Twenty-two turnovers

On February 11, 1997, our long-time family friend, Billy Bokkon, gave me two tickets to the University of Virginia and Duke men’s basketball game in Charlottesville. Billy was an avid supporter of Virginia athletics with a soft heart for sacrifice. Billy knew that my son, Andrew, and I would enjoy attending this game.

Disclosure here, we are Duke fans. I grew up in North Carolina. My loyalty to Duke rubbed off on Andrew.

I know Andrew was excited about attending this game, and I know he would have been disappointed if Duke loss.

Duke won, but the win was controversial.

After a review, the conference found that the veteran crew of officials: Rick Hartzell, Tim Higgins, and Zelton Steed had mismanaged the closing seconds of the game with Virginia leading by a point.

Seven days after the game, the Commissioner for the Atlantic Coast Conference(ACC), Gene Corrigan, suspended each official for one game.

The crew had failed to allow a substitution for Virginia. In the sequence of events that followed, a Duke player was fouled and hit two free throw shots that allowed Duke to win 62-61.

Twenty-six years later on February 11, 2023, Virginia and Duke played again in Charlottesville. It was a tough game with both teams fighting for the win.

In the closing seconds of this game, a Duke player was fouled with the score tied as time was expiring. Upon review of the last play, the officials ruled that the foul occurred as time expired. No free throws were shot by the Duke player, and the game went into overtime where Duke loss to Virginia 69-62.

Late on the evening of February 11, 2023, the ACC issued a statement deeming the final play of regulation “an incorrect adjudication of the playing rules.”

Once again, the game was officiated by an experienced crew: Lee Cassell, Jeffrey Anderson, and Tim Clougherty.

I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be to referee a college basketball game. The players are bigger, stronger, faster, and with a shot clock, the pace of the game is much quicker.

Three officials are assigned to referee a college basketball game. I often wonder if adding a fourth official would help in managing the flow of the game, but I’m not sure it would. Referees are like all of us human beings—imperfect, and not immune from making mistakes.

To become a college basketball referee is not easy. To reach this level takes lots of time, energy, effort, and training. Knowing the rules, being able to interpret the rules when violations occur, staying in shape, communication skills, consistency, diplomacy, and the ability to think on your feet are essential.

Also, there is a common denominator for referees, coaches, and players—pressure.

Coaching a college basketball team is precarious work. The livelihood of the coach is in the hands of players whose ages range from 18-21.

Fans, especially alumni, want very badly for their team to win and to become contenders for the national championship.

Players feel that pressure too. Blue chip players are heavily recruited. Once a blue-chipper commits to a team, everyone expects these players to instantly and consistently perform at a higher level than teammates and peers.

Referees encounter levels of pressure from their supervisors, coaches, players, and fans. In game situations, referees are expected to keep their composure at all times. Sometimes, referees are subjected to volatile and hostile treatment from coaches, players, and spectators. An expectation exists that the referees must get the calls right for both teams, no matter the degree of difficulty.

There is also a quiet pressure developing in research labs. Might the combination of technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence lead to robots officiating college basketball games in the future?

But, there is an additional level of pressure to be considered. In the future will conferences like the ACC be able to recruit, train, and keep competent referees for all sports? How might the erosion of civility, decorum, and sportsmanship impact candidates who are thinking about becoming referees?

In either of the games referenced here, my heart hurts for the players, coaches, referees, and fans.

However, in this most recent meeting between Virginia and Duke, I will always wonder if the outcome of the game might have been decided earlier if Duke’s players had not committed twenty-two turnovers. How many of those Duke turnovers could have been converted to points to expand Duke’s narrow lead?

On the other hand, we seem to quickly forget about all of the split second calls made by referees that are correct.

What we don’t want to consistently happen in a college basketball game is grounded in this Yogi Berra quote: “We made too many wrong mistakes.”

Growing up, I loved college basketball. At this stage of my life, my affection is declining. I sense that money, egos, and the desire to win at all cost are gradually eroding the game.

And despite my whines, I prefer the outcome of the game to be decided by the skills of the players, not dedicated referees.

Even Duke’s Jeremy Roach, the team’s captain said this after the loss: “Duke should never be in a position where the referees can decide the game.”

Mr. Roach was correct.

One of the many street-side basketball goals in our neighborhood. (Photo by Bill Pike)

Well, excuse me, but we need love to come for us

Perhaps, you recall “well excuse me” becoming a catchphrase for comedian Steve Martin.

Interestingly, Mr. Martin used his gifts to find success as a scriptwriter for television, comedian, banjo player, actor, author, screenwriter, director, recording artist, playwright, producer, and art collector.

Not bad for a guy who turns 78 in August.

Mr. Martin’s talents have made me laugh, cry, and ponder.

His work with the North Carolina based bluegrass band, the Steep Canyon Rangers is impressive.

Twice, my wife and I attended the live performance of An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest of Your Life featuring you and Martin Short.

And we have completed watching the first season of Only Murders In The Building on Hulu starring Selena Gomez, Mr. Short, and yourself.

