The Bard by Any Other Name

by Bob Sparrow

Just a friendly reminder that there’s a special birthday coming up at the end of this week, on Saturday, April 23rd.  No, don’t worry that you only have a few shopping days left, he’s virtually impossible to shop for, plus . . . he’s dead.  Coincidently, he died on his birthday in 1616.  Yes, it’s my old friend, William Shakespeare.  OK, he’s really not my old friend, I’m old, but not that old!  Like most of us, I was introduced to ‘The Bard’ in high school.  I remember sleeping through class, as English teacher, Miss O’Brien, droned on about a guy who, I think, sold deer meat, called ‘The Merchant of Venison’.  I clearly wasn’t paying much attention during most of my high school years.  That fact was recently brought to my attention on a Zoom call with a number of my former high school classmates, a few weeks ago.  Our former student body president, Billy Dale Hall, who was on the call and reads our blog, said, in a most respectful way, something like, “I’m surprised that you write a blog, could you even write in high school?”  OK, maybe it wasn’t that respectful, but to his point, I could barely read in high school.

Dr. Viola Chapman

Fast forward to Westminster College where I was fortunate enough to ‘have’ to take a literature class from a Dr. Viola Chapman (Yes, in this photo she looks a bit like Norman Bates’ mother, but she was a really good teacher); fortunately, I had discovered a love of reading a year or so earlier, and in her class, I was learning to recognize and appreciate good literature.  Before I graduated, I had taken every class in English and American literature that Dr. Chapman taught, and ended up with a minor in English.  I was particularly drawn to Shakespeare because she made him so interesting.  Thank you, Viola!!

After reading most of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets and visiting his house in Stratford-upon-Avon, England (he wasn’t home), I started reading things about how Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare’s plays and speculations about who might have.  Why, you ask, would anyone question the authenticity of William Shakespeare as the greatest writer in modern history?  Here’s a few bullets:

  • There’s no record of him ever attending grammar school, much less a university
  • Both his parents and his three children were illiterate
  • He writes intimately of kings and queens, yet had no access to the royal court
  • He wrote in detail about foreign places, but never personally left England
  • There was no public mourning at the time of his death
  • His will, which listed several gifts, did not include a single book from what would presumably be an extensive library

There’s more, but I think you get the drift here.  Those who have followed this ‘cold case’ for any length of time, know many of the likely suspects who might have or could have written Shakespeare’s plays.  My favorite is Christopher Marlowe, not because I think he’s definitely the one that wrote the plays, but because he has the most intriguing story.

Marlowe or Shakespeare                                      Who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays?

Marlowe was born in the same year as Shakespeare, 1564, but supposedly died at the age of 29, around the same time that Shakespeare started to write his plays. One theory is that Marlowe was a spy in Queen Elizabeth I’s secret service and his death, in a bar room fight, was faked to save his life and put him under cover.  After he went into hiding on ‘the continent’, he continued writing and sending his work to an actor/playwright broker in London named William Shakespeare.   Pledged to keep Marlowe’s identity a secret, Shakespeare submitted the plays with his own name on them.   It is also speculated that ‘Slick Willie’ collected plays from others who were high in the queen’s court and didn’t want to put their name on anything that might have jeopardized their position or their life!

For the lay person, the reading about ‘who wrote Shakespeare’s plays’ may be more interesting than the plays themselves, and for those of us who who even care about this, we hope that some day a ‘Rosetta Stone’ will be discovered that will solve this mystery once and for all.  In the mean time, our birthday boy, William Shakespeare, enjoyed a great life and an even greater after-life.  So I guess, All’s Well That Ends Well!

 

High on the Hoag

by Bob Sparrow

I was not off to a fast start!

The leg was bad from the start.  Literally, from the start, when I was born, my right leg was broken.  Not sure how it happened as I was busy trying to get through the birth canal at the time.  My best guess is that when the doctor slapped my butt to start me breathing, I slapped him back and he dropped me.

It was fine through high school athletics, but in my first year of college football, I was playing cornerback (back in days when they let white guys play cornerback), and I was coming up to make a tackle, when I was not only faked out of my jock strap, but with cleats stuck firmly in the turf, my right knee went in a completely different direction than the rest of my body.  I missed the tackle, and subsequently missed the rest of that football season.  Miraculously, I went on to play 5 seasons of college football (counting my red shirt season) and two season of service football with the Navy in Japan and never missed another game because of injury.  It got banged up pretty good sometimes, but never too bad that I couldn’t play.  Playing quarterback instead of cornerback helped significantly.  Later in life, it did keep me from running a marathon, when I was on an 18-mile training run, just three weeks before the LA Marathon, and it decided that it had had enough.

