Friday, May 31, 2024

Andy Young: A half-dozen hundreds

By Andy Young

Here’s the latest sign my eyesight might not be what it once was. I bought a book of stamps at my local post office one day a couple of months ago, but when I got home realized I didn't need them right away, as I already had an entire unused sheet. Eventually I used up the old ones, so last week I finally pulled out the stamps I had purchased back in late March. I couldn’t tell if what was pictured on them were the Northern Lights or a watermelon, so I put on my glasses. They were tulip bulbs.

Actresses Diana Rigg, left, and Natalie Wood
were both born on July 20, 1938.
Regardless of optical shortcomings, I enjoy having a platform on which to share my ideas, or what passes for them, on a weekly basis. But it isn’t easy to write exactly 600 words on any one particular topic. There’s a whole lot of subjects I know virtually nothing about. Take technology, for example. I don’t do any social media, and recently when an electronically adept individual I work with at school showed me an “app” that documents how much time a person uses their Smartphone, it revealed I’m on mine for an average of just under eight minutes a day.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson died earlier this month at age 86. Not 82-year-old Jimmy Johnson, who coached the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowl victories in the early 1990s. The just-departed Johnson was a standout cornerback who played 16 seasons for the San Francisco 49ers from 1961 to 1976. Yet despite his impressive resume, the late Mr. Johnson wasn’t even the best athlete in his own family. That honor rightly belongs to his older brother Rafer, who was considered by many to be the world’s greatest athlete after winning the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympics.

It’s possible Rafer Johnson was destined to stand out. He was born Aug. 18, 1934, the same day of the same year as Vincent Bugliosi, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney who successfully prosecuted 105 of his 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder cases, one of which involved the infamous Charles Manson “Family.” Also born that day: Roberto Clemente, the first Puerto Rican major league baseball superstar, who perished at age 38 when the plane he was on, loaded with relief supplies for the victims of a Nicaraguan earthquake, plunged into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Eve in 1972.

Many famous people were born on the same day of the same year. Take, for example, Dec. 29, 1936, the birth date of entertainer Mary Tyler Moore and Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke. Or Jan. 30, 1937, when British actress Vanessa Redgrave and Russian chess champion Boris Spassky were born. Hall of fame hockey star Stan Mikita and professional baseball home run king Sadaharu Oh both began life on May 20, 1940. Actresses Diana Rigg and Natalie Wood shared a birth date (July 20, 1938), as do current entertainers Angela Bassett and Madonna (Aug. 16, 1958).

In my opinion no single event last week merited 600 words. However, having internet access made it possible to consult various reasonably reliable sources, which allowed me to further explore subjects ranging from declining eyesight to the Northern Lights. Reading about Jimmy Johnson led to Rafer Johnson, which led to Roberto Clemente and Vincent Bugliosi, which led to Mary Tyler Moore, Ray Nitschke and all those other famous people born on the same day. That ultimately generated six 100-word paragraphs, or a half-dozen 100-word mini-essays. All of which makes me wonder if perhaps I really am addicted to technology after all. <

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