Friday, March 25, 2022

Insight: Advice to my older self

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I sit on the board of directors of a nonprofit organization here in Maine and attended what was supposed to be a one-hour meeting last Saturday that suddenly turned into a two-and-a-half hour meeting courtesy of some chatty participants who couldn’t stop talking and socializing. 

If I would have known that in advance, I probably would have found an excuse not to go or at the very least, reminded the meeting’s moderator that my time is too valuable to sit there for hours listening to inane chatter, gossip and the best colors to paint a powder room.

That got me to thinking about what advice I would like to have been given years ago to help me make better decisions in the future.

Without further fanfare, here’s my list of advice that I wish I would have received in the past:

** It’s wonderful to be entertained but be ready for a let-down at the end. From the very first episode of the television show “Lost” I was hooked. The premise was survivors of a plane crash on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean try to discover why a mysterious invisible entity is stalking them in the jungle. Among the group of survivors is a troubled physician, a con man, a pregnant woman, a British rock star, a female fugitive, a married couple from South Korea, a wheelchair-bound employee of a box factory who can suddenly walk, a morbidly obese lottery winner and an Iraqi torture expert.

Each week brought new suspense and intrigue as more survivors were found, the cast expanded and a group of hostile individuals were discovered trying to infiltrate and abduct the plane crash survivors. This went on for six seasons, a total of 121 one-hour episodes that I sat glued to the television watching until the series finale in 2010.

Without revealing the ending for those who haven’t yet watched the program, I wish someone would have advised me to not invest so many hours trying to figure out “Lost.” The writers could have taken so many different routes to wrap it all up but for me I was disappointed with how they ultimately chose to bring the series to a conclusion. I spent hours just thinking about possible explanations for that show and now looking back at it, I have determined that my time could have been used much more productively. Advice to older self – Mysteries that can’t be solved in a reasonable amount of time might not be worth pursuing.

** Impulse purchases have never really worked out for me. As an example, I cite an oven that my wife and I bought at a Home Depot on a Black Friday several years ago. It looked good at the store and the price was within our budget. The previous oven had died the day before midway through cooking our Thanksgiving turkey and we were determined to obtain a replacement as soon as possible. Several weeks later the oven was delivered and the old one was hauled away.

During her traditional holiday cookie baking sessions using the new oven later that same week, my wife discovered that the oven tended to squeak when heating up and cooling down. Seems the heating element rests on the oven floor on top of a flimsy piece of aluminum. After a visit from the appliance repairman as the oven was under warranty, he said it was a design flaw and nothing could be done.

Email exchanges with Home Depot said they only sell the appliances and that design problems needed to be addressed with the manufacturer. I reached out to the manufacturer, and they refused to replace the oven or give me my money back to purchase another appliance that didn’t squeak.

Going online, I read more than 300 reviews of that same make and model of oven that all recommended against purchasing it because of design issues. I usually do read product reviews but for some reason I didn’t in this case. Now almost three years later, every time we turn the oven on or off, we’re subjected to non-stop highly annoying squeaking. Advice to my older self – Always read product reviews when making a major purchase.

** I once had to interview a 95-year-old veteran for an article I was writing about him. He arrived at my office for the interview and brought a 15-year-old girl with him. The 15-year-old also happened to be nine months pregnant. She sat there silently when I asked the 95-year-old questions for my newspaper article about his experiences in Burma during World War II.

At the end of my interview, I reached for my camera and made the mistake of asking if I could take a photograph to accompany my article of the 95-year-old man and his granddaughter. Unfortunately for me, the 95-year-old turned to me and said, “That’s not my granddaughter, that’s my new wife.” I turned red and apologized profusely. Advice to my older self – Never make suppositions about someone’s age or marital status.

I sure wish I could undo some of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. I offer this advice freely to my older self. < 

Andy Young: A Special day for the Average Joe

By Andy Young

Were Doris Day still alive, the famed actress/animal rights activist would have turned 100 years old early next month.

But even taking her demise three years ago into account, contemporary America has far too many Days. More specifically, there are an excessive number of “National ____________ (Fill in the blank) Days.”

There’s no need for National Laundry Day (April 15th), National Asparagus Day (May 24th), National Fresh Breath Day (August 6th), or National Butterscotch Pudding Day (September 19th). What doesn’t have its own day? National Poison Ivy Day, National Cannibalism Day, and National Deal Drugs to Elementary Schoolers Day shouldn’t exist, but it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if they did.