In 2010, I had finally decided to have knee replacement surgery and the doctor agreed it was time, but then wife, Linda won a sales contest which was a trip to Wales to see the Ryder Cup.  I didn’t want to miss that or be hobbling around on one leg through the Welsh bog, so I cancelled the surgery.  Upon returning from Wales, the knee felt fine, so I kicked knee-surgery down the road.

Dr. Jay Patel

After 60 years from the initial injury (not counting the break at birth), surgery was finally confirmed for June 21st with Dr. Jay Patel of the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, CA.  A word about Dr. Patel; he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then went on to earn both a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and his Medical Doctorate from Stanford University. He speaks three languages, English, Spanish and Chinese.  Intellectually, I thought we were a good match, as I had earned a BS degree (How appropriate!) from Westminster College and spoke one of the three languages that Dr. Patel knows.

Dr. Patel did my hip replacement surgery four years ago and not surprisingly, I haven’t heard a word from that hip since.  Dr. Patel continuously reminded me that “Knees are harder”.  I wouldn’t know, I slept through both surgeries, but I can attest to the real professionalism, competence, friendliness and overall caring attitude of the Hoag staff.  They are truly the best.  My surgery was on Monday afternoon and by Monday night they had me walking the halls of the hospital and on my way home on Tuesday before noon.  Those who have had this surgery know that the rehab is the tough part, and I’m told if you don’t do the rehab, you shouldn’t have done the surgery.  But I’m confident in my willingness to work hard to do what’s necessary and I have confidence in Dr. Patel’s ability – for some reason he just doesn’t seem to be a slacker to me.

Knee – before & after

It’s now been two weeks since the surgery and I’m telling my physical therapist that I don’t feel like I’m progressing like I should.  He looks at me, shakes his head, and says that I am ahead of schedule and that I should go to YouTube and watch a knee-replacement surgery and I’d see why it takes more than two weeks to heal.  I watched the video.  YIKES!!!  Glad I didn’t watch it before as I might not have gone through with it.  Saws, hammers, drills – it looked like a major construction project – I guess it was.  Watch it at your own risk!

The leg, broken at birth and woefully abused ever since, has now been fully repaired, or rather replaced, thanks to Dr. Jay Patel – and they said he’d never amount to anything.

 

 

How Terribly Strange to Be 70

by Bob Sparrow

“How terribly strange to be 70”  Old FriendsSimon & Garfunkel

Steve, Terry, Ken, Kent & Ed using ‘aiming fluid’ at Top Golf

We came in the mid-1960s as young men, boys really, to Westminster College, a Christian college that sits at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains on the East Bench of Salt Lake City, for only one reason . . . football. We just wanted to play the game.  While our destination was the same, our paths were quite diverse.  Some came right out of high school, some came after a year or two of junior college, some came from a Division 1 school where they were never going to play and some came because they knew they were never going to play anywhere else.  And while we all came for the game of football, we left with great friendships, great memories and a college degree that positioned us for success later in life.

The ‘we’ is a group of 11 Westminster graduates, all 70-something, who gathered in Las Vegas two weeks ago for an informal reunion put together by my old college roommate and running back on the football team, Ken Poulsen.  You may think that 11 isn’t very many people to gather for a reunion, well, actually only 9 were football players, but that still represented nearly half of our team!  The non-football players, but still successful graduates of Westminster were Dave Chally, who was a fan and a friends to us all, and John Soltis, our ‘spokesman’ who played basketball for Westminster.

Chally & Hall awaiting instructions from Ken

While Ken had planned a number of activities for us – Top Golf, bowling and attending a comedy club show, most of the entertainment came from the recalling of stories and antics from our college days.  Listening to them would make one wonder if or how this group ever made it through college, much less enjoy any success after it, but indeed this was actually a very accomplished group:

Ken ‘Little Poison’ Poulsen – running back; after graduation joined the Marines, was a Bombardier/Navigator in a A-6 jet during the Viet Nam war.  Earned Master Degree in Education and ultimately became Superintendent of Schools in the Sacramento area, now retired with two homes in Arizona, one in the desert, one in the mountains.

