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ArchiveSEPTEMBER 2018



My father was an automobile dealer, so I noticed three slightly awkward shot compositions involving vehicles in the 1960 movie Psycho.

At 55, 64, and 75 minutes, director Alfred Hitchcock positions a car in the foreground at the Bates Motel.  The left-hand door is nearest the camera so we can see the driver clearly.  But the actor is instructed not to use that door.  Instead, he opens the door on the passenger side, sliding with some effort across the full width of the front seat.  By taking this shortcut, he spares us from having to wait for him to walk halfway around the vehicle.


This was possible because in those days, cars had “bench seats.”

There were no contoured bucket seats.  And other than the slight hump on the floor for the transmission and driveshaft, there were no obstacles (like floor-mounted gearshifts, or center consoles, or buckle holders for seat belts) that would force a person to use only one particular portal.


SEPT. 15, 2018    ZAMBOOZLED

In 1953, Andy Griffith recorded a comedy monologue, portraying a country preacher who'd stumbled across a football game without understanding what was going on.

Ten years later, I was in high school.  Some of the guys were athletes, but I was a manager.

During the winter months our school played only one sport, so I was a basketball manager.

And we had no mechanical floor polishers, so one of my pregame tasks was to sweep the court with a dry mop like this guy.

However, one must always be open to new experiences.

I've imagined a mopper named Roscoe who encountered an entirely different indoor sport.  With a nod to Gary Clem's tale of a South Carolinian who disassembled his camera after the second “half,” I call this dialogue What It Was, Was Hockey.



The folks at California University of Pennsylvania, when Angelo Armenti was president, wanted to increase their visibility by televising some of their Vulcans’ games.  They established a Vulcan Sports Network.  Essentially this network fed one station in Pittsburgh and one FOX subsidiary satellite channel.

In 2010, CalU decided the network should have its own distinctive visual style for football telecasts.  It fell to me to make this “look” practical, and I organized things my own way.  The argotic details have been preserved for posterity in my new article on VSN Graphics.


SEPT. 10, 2018    BE SERENE?


Reinhold Niebuhr prayed,
Grant me serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.

The wise person says,
Here's something that
 I wish I could change.

But I know I can't.   It is what it is.

Therefore, I'll accept it.
I shall serenely stop worrying.

However . . .

Winston Churchill urged, Never give in!  Never give in!  Never!  Never!  Never!  Never!  In nothing, great or small, large or petty!

And Jim Valvano implored, Don't give up!  Don't ever give up! 

Thus the wise person is conflicted.


SEPT. 7, 2008 flashback   WE ARE OBERLIN   

My alma mater's football team — the Division III "Yeomen" of Oberlin College, once coached by John Heisman of trophy fame — can still claim a unique distinction.

That distinction was in peril yesterday.  In the third quarter, the Ohio University Bobcats led the No. 3 Buckeyes of The Ohio State University by a score of 14-6.  But Ohio State averted the upset and eventually won 26-14.

The victory was OSU's 36th straight win over an in-state opponent.  What was the last Ohio school to defeat Ohio State in football?  Oberlin!

It was way back in 1921, the final season for the Buckeyes' Ohio Field at High Street and Woodruff Avenue in Columbus.  (The "Horseshoe," Ohio Stadium, would open the following year.)  The final score:  Oberlin 7, Ohio State 6. 

This picture comes from a 1916 volume, Songs of Ohio State University.  (Where's the The?)  The book originally belonged to Ruth M. Ford; later, when she was my mother's friend Ruth Miller, she gave it to me, and I've now colorized the photo.  It appears above the words and music to "Across the Field," Ohio State's then-new fight song, written in 1915 by sophomore W.A. Dougherty Jr.

The song apparently was not enough when the Buckeyes faced the fearless Yeomen in 1921.


The fearless Yeomen taunted those Ohio State losers with a cheer, or "yell," which was already a tradition when the first Oberlin yearbook was published in 1890.


SEPT. 4, 2018    BLOWOUTS

When I was a lad, today would have been the first day of school following summer vacation:  the day after Labor Day.  Therefore the first high school football game would have been this coming Friday.

But times have changed, and school starts earlier now.  In the Pittsburgh area, the WPIAL played 116 football games in August.                  

Margins of Victory, August 2018

The results were unusually lopsided.  One would prefer games to be competitive, with the wins by 14 points or less, but only 28% of those early-season contests met that criterion (the blue portion of this histogram).  The average margin was 25 points.

On August 25 Imani Christian, having scored touchdowns on its first three plays from scrimmage, led 58-0 at halftime.  After that, the coaches agreed to cut the 12-minute quarters in half, and a “mercy rule” kept the clock running following incompletions and such.  Thus the final score was merely 80-6.

Other matchups resulted in embarrassing shutouts of 41-0, 43-0, 45-0, 46-0, 48-0 (three times), 62-0, and 63-0.  Serves those kids right for wearing game jerseys before Labor Day.



When September of 1968 rolled around, it was time for WOBC to sign on again.  Jan Olson and I went to church together, although she did berate me on the second occasion for my failure to issue a proper invitation.  And we had cast parties!

Click here for my latest installment in the 14-month series recalling my life 50 years ago.