So why, with all these obscure, superfluous celebrations, isn’t there a day that the average Joe can enjoy?

In fact, there is.

This Sunday, March 27, is National Joe Day. I’m not making this up. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself:

Why National Joe Day?

The Bible states that the original Joseph (he of the Technicolor Dreamcoat) was sold into slavery by his 11 jealous male siblings, but later escaped and ended up as second in command in Egypt. That alone is enough reason for National Joe Day, but the second of Jacob’s 12 sons is hardly the only individual named Joe to distinguish himself.

Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church. Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, is acknowledged to be one of the greatest-ever novelists to write in the English language despite not speaking it fluently until he was in his 20’s. More recently, another Joe (Biden) was elevated to the nominal leadership of the free world.

Joes have stood out in the athletic arena since the dawn of organized sports. Joe Louis and Joe Frazier each held the world heavyweight boxing championship back when America cared about such things, and the same title was held in the funny papers for many years by Joe Palooka. And speaking of
fictional Joes, let’s not omit Snoopy’s sunglasses-wearing alter ego. Joe Cool made James Dean, the Fonz, and even G. I. Joe all look like awkward nerds by comparison.

Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio is one of a dozen Joes enshrined in the national pastime’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The others: Joe Torre, Joe Tinker, Joe Cronin, Joe Medwick, Smokey Joe Williams, Joe Kelley, Joe Morgan, Joe McGinnity, Joe McCarthy, Joe Sewell, and Joe Gordon.

Joe Namath quarterbacked a team to a Super Bowl victory. Joe Montana later accomplished the same feat four times. Joe Gibbs, Joe Schmidt, Joe Carr, Joe DeLamielleure, Indian Joe Guyon, Joe the Jet Perry, and Mean Joe Greene are the seven other Joes in Professional Football’s Hall of Fame.

Joe Lapchick, Joe Fulks, Joe Dumars, and Joe Brennan are Basketball Hall of Famers, and Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Primeau, Joe Sakic, and Bad Joe Hall all have plaques at professional hockey’s shrine in Toronto.

Not every Joe is worthy of celebrating. No one should honor Joe Stalin, Joe Goebbels, or Joe McCarthy, the 1950’s-era U.S. Senator censured by his colleagues for actions which, if he performed them today, would likely net him a seven-figure annual salary as a bomb-throwing talking head for any one of several cable television news channels.

An appropriate celebration of National Joe Day includes having a Sloppy Joe (perhaps purchased at Trader Joe’s) and washing it down with a good strong Cup of Joe.

But don’t forget the annual holiday six Sundays from this one, when the world rightfully salutes the most important Joe of all.

Joe Ma
ma. <

Friday, March 18, 2022

Insight: Waiting for the other shoe to drop

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

American humorist Will Rogers once said that the older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for. 

As someone who lived through the gasoline shortage created by the oil embargo in 1973, I’m not panicking as the price of a gallon of gas continues to skyrocket now some 49 years later. Back then, I was paying 36 cents a gallon and when the embargo struck it immediately rose to 55 cents a gallon, absolute highway robbery, or so I thought. 

I recall some of my friends and neighbors getting up before sunrise and driving to wait for four or more hours to top off their tanks. It all seemed counterproductive to me at the time as the most fuel-efficient automobiles were getting about 12 miles per gallon and I refused to resort to waiting in a long line just to pump gas.

From my viewpoint, there are things I’ve had to wait in line for and some I’d rather not.

Just about six months after the gas shortage lines hit America in 1973, I found myself in a line that stretched for more than two city blocks in the bitter cold in January 1974 waiting to get into the Highland Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico to see a movie called “The Exorcist.” 

Day after day images on local television news showed people in lines trying to purchase a ticket to watch the film and unfortunately, I too fell victim to the madness and lined up on a Saturday afternoon for my chance to experience what could only be described as a “cultural phenomenon.”

Years later I recall very little about the film other than actress Linda Blair spitting up what looked like pea-green soup and her head spinning 360 degrees around in some sort of camera trick. But I can say I waited in line for about four hours to get into the theater to see the movie and I will probably never do that again.

Another long line I stood in was the electronic vaccination line during U.S. Air Force basic training in 1977 at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Had no choice but to do that as I was following orders of our squadron’s training instructor.

