by Johnny Mathis. The melody at the beginning of the “B” section (“Giddy up! Giddy up! Giddy up! Let’s go!”) has a melodic profile identical to the beginning of the Fox football theme. Here is a melodic comparison:

So, did Schreer, Hays, and Garrod get their inspiration from a festive holiday song? Maybe televised football hasn’t lost its festive spirit after all!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Ron Rodman is Dye Family Professor of Music at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is the author of Tuning In: American Television Music, published by Oxford University Press in 2010. Read his previous blog posts on music and television.

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Image credit: Image courtesy of Ron Rodman. Do not reproduce without permission.

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5. Thankful Thursday on the Shelf

As a life-long Massachusetts resident, I have to pimp out my AFC Champs, New England Patriots.  I was absolutely thrilled that we would meet New York G-Men in the Big Game.  I have been a long-suffering fan of the Pats when they stunk it up in the late 70s and early 80s.  


I remember the beat down we got from the Chicago Bears in the 1986 big game.  My heart broke for our team, but we just didn't play well.  We went back to the big game in 1997 where we suffered a loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packer and Brett Favre.  Turns out that Parcells was leaving the Pats to go coach the NY Jets.  And so begins the rivalry between the two markets.  

From the moment Belichick came to New England, our football team has been reinvented and we have been on a winning streak that has shocked even some of the hardened fan.  We love to win in our hometown and we pride ourselves on being known as a title town.  I know there are many people that hate on this man, but he has football in the blood and he bleeds X's and O's.

Tom Brady.  What els

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6. Ypulse Essentials: A Hunger Games Game, Google+ Is Still Growing, Millennial Women Want & Give Shopping Advice

Get ready for Hunger Games the, uh, game… (Lionsgate is teaming up with Funtactix to build a social game that takes place in the world of Panem. Debuting the same day as the movie, it will give us the first official map of the futuristic... Read the rest of this post

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7. Tagged With A Happy Meme!



Jacquelyn and "Surviving Serendipity"
Pooh and "The Missing Locket"


Jacquelyn Sylvan , author of Surviving Serendipity, just tagged me with "What are six things that make me happy." Only six?? Are you kidding me? Okay, here goes:

1. My husband bringing me a steamy cup of cappuccino in the morning. (I say "it's love." He says, "self defense.")

2. Laughing with friends until we cry.

3. writing

4. Chocolate (and more chocolate)

5. The view from my desk

6. Watching the Superbowl. Go Steelers!


Now, for the fun part! Tag! You're it!

Diana Black

Janet Muirhead Hill

Morgan Mandel

Mayra Calvani

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8. Super Bowl


I'm not a big sports fan these days. So much of it just turns me cold. I still like to see a good game from time to time but I don't go out of my way for it. Here's an old (12 years old) illustration I did for a magazine that has a football theme to it. I don't have some of the other football illustrations scanned into the computer for some odd reason. Perhaps some day when I have way too much extra time on my hands and not enough stuff to do. Enjoy Superbowl Sunday!!

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9. Our Side Of The Screen: The Pepsi Refresh Project

Today's Youth Advisory Board post marks the return of the slightly revamped YAB feature Our Side Of The Screen. Below Amber Gibson weighs in on The Pepsi Refresh project, a social media campaign where visitors can submit ideas for ways to refresh... Read the rest of this post

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10. Super Bowl XLIV Time!


As many of you know, today is the Super Bowl, when America (as well as many other countries) comes together to watch two of the season's best NFL teams battle for the coveted title and prestige of Super Bowl champion. Halftime is put in the hands of The Who, and I'm praying they don't have any wardrobe malfunctions! For those of us without the right connections or who opt not to pay $1000+ for tickets (I checked!) we get to watch the game from our living rooms, neighborhood sports bars, or friends' homes and see a plethora of TV commercials.