Terry ‘TC’ Callahan – tight end; after graduation he was drafted into the Army and became a combat medic seeing lots of action in Viet Nam.  After the service he earned a Masters Degree and worked as a Probation Officer and did background investigations for the Department of Defense. Retired, he now has two homes in Utah, one just south of Salt Lake City, the other in St. George.

John Soltis addressing us at our ‘Awards Banquet’

Joel ‘Herbie’ Hall – running back; joined the Marines after graduation and flew helicopters  (Huey gun ships) in Viet Nam receiving 28 air medals.  He then had a 32-year career with the 3M company.  Now retired in the Atlanta area and has a second home in Jensen Beach, Florida.

(Editors note: I wrote a previous blog on the above three guy after we all met in Vegas in 2017 – here’s the link in case you want to read more.  https://fromabirdeyeview/?p=6648)

John ‘Tiger’ Horan – wide receiver; after graduation became a Navy officer and was a Bombardier/Navigator in an A-6 jet and remained in the Navy retiring after 23 years as a Lieutenant Commander.  John is retired and living in Kanab, Utah and teaching a high school aviation technology class.

Mickey ‘Mick’ McBride – lineman; received Masters Degree in Educational Administration, was a teacher and coach and ultimately retired as high school principal

Steve ‘Hands’ Harmon – wide receiver; Steve transferred to Cal State Hayward where he earned a Ph D in Public Health and now teaches at the University of Utah and works for the Veterans Health Care Administration in Salt Lake City.

Ken, Duffy, Horan & Mick ‘telling lies’

Ed ‘Coop’ Cooper – running back; graduated with a business degree and went on to earn a Masters Degree from the University of Utah.  Ed  worked for Martin Marietta for 38 years, the last 25 has a Regional Sales Manager.  He is now retired in Salt Lake City.

Kent ‘Kicking Lawyer’ Holland – lineman; after graduation became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, then attended law school at the University of Pacific and continues to practice law in Salt Lake City.

Dave ‘Electric’ Chally – friend & fan; after graduation he worked for NECA (National Electric Contractors Association) in northern California, where he grew up, then moved with the company to Spokane where he became Executive Director for the Pacific Northwest for NECA; he is still working for them in Spokane.

John ‘Duffy’ Soltis – basketball player and orator; graduated with a degree in Sociology, which he didn’t know what to do with so ended up going to law school in San Diego and returned to Utah with his law degree and worked in various positions with the Salk Lake County District Attorney’s office.

A pretty impressive group if you ask me!  And that doesn’t include some Westminster ex-players who didn’t attend the reunion, like:

Parsons at the ‘First Supper’

Craig ‘Doc’ Wilkinson – receiver; graduated with mathematics major and minor in physics and chemistry, joined Army Reserves with the 328th General Hospital Unit, went on to earn medical doctor’s degree from University of Utah and has practiced general and vascular surgery in Salt Lake City for 35 years.

Steve ‘Sugar Bear’ Kazor – lineman; BS degree from Westminster and a Masters Degree from Kansas State.  Coach in the NFL for the  1985 Super Bowl Chicago Bears and continues to work in the NFL in player personnel.

Scott ‘The I’ Iverson – basketball player; served in the Marine Corp prior to coming to Westminster, where he earned a BS degree and then a Masters Degree from BYU.  He taught and coached high school in Utah and Arizona.  He is now retired in Utah

I’m holding my Worst Bowler ‘Stay with Football’ Award’!

But the three nights in Vegas weren’t about accomplishments, it was about hilarious stories and the rekindling of old friendships that could never die.  I came away with pride of being a member of this group and with a big smile on my face thinking of the stories about our days as the fighting Westminster Parsons.

Not so terrible to be in your 70s!

 

 

“This is the Place”

by Bob Sparrow

slc

SLC and the Wasatch Mountain Range

That’s what Brigham Young said in 1847 after a long overland trek from Illinois, when standing at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the east bench of the Wasatch Mountain Range looking over what is now the Salt Lake Valley. It was there that their journey would end and where the Mormon religion would call home as they committed to “make the desert blossom like a rose”. It is said that there was only one tree in the valley at that time, now there are over one million trees and lots of roses.