For more than an hour, I stood outside an airplane hangar as part of two lines waiting to receive shots. As we got to the hangar door, we were told to remove our Air Force fatigue shirts and walk slowly through a gauntlet waiting ahead.

There were nurses and doctors standing on both sides of me holding electronic vaccination devices. At each station I received two vaccinations, one in each arm and then walked to the next station. In all that day I received 12 vaccinations for everything from tetanus to polio and by the time I reached the sixth and final station, my arms felt like Ray Bolger’s in The Wizard of Oz, completely made of straw.

You knew it was challenging when you got to the other side of the hangar and the Air Force had airmen standing by to pick you up in the event you passed out from receiving so many vaccinations all at once.

Since then, I’ve endured waiting at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, paying Maine Turnpike tolls, getting a homestead tax exemption, the buffet line for wedding guests, the grocery checkout line, and for the cable television installer to show up within a prescribed four-hour window.

On Election Day in 2020, my wife and I showed up after 5 p.m. to vote and since it was a drizzling rain and somewhat chilly, we expected not to have to wait in line outside for very long. That turned into a wait of almost two hours standing in line to cast our votes and do our patriotic duty. And we weren’t alone, as even as we were leaving the voting precinct, the line waiting outside to vote had doubled.        

Last fall I had a long wait in my vehicle for a roadside assistance technician to show up two hours after I called when my car wouldn’t start. He spent all of five minutes telling me he didn’t know what the problem was and gave me the number of a tow-truck operator to haul my car to the mechanic’s shop.

The technician apologized for running behind as he had six callers in a row seeking roadside help. Within a matter of minutes after he left, the tow truck company I had called arrived to rescued me from being stranded. My mechanic diagnosed the problem right away as being a dead battery and I was back on the road quickly.

I’ll admit that waiting patiently for almost anything has never been easy for me. I detest being put on hold on the telephone or sitting in the drive-through teller’s line at the bank.

As I’ve gotten older, I guess I’d much rather be in line to walk through the turnstiles at a ballpark than in a line waiting to fill my car with gas.

As the old proverb says, time waits for no one. So please go on ahead without me. <    

Andy Young: Mole people and melonheads

By Andy Young

I’ve never had any problem with sleeplessness.  

Whatever nighttime issues I’ve had over the years haven’t involved insomnia, but rather falling asleep when I shouldn’t. Thanks to card games, intramural basketball, and other less wholesome late-night activities I frequently engaged in during my three freshman years of college, I developed the inconvenient habit of involuntarily catching up on shuteye during daylight hours, unseen and/or ignored by a droning professor at the front of the lecture hall whose voice sounded, as I nodded off, similar to the one Charlie Brown’s teacher had in those long-ago “Peanuts” TV specials. (“Wah-wah,wah wah wah wah wah wahhhhhhhhh.”)

Later on, while serving as a radio announcer with Portland’s professional baseball team, I was generally asleep before the bus left the parking lot on the morning, we’d be starting a road trip of anywhere from three to twelve hours, even after getting a full night of rest. And today, as people who have traveled any distance with me in a car can affirm, when I’m the driver I’m reasonably engaging company. But give me ten minutes of riding shotgun, and it’s a sure thing I’ll pass out.   

So, it was uncharacteristic one night last week when I woke up in the middle of the night to answer a call from nature, but was subsequently unable to return to unconsciousness right away. As an inexperienced insomniac with nothing else to do (and no one else to do it with) at that hour, I decided to try something novel: thinking.

And the first idea that popped into my mind was: what if all human beings were nocturnal? Imagine if everyone was programmed to work at night and hibernate during the daytime. Downtown districts would be deserted at high noon; parks and highways would be empty at that hour, too. There probably wouldn’t be any need for streetlights, or headlights, for that matter since our DNA would have us effortlessly seeing in the dark. Maybe we’d all look like humanoid moles, folks who supposedly have existed for generations in subterranean sanctuaries like abandoned subway tunnels, heating ducts, or mine shafts.

I’m not sure I’d like being a Mole Person. The concept of beauty would have to be different if humans were mole people, because moles are just about the homeliest creatures on the planet. One of their close relatives, the Naked Mole Rat, is bucktoothed, pigmentless, and nearly blind. Naked Mole Rats make Proboscis Monkeys look like Victoria’s Secret models by comparison.

