The time between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day began as routine, but I still decided to share the admittedly-random workings of my mind from that ten-day period.
Planning to watch an episode of This Is Us following the big football game, I accidentally saw the last couple minutes of what I understand was a thrilling contest between the Patriots and the Eagles. I thought it was great that Philadelphia won their first Lombardi Trophy, which former NFLer Darrell Green carried onto the field and which grown men kissed – during flu season!
Anyway, during the postgame celebration, I heard the heartwarming story of backup quarterback Nick Foles, who led Philly to victory. And there he was receiving MVP honors, holding in his arms his baby daughter Lily in her tiny pink headphones.
By the way, Jeopardy! celebrated Super Bowl Week with five football clues, none of which any of the contestants could answer. Incredibly, I shouted out several correct responses, including: Dallas, fair catch, offsetting penalties – although I did not state them in question form.
During the final football week of the season, a segment on the evening news reported that all official NFL footballs are manufactured in Ada, home of Ohio Northern University, where several of my former students attended college.
There in Ada, a small town with a population similar to New Carlisle, is the Wilson Football Factory in a nondescript building marked with a W, where the workers themselves give tours. One of the ladies working there laces 150 – 180 balls each day. Yes, this small factory in this tiny Ohio town is the producer of all Super Bowl pigskins – made from cowhide, of course.
At this point, I wandered off to the internet, where I learned that another Ohio factory also produces a well-known item. Bryan, in northwest Ohio, is home to the Spangler Candy Company, which makes Dum Dum Lollipops. Each day the factory produces 12 million of those little suckers that bank tellers hand out to customers– and visitors can watch it all on the trolley tour through the factory. By the way, the guy responsible for naming these candies Dum Dums figured it was a name any kid could say.
I then continued writing my article with a more disciplined approach by mentioning that next month the United States Postal Service will issue a Forever stamp honoring Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
I cannot think of an American more worthy than Mister Rogers to have his likeness attached to millions of pieces of mail. In 895 episodes of his gentle program, he offered children a low-key look at the world, in addition to measured flights of fantasy into make-believe land.
I often watched my preschool nephew, now a grown man approaching middle age, as he engaged through the television screen with Mister Rogers’ assurance of friendship and accepted this sneaker-and-cardigan-clad friend as his neighbor.
With Fred Rogers there were no frantic antics, just daily visits with a special grandfather-figure, who cared for and about a couple of generations of America’s children. Come March, I will gladly affix his stamp to my outgoing cards and letters.
Just then, a special news bulletin appeared on the TV: two veteran police officers in Westerville had been killed as they responded to a 9-1-1 hang up call. At that moment, I knew my article would take a somber turn.
Although I have become increasingly alarmed, as many of us have, about the continuing assault on policemen across our country, this attack seemed particularly egregious. I graduated from Otterbein College – now University – located in Westerville. Almost fifty years ago, Westerville was the “quiet, peaceful village” we sang about in the alma mater. Its population has tripled since my time there, but it has retained its small-town appeal.
By Valentine’s Day I was still trying to make sense of two more brave peace officers making the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow citizens, when reports of the school shooting in Florida stopped me in my tracks.
I did not want to use the adverb “again.” I hated that the images on my TV screen seemed familiar and predictable. I need not repeat the sad statistics of this latest attack on an American student body in their place of education – the media have taken care of that.
I will also not engage in points of the long-simmering-but-as-yet-unresolved debate about guns and mental health. One would have thought the terror of Columbine or Sandy Hook or West Liberty-Salem or any of the other too-numerous school shootings over the last twenty years would have spurred us to do right by our children and our police force.
Instead, I have questions:
If we want to consider the United States the leading civilized country in the world, how can we send our first responders into life-threatening situations against persons with firearms and arsenals rivaling those of law enforcement?
If we strive to have our children grow up feeling safe and secure, how can we accept that tiny kindergarteners must learn to defend themselves against “active shooters,” knowing when to run or when to “shelter in place”?
If we truly hope to keep America great, when will we as a nation stop interpreting the Second Amendment as the right for every adult to own an assault rifle – paying for that right with the lives of our police officers and our children?