 

I was first introduced to Utah in 1964 when visiting the campus of the University of Utah on a football recruiting trip. I was immediately taken by the beauty and majesty of the surrounding mountains. It was January and a blanket of snow covered the Wasatch Range as well as the wide boulevards of Salt Lake City. It was a spectacular winter wonderland, especially for a young man who was born and raised in California.

tuscany-entrance2

Tuscany entrance

In recent years Linda and I as well as brother, Jack and wife, Sharon have tried to get back to a Utah football game each season. This year we were joined by Mark & Kathy Johnson for the Utah-Oregon game. The Johnsons had an additional incentive to go to Utah as Mark’s parents and a brother live there.  For the last seven years we have always had our ‘pre-game Friday night meal’ at a wonderful restaurant in Holladay, a southern suburb of Salt Lake, called Tuscany. It is nestled among cottonwood and box elder trees making it barely visible from the street and has a ‘cozy old world’ feel inside. On this Friday night we had one of the owners of the restaurant, Mark Eaton, eating at the table next to us. He was a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz and is hard to miss at 7’4”. At 59 years old, he looked like he could still play. Delightful dinner, the pork chop is to die for!

rice-eccles

Rice-Eccles Stadium

The game was at noon on a clear, crisp Saturday, which kept us from using the day to stop by the campus of my son Jeff’s and my alma mater, Westminster College. But it did not keep us from heading to the tailgate party across from the stadium where Jeff had alerted a Utah alum friend that we would be there and so we were invited to their tailgate party, which was no small bash! With no professional football team within 500 miles, Salt Lake is a college football town, which was easily seen by the throngs of supporters wearing red and pouring into a sold out stadium. Rice-Eccles Stadium was brought up to its current state-of-the-art condition when Salt Lake hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The football game itself? I suppose it was exciting, but not a good exciting, as Oregon scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2 seconds left in the game to win 30-28.

tailgaters

Tailgaters

Our ‘consolation dinner’ that night was down town at the Market Street Grill, which was just a couple of blocks from our City Center Marriott hotel. We were directed to the Main Street Grill by dear friend and neighbor, Marge Dunn, whose niece, Sarah works there. We had a delicious dinner and were able to talk with Sarah, who was bartending this night.

In spite of the Utah heart-breaking loss, which kept them from playing for the Pac-12 South championship the following week, the visit was invigorating. The weather was truly ‘fall-like’, which we don’t get much of in Southern California and Salt Lake has to be one of the cleanest and safest cities in the country. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list, you won’t regret it . . . and don’t forget to have dinner at Tuscany.

 

 

 

The Scarlet Shirt

by Bob Sparrow

                               “The pang of it will always be in the heart”

                                                                                                                                                        Nathanial Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

 Red R     My travels last week were supposed to take me to Salt Lake City for, what I must say with all false modesty aside, an induction into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. OK, it wasn’t exactly me being inducted, it was the entire 1964 Liberty Bowl football team, of which I was a member. OK, I wasn’t actually a regular member – I was a ‘red shirt’ member.

     For those unfamiliar with the term ‘red shirt’, it is a college athlete, who is on the team, but does not suit up and play in games for the entire year in order to save his or her eligibility.  As a ‘red shirt’ quarterback, I ran the offense of our opponents that week, against our first team defense. I felt it was my job to give our defense confidence with my inept play – I apparently succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. “That was a feckless performance Sparrow”, the coaches would shout and I would beam with pride until I learned the definition of the word feckless.  The origin of the term ‘redshirt’ is sketchy at best, but my experience tells me that these non-playing athletes were so bloodied from getting beaten to a pulp in practice that their jerseys were red.

UofU

Picture Day – The only time I was allowed to wear a University of Utah uniform

   My red shirt never came off; I came to Utah from junior college and transferred after my redshirt year to play for George Siefert, who had taken his first head coaching job at Westminster College in Salt Lake; yes the same George Siefert who coached the San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowl championships. The same George Siefert, who at a reunion was quoted as saying, “Yes, I coached Joe Montana and Steve Young, but Bob Sparrow was my first quarterback.” I approached him afterwards to thank him for the recognition and he said, “No, I didn’t say first quarterback I said worst quarterback.”  Oh.