Subsequent research reveals the existence of a 1956 sci-fi/horror film called The Mole People. One of its stars was Hugh Beaumont, who later played Ward Cleaver in the long-running TV show Leave it to Beaver. If Wally and the Beav had known that their dad once helped enslave bizarrely disfigured Sumerian albinos as mushroom pickers, they’d have been in counseling for sure.

The presence of Mole People near where I grew up was something of an urban legend, as was the existence of the Melonheads, a mini tribe allegedly living at the end of a nearby dead-end dirt road that no one had ever gone to the end of. Those in the know said the Melonheads lived in a sort of Kennedy Compound for mutants. Their freakishly oversized noggins were allegedly shaped like cantaloupes because, according to legend, no one had left the homestead for generations, and as a result of inbreeding their collective gene pool had become perilously shallow.

I’d have loved to learn more about Mole People and Melonheads the other night, but fate intervened before I could turn on my computer.

I fell back to sleep. <

Friday, March 11, 2022

Insight: Weighing my options

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I admit it, there are times where I struggle with indecision. Faced with a dizzying array of options and choices for nearly every subject or issue, making the right selection has never been easy for me. 

It seems that I’m not alone in sizing up this dilemma. Results are in from the American Psychological Association’s annual survey of things that stress Americans out and about one-third of survey respondents listed “making a basic decision” as an issue they struggle with every day.

For those of us in this category, we can spend hours just perusing lists of television shows to stream on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney, or Apple+ channels. With that much content and programs to focus in on, indecision reigns supreme.

At times my wife has taken to reading a book while I scroll through the menu for Netflix. If I go over five minutes to choose something, she’ll stop and remind me that we’ve already watched a selection I’m pondering over.

Typically, I’ll fall into a routine of watching a television series to simplify my choice, but when we’ve watched all the episodes available, then once again I’m back to the indecisiveness of having to select another one.

The same struggle ensues when I hit the ice cream aisle at the supermarket. There are so many flavors, so many brands and so many options that come into play when I open that freezer door to make a choice of what to purchase and take home.

For my parents, the choice of what half gallon of ice cream to pick was always easy. My mother preferred vanilla and my father enjoyed strawberry while my brother and I liked chocolate. Therefore, when it came time for my parents to choose a selection for ice cream at the grocery store, they always picked “Neapolitan” with all three flavors included.

Through the years, I’ve found that opening the closet door to pick out items to wear for each day to also be a difficult task. I know enough to try and coordinate colors but have little fashion sense otherwise.

Between choosing a pullover sweater, a V-neck sweater, a button-down collared shirt, or a Henley collar shirt gives me the “Willies.” Do I wear jeans or pants, plaid or corduroy, long sleeve, or short sleeve?

No matter what clothing options are available to me, it is never an easy choice for me to make.

That’s why I preferred my clothing options when I served in the U.S. Air Force. There I had just two simple choices. If it was a formal occasion or I had to work indoors, I wore our blue uniform. For working outside, I wore our green fatigue uniform.

Imagine my indecision while driving and wanting to listen to music on the radio. My Hyundai Sonata came equipped with a Sirius XM radio system with thousands of channels available to me.

Early on, I chose to preset my car radio to avoid listening to thousands of snippets of songs or conversations and constantly fiddling with the radio dial to find something to settle on.

Even doing that, I’m torn between listening to commercial-free 1960s music, 1970s music, 1980s music, 1990s music, The Highway (country music), and an all-news channel or the Major League Baseball channel. There are only six preset buttons on my radio dial and during the summer, I’ve also been known to listen to live baseball games being broadcasted if I make a long drive somewhere.

As a newspaper editor, I have frequently questioned selections I have been forced to make regarding photographs that appear in the paper. Many times, it’s clear what choice to make for publication, but when it’s not, second-guessing can create genuine turmoil for me in wondering if I have chosen the right one or not.

No matter what the subject or the issue, having to make a decision on deadline for the newspaper is never easy when I have an assortment of great photographs to select from.

Every day the responsibility to make an immediate decision can be mind boggling when you are indecisive.

I had to get stamps at the post office and the clerk asked me which stamps I preferred, flags, sunflowers, squirrels, Women’s History Month, blueberries, or the Lunar New Year were available and a line half a mile long was standing and waiting behind me.

Imaging looking over the immense greeting card selection at Walmart or Walgreens for Valentine’s Day and trying to decide which card is right for this year? Or looking at a Chinese restaurant menu online and trying to select the right type of soup to go with my choice of meal.