Whether you're giving your full attention to The Big Game or despise football, it's hard to ignore the commercials that air during it. At a reported $2.8 million for a 30 second spot, there's no doubt that the advertisers want to make the most of their money. (I used to work for an ad agency and it was a huge deal when our biggest client decided to jump on the Super Bowl commercial boat.) These ads not only reach a HUGE audience at once (95 million? Whoa!); it's one of the most diverse audiences ever--with all ages, both sexes, and a variety of occupations from housewives to doctors to teachers to celebs. Plus, let's face it, lots of us don't even watch commercials nowadays thanks to Tivo and DVR technology, but since we love to watch the Super Bowl live and the ads are almost always entertaining, we make an exception today and happily sit through the commercials. Another pro of advertising during the Super Bowl is the ads get play-time before and after the Super Bowl airing, either on TV or on the internet, and the best ones show up on all sorts of lists, whether in magazines, newspapers (like The USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter) on the local news, or on nationally syndicated shows for added punch.
Pop Secret, GoDaddy, Dodge, Doritos, movies Ironman 2 and The Last Airbender, Anheuser-Busch, and Mars Candies are among those we'll be seeing again this year, while we won't be seeing Pepsi, FedEx, GM, or Ford.
Many of these ads push the envelope, but some have to be reworked or are turned down. Here is the ad by KGB that was banned this year because it didn't adhere to CBS's standards. There were some others that were turned away or modified because of controversial content or questionable language.
My favorite ads are usually the really funny ones, like the ones for beer, but I also like the ones for new cars and ones made by everyday people (instead of professional advertising agencies), like Doritos. What are your favorites, and why?















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11. Man-ificent Monday: Super Bowl Edition #1

This week's ManMon is dedicated to cuties from teams who almost made it to the Super Bowl: Chicago Bears and New York Jets.

CHICAGO BEARS

Kahlil Bell, #32 Brian Urlacher, #54


NEW YORK JETS

Braylon Edwards, #17

Mark Sanchez, #6

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12. Man-ificent Monday: Super Bowl Edition #2

This week's cuties are from the 2 teams who made it to the Super Bowl: Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. Let me just say that, since my teams (Houston Texans and Chicago Bears) did not make it to Super Bowl XLV, I'm pulling for the Steelers. Let me also say, I've had an adult crush on Troy Polamalu since forever! Let me also also say, all three of these cutie pies have some very nice lips...I LOVE men with nice lips. *sigh* That is all...

Word(s) to Describe: Heavenly!

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Nick Barnett, #56 (injured)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Troy Polamalu, #43

Larry Foote, #50

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13. Ypulse Essentials: 'Glee' Goes To The Super Bowl, 'Jersey Shore' Spinoffs, Multiracial Youth

"Glee" star Matthew Morrison's (debut album gets a thumbs up from his costars, who compare his musical style to Justin Timberlake's. Fox is planning heavy "Glee" promotion during the Super Bowl, with Lea Michele performing at the game and a new... Read the rest of this post

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14. A post-racial NFL?



With Mike Tomlin on his way to his second Super Bowl in three years and with Black History Month upon us, this is an ideal time to examine the movement that broke down the color barrier at the top of National Football League’s coaching hierarchy and transformed the NFL into an unlikely equal opportunity trailblazer.  Moreover, as American institutions of all sorts, from the Association of Art Museum Directors to the National Urban League, contemplate the merits of emulating the NFL’s Rooney Rule, it is important to investigate what the NFL’s equal opportunity progress means to us as a nation. N. Jeremi Duru, author of Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL, explores this concept of a post-racial NFL.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Watch more videos from Oxford University Press.

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15. Tickle-Me Tuesday

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16. Economic Volatility, Hyper Consumption, and the “Wealth of Nations”

By Louis René Beres


Adam Smith published his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. A revolutionary book, Wealth did not aim to support the interests of any one particular class, but rather the overall well-being of an entire nation. He sought, as every American high-school student learns, “an invisible hand,” whereby “the private interests and passions of men” will lead to “that which is most agreeable to the interest of a whole society.”

Still, this system of “perfect liberty,” as he called it, could never be based upon encouragements of needless consumption. Instead, argued Smith, the laws of the market, driven by competition and a consequent “self-regulation,” actually demanded explicit disdain for any gratuitous or vanity-driven consumption.

What does this all mean for better understanding current economic dislocations and volatility? Above all, it suggests that modern commentators and pundits often speak in blithe disregard for Smith’s true beliefs, ignoring that his primary concern for consumption was always tempered and bounded by a genuine hatred for “conspicuous consumption” (a phrase to be used more pointedly by Thorsten Veblen in a later century).