     The Utah Liberty Bowl team was honored at half time of this year’s Utah-Fresno State game and at a banquet held the previous night – I imagined my ‘redshirt invitation’ to these events would look something like this . . .

 Dear Redshirt,

     The 1964 Liberty Bowl football team (and you) will be inducted into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. There will be a banquet Friday night at 8:00 p.m., could you please get there an hour early so you’ll have time to eat before hand and then serve and clear dishes for the regular team? We have sent commemorative blazers and rings to all the regular players, and have enclosed for you to wear that evening, a double extra large commemorative red shirt. As a special favor, we’re asking that you please plan on sticking around afterwards to help clean up.

expendable

The shirt says it all

     The team will be honored at half time of the game on Saturday; would you mind getting to the stadium a little early to wipe down the seats after you finish lining the field? Don’t forget to wear your redshirt to all events, as we don’t want anyone to confuse you with any of the regular team members.

    Maybe I was letting my imagination run a bit wild , but I was just trying to get something off my chest . . . and back – it’s that damn red shirt! Truth be known, I actually got a nice invitation and would have loved to attend, but had other commitments.  I actually had a good experience at Utah and a great experience at Westminster College, where I played football, wrote for the college newspaper and met my first wife . . . OK, two out of three’s not bad; I think she was just a red shirt anyway.

 

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My Real ‘Next Adventure’

by Bob Sparrow

yogiSince returning from Nepal, I have been asked a number of times about my next adventure; it seems some of you folks take a perverse pleasure in watching me bust my ass in some far-off, third-world country. I am indeed embarking on my next adventure and no, it’s not to Yemen, Somalia, Syria or the Antarctica “just before they close it for the winter” – but thank you Sister Suzanne and several loyal subscribers for your amusing, albeit life-threatening, suggestions. I’m trading in that 26-hour, back-wrenching, butt-numbing flight, for a short hop within the U.S. borders this time. And while this trip may not be as exotic as traveling through Nepal, I’m hoping it will provide a unique look at the spectacular beauty of my favorite part of the country.

I’ll have more company on this adventure, as it will be with couples from ‘the ‘hood’, affectionately, or maybe that’s ‘infectionately’, referred to as the ‘Hoodwink Hikers’. The ‘Hoodwink Hikers’ include our ‘Trail Boss’, Patrick (my Nepal companion) and his wife, Pam; long-time close friends, Mark & Kathy; the comic relief couple, Bob & Jeanne and Linda and me. We are headed to the ‘Intermountain West’ for some hiking and hijinks, not necessarily in that order.

WC

‘The Harvard of the West’

Our plan is to fly into Salt Lake City (home to my son’s and my alma mater, Westminster College, or as we alums like to refer to it, the Harvard of the West), take the beautiful drive from Salt Lake to the Old West town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which sits in the shadow of the Grand Teton Mountains. We’ll spend a couple of days cavorting in the surrounding environs then head to Yellowstone Nat’l Park. Once we’ve seen ‘Old Faithful’ and Yogi Bear (or is that in Jellystone Nat’l Park?) we’ll continue north to join another couple from the ‘hood, Mike & Tanis, who have a second home on Flathead Lake in Polson, Montana. We figure to wear out our welcome there after a couple of days, so we’ll be heading further north to Lake McDonald, which is in scenic Glacier Nat’l Park, where we’ll do some hiking. Some will hike and some will take a tour bus on the picturesque road over the Continental Divide called, ‘Going To The Sun Road’ (sounds long . . . and hot!). We’ll then journey on to Many (pronounced Manny) Glacier for a night.

Jackson Hole

Exclusive Hotel in Jackson Hole

Our final stop will be so far north that it’s south . . . south Canada – a place called Prince of Wales in Alberta, where we’ll stay in a majestic old ‘railroad hotel’ in the Canadian Rockies. We will then drive back to Kalispell, Montana (assuming they will let us back into the country) and fly home.

That’s the plan, but anyone who’s been following our blog, knows that sometimes we deviate from the plan – and with this group of deviates, no plan is safe. Connectivity permitting, I’ll try to post what we actually do and maybe even include some videos, if my son shows me how to do that before we leave. Hope you tag along and enjoy the trip. As always you’re welcome to send me your comments while you’re sitting comfortably on your couch at home eating Bon Bons and I’m busting my ass on that Draconian-sounding road to the center of our solar system.

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