As I’ve gotten older, a lot of my decision making is based upon experience or comes down to flipping a coin. I’ve also been known to take some time to think things over and weigh all the possibilities and potential outcomes when I have a difficult decision to make regarding a work situation. My inner voice always tries to convince myself that I’m confident in the choices that I must make no matter what.    

Now to determine what to fix for dinner tonight. Or not. <  

Andy Young: Time to Complain

By Andy Young

Once a year everyone should get the opportunity to angrily sound off about things they’re displeased or dissatisfied with. And what better time to do so than right now? This Sunday morning at 2 a.m. the clocks get set forward by an hour in order to switch over to Daylight Saving Time. That reduces the coming weekend to a mere 47 hours. 

For openers, why change the clocks on a Sunday morning? People enjoy weekends. Why not spring forward at 12 noon on a Monday instead? 

Which reminds me: winter is too long, everyone except me is lazy, and the cost of living is out of control.

Food is crazy expensive. Gassing the car up weekly requires at least an arm and a leg. My resource-squandering kids take showers that last longer than 30 seconds, which blows up my water bill. And Internet/cell phone providers have involuntarily technology-addicted citizens (all of us) permanently over the proverbial fiscal barrel. 

Everyone who drives behind me on two-lane roads goes too fast, and everyone in front of me crawls along too slowly. The speed limit on the Maine Turnpike is too low, but it’s too high on streets in and around my neighborhood. In addition, the air is getting polluted because of all the dopes idling for ten minutes in the drive-up line at Aroma Joe’s waiting for an overpriced hit of caffeine that they’re too lazy to make at home.

My house is too cold in the winter, and the price of heating oil is skyrocketing. The house is also too hot in the summer, and the cost of electricity is exorbitant. 

My eyes hurt. My hip smarts. I can’t always hear what people are saying. My feet ache. My ribs hurt. My nose runs.

Which brings me, literally, to doctors. I’m seeing a cardiologist for my heart, a dermatologist for my skin, an optometrist for my eyes, and a taxidermist for my taxes. Then there’s the dentist, who’s upgrading the plumbing on his yacht thanks to my crumbling bridgework and my kids’ cavities. 

Major league baseball team owners are entitled, avaricious plutocrats, and major league baseball players are spoiled, greedy, aspiring plutocrats. National Football League team owners make their baseball brethren look like George Peabody. Even more galling, few Americans have even heard of George Peabody, and most lack the intellectual curiosity necessary to even find out who he was.

And don’t get me started on our government, which can’t do anything right. First, they made us get vaccinated against a potentially deadly virus. Then they made us wear masks everywhere, and all the time, too. Now they’re relaxing the mask mandates too early, putting us at risk of infection from all the unvaccinated potential Typhoid Marys (or Typhoid Aaron Rodgerses) out there.

The government spends too much on defense. And another thing: it’s shameful how underpaid the brave soldiers and sailors who defend our once-great nation are. Our federally maintained highways are rutted, pothole-plagued disgraces, but the government better not raise tolls!

And speaking of taxes, they are out of control! How are law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, teachers, and other public servants supposed to make ends meet with the exorbitant fees the government forces them to pay? I say we eliminate taxes (and the government) entirely! 

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to list all of my complaints this weekend, and all because some long-ago government bureaucrat stole an hour of it! I’d love to know the name of the creep responsible for Daylight Saving Time. I probably should look it up.

Nah. That’d be too much work.<

Bill Diamond: Expanding protections for survivors

By Senator Bill Diamond

I’ve written a lot here recently about efforts to reform Maine’s child protection program and my bills that aim to make important changes to the system. 

While it’s critical that we prevent abuse from happening however we can, it’s also important we support survivors of abuse so that they can live full and happy lives. That’s the aim of another bill I’m sponsoring this year, LD 1943, which would expand access to a little-known program that helps survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking stay safe. Today, I want to share some information about this bill and this program with you, in the hopes that more survivors can take advantage of the resources that are available to them.

The program is called the Address Confidentiality Program, and it helps survivors live their lives without worrying about their abusers tracking them down.

Many states have a version of this program, and in Maine it’s administered by the Secretary of State’s office. The office works to make sure that the addresses of survivors are not discoverable by abusers in public records by helping survivors manage documents such as driver’s licenses, voter registration, car registration and more. The office also receives all mail for those in the program and acts as a confidential mail forwarding service.