For Adam Smith, it was only proper that the market regulate both the price and quantity of goods according to the final arbiter of public demand, yet, he continued, this market ought never to be manipulated by any avaricious interferers. In fact, Smith plainly excoriated all those who would artificially create or encourage any such contrived demand as mischievously vain meddlers of “mean rapacity.”

Today, of course, where engineered demand and hyper consumption are permanent and allegedly purposeful features of the market, especially here in the United States, we have lost all sight of Smith’s “natural liberty.” As a result, we try, foolishly and interminably, to build our economic recovery and vitality upon sand. Below the surface, we still fail to recognize, lurks a core problem that is not at all economic, fiscal or financial. Rather, as Adam Smith would have understood, it is a starkly psychological and deeply human dilemma.

Wall Street’s persisting fragility is largely a mirror image of Main Street’s insatiable drive toward hyper consumption. This manipulated drive, so utterly execrable to Adam Smith, has already become so overwhelming that many learned economists warn us sternly against saving too much.

If only we could all buy just a little more, they argue, life in America would be better. Retail sales are the authentic barometer of the “good life.”

Collectively, our national economic effort is always oriented, breathlessly, toward buying more. Many of our country’s troubling and troubled economic policies are a more-or-less direct consequence of this sorely misdirected effort. Until we can get an effective reversal of the frenetic public need for more and more things, any “recovery” will remain transient and partial.

Not from the start has contrived demand been a basic driving force of our economy. Obviously, before television and before our newer surrenders to an avalanche of high-tech gadgets, such demand would not have had any such compelling power. Nonetheless, for the foreseeable future, it will take herculean efforts to detach healthy patterns of consumption from a distressingly ceaseless barrage of advertisement.

At the recently-played Super

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17. Ypulse Essentials: Xbox Is The Future Of TV, Google+’s 17%, Sony’s Pre-Release Digital Downloads

Microsoft is billing its upgrade of the Xbox Live platform (as the “future of TV.” The new user interface comes with a wealth of content from video partners, including 26 live channels from Verizon Fios, thousands of On Demand options... Read the rest of this post

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18. Puppicasso Predictions #30

Puppicasso is always on the off-season.  He is fully into baseball mode today.

I can’t get him to give me his picks for the Puppi Bowl.

And he could care less who is singing in the Kitty Half-time show, even if he owns all of her albums.

This means you, Puppicasso!

He doesn’t care about reading signs, unless he wrote them himself.

He's a selective reader.

So, he dashes onto the baseball field.

So fast, he's a Fuzz Fly!

And plays every position…

Pupp Dugg Out

On the Pawball.

… and watches himself play ball from the stands.

Bleacher Bumpupp

And with a full count and one out left and bases loaded in the two-minute warning in the bottom of 9th quarter for sudden death penalty kicks and one more round and lap to go on the 18th hole…

Puppi in a pickle sliding and...

Stealing Home.

If home is where the heart is or somewhere adjacent, or even nearby then…

Puppicasso stole my heart home plate and the umpire called it safe (even if the ump still needs to sweep it up).


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19. Fred Patten Reviews Walt Kelly's Our Gang Volume 1, 1942-1943




Walt Kelly’s Our Gang. Vol. 1, 1942-1943

Author: Walt Kelly

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books

ISBN 10: 1-56097753-1

ISBN 13: 978-1-56097753-7

Walt Kelly is famous for his now-classic Pogo newspaper comic strip from 1948 until his death in 1973. Most cartoon fans know that Kelly began as an animator for Walt Disney, and that he wrote and drew funny-animal and fairy-tale comic books from 1941 until 1948. He actually began Pogo in comic-book form in 1941. Much of Kelly’s comic-book art has been reprinted over the last two decades, especially his Disney comics covers showing Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck in his own art style.

Kelly also wrote and drew a human comic-book series during the 1940s, around the Our Gang children film stars. Movie historian Leonard Maltin describes in an introductory “appreciation” how Dell/Western Publishing licensed in 1942 the rights to produce a comic book featuring all the MGM movie short series like the Tom & Jerry cartoons, and they chose the Our Gang stories to lead off the comic book – and hired cartoonist Kelly to produce them. MGM had bought Our Gang from the Hal Roach Studio in 1938, and by 1942 had lost interest in them, so Kelly had the creative freedom to interpret the kids in his own way. The 8- to 14-page stories in these first eight issues were very close to MGM’s last Our Gang one-reelers, based on publicity stills of the child actors and following the movies’ stereotypes. Maltin, and Kelly collector-historian Steve Thompson in his introduction, promise that later stories of the 59 in the series will show how Kelly evolved, having the movie Gang grow older and be replaced with new characters who were Kelly’s own, with realistic personalities rather than stereotypes.