This way, survivors don’t need to reveal their home address in the course of their daily lives, instead, they use an address in the Secretary of State’s office, and the office sends them their mail safely and securely.

My bill would expand this program to two other important groups of survivors: Those who have been victims of human trafficking and children who have been kidnapped. I was asked to sponsor the bill by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an organization you’ve probably heard of before. NCMEC was founded by John and Revé Walsh, whose six-year-old son Adam was kidnapped from a Florida department store in 1981 and murdered. Since their family’s horrible tragedy, the Walshes have dedicated their lives to helping prevent child victimization and finding missing children. You may also know John as the host of the television program “America’s Most Wanted.” 

NCMEC is working with several states to expand the eligibility for the Address Confidentiality Program. Similar to domestic violence and sexual assault victims, victims of trafficking and child abduction live in fear that their abuser might find them, harass and potentially harm them again.

It’s critical that victims of these crimes have access to this important safety tool as part of their overall safety plan. The bill has the support of Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, the Maine Prosecutors Association and Maine’s Attorney General, and I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to expand this program to cover more people who need it.

About 250 Mainers currently participate in the program, but not everyone who could benefit from the program even knows it exists. To learn more about the Address Confidentiality Program, visit

Organizations that are trained in supporting survivors act as application assistants to help people apply for the program. You can find a list of all application assistants at the website above, but for our area, you can contact the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine or Through These Doors, Cumberland County’s domestic violence resource center, for more information. You can contact SARSSM about the program by calling (207) 828-1035, visiting their website at, or using their free, private, 24-hour crisis and support helpline at 1-800-871-7741. Through These Doors can be contacted at, (207) 874-1973 or on their 24-hour helpline, 1-800-537-6066.

Spreading awareness of resources like this is the best way to make sure the people who need help get it. If you have any questions about my bill or need help finding resources, please reach out to me any time. You can send me an email at or call my office at (207) 287-1515. You can also sign up for my regular e-newsletter by visiting <

Friday, March 4, 2022

Insight: Full-court presses and triple-doubles

University Arena, also known as 'The Pit,' is located in
Albuquerque, New Mexico and is home to the
University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team.
By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Since my first day of high school, I have been fascinated by the game of basketball.

On my first tour of the brand-new school building my sophomore year, I discovered that there was just something spectacular about the shiny hardwood flooring, the bleachers, the scoreboard, and scorer’s table. Somehow standing there I knew deep down inside that’s where I wanted to be eventually for a career, although it didn’t quite turn out as I expected. 

I loved everything about basketball and the talent it took to play the sport. Unfortunately, my athletic talent was lacking and so my Rush-Henrietta High School coach, Gene Monje, asked me to serve the team in another way and it was something I was good at, keeping the scorebook.

Sitting at the scorer’s table at midcourt next to the timekeeper gave me the best vantage point in the gym to watch the games and it was an important responsibility to tally points, fouls and minutes played in each contest.

As I would arrive for each game, I would pause in the doorway to the gym and just take in the atmosphere, which included the crowd noise, the sound of team’s bouncing the basketball on the floor while warming up, the cheerleaders, the smell of the popcorn machine and the uncertainty of what was about to unfold.

Moving on to college after high school, I found the gymnasium at my first college, New Mexico Highlands University, to be more of a cavern than my high school was. It was much larger and a less intimate setting. It always seemed to be colder there, and the bleachers were much farther away from the floor than I expected them to be.

Only a few hundred fans would attend each home game unlike my high school’s games where every seat in the gym was occupied no matter the opponent.

After leaving that college to transfer to the larger University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, I quickly became a fan of their legendary basketball facility, University Arena, also known as “The Pit.” It was an amazing place with around 18,000 seats of screaming fans that during games created a decibel level rivaled only by the noise of a Saturn V rocket lifting off.

“The Pit” had been built by digging down into a mesa, or a plateau, with the basketball floor sitting on the bottom. There was not a bad seat in the house, and it was an intimidating a place to play for opponents.

During my first stint attending college there, I became a fan of the team, known as the UNM Lobos, and they were led by one of my American History classmates, a tall fellow who had the longest arms I’ve ever seen, Michael Cooper. He later went on to win five NBA championships in the 1980s as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After serving for eight years in the U.S. Air Force and coaching our squadron’s team in Germany, I eventually returned to college at New Mexico and joined the staff of the school newspaper, the New Mexico Daily Lobo, as sports editor in 1986. One of the tasks of the position was to cover college basketball games for the newspaper at “The Pit.”