This collection has several laudable goals: to show that Kelly could create excellent realistic human-character stories as well as funny-animal humor; to restore a missing dimension of the Our Gang works for those movies’ fans; and to present a nostalgic glimpse of children’s lives in America in the 1940s. As Steve Thompson says, “Not for them the over-organized and regimented sports, dance and music activities of today’s youth. In those days before ‘stranger danger’ and almost daily reports of child abductions, in all but the largest cities during summer, kids could disappear after breakfast, possibly return for lunch, and then vanish again until supper, without panicking their parents.” (I can confirm this. I am in my late sixties now, and I grew up in Los Angeles rather than an Eastern small town, but I had the same juvenile freedom to just “mess around” outdoors all day with my playmates as long as we stayed out of trouble.) It may be personal nostalgia for my own youth, but I found Walt Kelly’s Our Gang vol. 1 to be thoroughly delightful.

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20.

Children's Authors and Illustrators Week...

There's an exciting event coming up, and I'm not talking about the Super Bowl. (Go Patriots! Actually I don't really care who wins, although an undefeated season sounds kinda fun. I'm just excited about the Big Sandwich--vegetarian for me--and the guacamole.)

I'm talking about Children's Authors and Illustrators Week which my loves-to-send-me-links brother clued me in on. Why is this not on my Madeline calendar in my office?

I love the idea of a week devoted to creators of book for young readers visiting those readers. Here's what the California-based Children's Authors Network says about CAIW:

During this annual event, acclaimed authors and illustrators from Children’s Authors Network (CAN!) visit schools, libraries, and children’s shelters all over the country. Lively storytelling, fascinating presentations, and hands-on writing workshops make books spring to life, and inspire a life-long love of reading and writing.
I say we turn CAIW into a national holiday! Even if you just heard about CAIW, you can still celebrate in your own way. Visit a bookstore or a library with some tiny little readers. Start a new YA novel on Monday. Devote next week to mailing out your own manuscripts. (Make a Big Sandwich in the shape of J.K. Rowling.)

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21. Rooting--and Writing--for the Underdog

It’s hard to live in the New York area this week without being swept up in the delirium brought about by the victory of the New York Giants over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. Anyone who loves an underdog can’t help but be impressed by the team that came away with a victory against the previously undefeated Goliaths of football. And the individual stories of many Giants reinforce their underdog status. Quarterback Eli Manning was the little brother, trying to emulate his champion sibling but being met by doubters all along the way. Plaxico Burress, who caught the winning touchdown pass, played all year despite debilitating ankle and knee injuries. Coach Tom Coughlin barely escaped with his job at the end of last season, when his team racked up an unimpressive record of eight wins and eight losses.

As an author who writes about sports and women’s history, I have a soft spot for underdogs. Indeed, most of the people I write about were underdogs who triumphed, defying expectations and social mores to make their mark in the world. Annie Oakley first came to fame by defeating her future husband in a shooting exhibition she was expected to lose. The women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) staked their claim to the American pastime despite an initially skeptical public. Nellie Bly, the subject of one of my next books, broke into New York’s old boy newspaper network despite editors who came right out and told her they wouldn’t trust a woman to cover anything but society events.

Underdogs make good stories, especially when the readers are kids, who often feel disenfranchised themselves. If they can see their struggles reflected in those of the people in my books, the past suddenly seems relevant, and reading about history isn’t a turnoff. And the points of identification don’t have to be obvious. While girls have embraced the female baseball players of the AAGPBL, I often find that boys are more animated and ask more questions when I give talks about the league. Boys who play sports relate to the women as athletes, and love the opportunity to measure their own experiences against those of the Chicks, Peaches, and Daisies.

Fortunately for both authors and readers, history is full of victorious underdogs whose lives and deeds are ripe for examination. Patriots fans can even take heart that in 1781, the ragtag Revolutionary War soldiers who inspired the name of their modern-day football team came away with a clutch victory against the giants of Great Britain. That was definitely an underdog triumph for the ages.

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