I found I had come full circle from my high school years. New Mexico was hosting the Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball championship tournament that season and I had a floor seat to some of the best basketball played in the country that year.

Just a few seasons before that in 1983 in "The Pit," Jim Valvano’s North Carolina State Wolfpack team had defeated the Houston Cougars in the last seconds to win the title, 54-52, in a game many remember. Had to pinch myself at times to assure myself that I now stood on the exact same floor interviewing college players who were soon to be drafted for careers in the NBA.

Before the tournament’s title game that year between Wyoming and New Mexico, I recall closing my eyes and just standing there listening to the crowd getting pumped for the big game. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” I thought.

In my professional career in journalism, I have found myself in many different gyms through the years covering basketball games. Each facility is different, and I’ve been blessed to witness and write about many exciting games, outstanding teams, and wonderful people I’ve met along the way.

Last fall during my 50th high school reunion, I got to go back to my high school and tour the school with some of my fellow classmates. The gym where I first fell in love with the game of basketball in 1968 is no longer there, having been replaced in 2013 with a new expanded gymnasium with the walls covered by some of the championship banners my classmates won decades ago.

James Naismith is credited with inventing basketball in 1891 as a way for students to stay active in winter months and on rainy days. For me though, basketball has certainly been one of the mainstays of my life, given me a lifelong career and memorable experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.  <        

Andy Young: A Toast to J.C. Martin

By Andy Young

Some time ago someone I trust told me that beginning every day with an eight-ounce glass of water was a good idea.  

Later another credible source informed me that adding a teaspoon of vinegar to that water before drinking it was even healthier. I’m guessing she knew what she was talking about, because water with vinegar in it tastes so nasty that it has to be exceptionally beneficial! Anyway, starting my morning with that particular potion has become a daily ritual for me.

Not every habit is healthy, though. During the 14 years I spent riding buses with professional baseball teams I couldn’t help noticing the number of players with a circular protrusion of about two inches in diameter in one of the rear pockets of their uniform pants.

The size and shape of the lump was familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why any ballplayer would carry a hockey puck with him, particularly since many of those sporting the round bulge were from places like Florida, Texas, and Venezuela, none of which are hockey hotbeds. It turned out, though, that those disc-shaped indentations were made not by vulcanized rubber discs, but by cans of snuff.

Reputable dental hygienists everywhere swear there is no nastier habit than chewing tobacco and/or dipping snuff. Many people consider sitting around a poker table surrounded by six men continuously spitting brown liquid into bottles that formerly contained soft drinks utterly repulsive.

However, it’s better than sitting in a room with even one cigarette smoker, whose vice fills the lungs of those around them with carcinogens. Some might find the continuous expectorations of dippers and chewers off-putting, but the fact is bystanders (or bysitters) don’t have to ingest their second-hand saliva.

One of the most popular brands of smokeless chewing tobacco is Skoal, which is a Danish word of Norse origin that today is most often used as a toast, often (ironically) to one’s health.

Toasting prior to quaffing reminds me of, well, drinking. And that makes me think of J.C. Martin, a major league baseball catcher who spent parts of 14 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs. The five-game 1969 World Series took an aggregate total of 11 hours and 43 minutes to play, and while Martin appeared on the field for only one of those minutes, he played a huge role in the Mets defeating the favored Baltimore Orioles for the championship that year. And while I’d love to relate the details of J. C.’s incredible heroics here, the only people (both of them) still reading this who are interested in such things undoubtedly already know the story.

Anyway, when I was young and impressionable, I learned something fascinating about Mr. Martin while reading a baseball magazine. The article stated that he neither smoked nor drank, which I found both impressive and puzzling. I knew that not smoking was both wise and admirable, but not drinking? Surely that was a misprint.

Even at a single-digit age I assumed all humans needed to drink periodically if they wished to continue existing. After all, even the camel (AKA “The Ship of the Desert”) had to hydrate every couple of weeks or so. It was only much later on that I learned the difference between drinking and “drinking.” 

I wonder if J. C. Martin, who is now 85 years old, starts his days with a glass of water that contains a teaspoon of vinegar. I’d love to have a drink with the guy, and if I ever get the chance, I know exactly what I’ll say to him.

Skoal! <