In 2013, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell released the bluegrass album Love Has Come For You.

Early in her career, Miss Brickell fronted the band—Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians. They were one hit wonders with—“What I Am.”

The album Love Has Come For You was produced by Peter Asher. In the early 60s, Mr. Asher was the Peter in the British duo—Peter and Gordon. For this album, Miss Brickell provided the song lyrics and Mr. Martin the music.

Sometimes on the internet, I stumble upon a music video with heartfelt lyrics, quality musicianship, and pretty vocals.

For me, “Love Has Come For You” is one of those songs. It features Miss Brickell singing lead vocal, Mr. Martin on banjo, and the Steep Canyon Rangers backing them.

The song is a story about a young lady who gives birth to a baby boy out of wedlock.

Her family attempts to persuade the mother to give up her new born son.

Yet holding her sweet son in her arms, she realized giving him up wasn’t a possibility.

Plus when she held him, “she could hear the quiet angels sing—love, love, love has come for you.”

Until the day she died, this mother held on to the words of the quiet angels for her son—“love, love, love has come for you.”

In this complicated, messy, weary world of ours, it is very clear that love has not come for some people.

I don’t believe love exists anywhere in Vladimir Putin’s heart.

I think the same for the heart of Adolph Hitler.

No way that Taliban leaders in Afghanistan have love in their hearts by depriving women of education and other freedoms.

With the start of a new year, Americans hold out hope that we will work to be better. But that hope is short lived.

According to a January 24, 2023 report from CNN, three weeks into the new year, the Gun Violence Archive has recorded 39 mass shootings across America.(Paul LeBlanc) I wonder if those trigger pullers ever experienced love in their hearts.

How do we bring love to people in crisis?

How do we love the unloveable?

How do we love when we feel incapable or unwilling?

Tuesday evening, February 7, 2023, the Community Conversations program at our church hosted Richmond author, Chip Jones.

Mr. Jones has written a compelling book: The Organ Thieves— The Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South.

During the hour long conversation, Mr. Jones was quite remarkable in answering questions.

A question near the end referenced a tense courtroom scene from the movie, A Few Good Men.

The prosecuting attorney with determined intensity tells the witness on the stand that “I want the truth.”

And the witness fiercely responds to the attorney with “You can’t handle the truth.”

I asked Mr. Jones if the racial divide in America is grounded in our inability to handle the truth of our shortcomings?

Part of Mr. Jones’ response was linked to a quote from Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation: “As any good therapist will tell you, you cannot heal what you do not acknowledge, and what you do not consciously acknowledge will remain in control from within, festering, and destroying you and those around you.”(Admitting Our Wrongdoings 11-26-2015 CAC)

Love can’t heal, if we can’t acknowledge the mistakes from our past and present.

In the song “Love Has Come To You” the unwed mother acknowledged the love she felt and saw in her son.

With that confirmation, there was no turning back. The mother held for a lifetime the healing love from the quiet angels singing.

If I’m lucky, I’ll turn seventy in June.

Well excuse me, but, my heart is overdue to acknowledge my shortcomings and the shortcomings of America.

We need to acknowledge the festering inside our American hearts.

Failing to make this acknowledgement only ensures more heartbreak.

The quiet angels are nudging.

We need to let love come for us.

Cover of Mr. Martin’s book Born Standing Up (Photo by Bill Pike. I own a copy of the book)

The pylons of Christmas are best not forgotten

Ken Simmons, Johnny Neese, Mac Abernathy, Richard Abernathy, Mary Jo Abernathy, Terry Johnston, Michael Johnston, Tommy Bennett, no hall of fame names here, just neighbor kids who sometimes found their way to the southern extension of Lambeau Field where the front yards of the Simmons and Pike families linked together to make a football field.

It wasn’t regulation size, but the graveled driveways were the end zones, sidewalks leading to the front doors of each home were out of bounds on the north side, while a drainage ditch on the south side marked out of bounds. Each yard had a couple of trees, but nothing to obstruct the main playing surface.

We played after school, any free moment on Saturdays, but I can’t remember playing on Sunday after church. No helmets, no pads, a few disagreements, no illegal hits, and never a question about whether a touchdown was really a touchdown.

I’m not sure about your perspective, but from my spider mite sized brain I’m weary of football games where the game officials must decide if a player scored a touchdown based upon whether the nose of the football broke the plane of the goal or if a player was able to graze the pylon with the football before he was shoved out of bounds.

To me this isn’t even worthy of replaying the video from a zillion different camera angles for some rule interpreting authority to make a decision. It is a simple matter of a rule change. To score a touchdown, a player must be in possession of the football, and must have his entire body in the end zone with the football securely in his possession. No exceptions, whole body, not pinky toe or finger, whole body with the football.

With this reasonable rule change, I’m sure the makers of pylons will be disappointed that their product will no longer be the focus of attention in determining the scoring of a touchdown, but I’m certain they will eventually find other sports for their product like ping-pong, gator wrestling, or large vegetable chucking which is scheduled to become a summer Olympic sport in 2020.

A football field pylon(Photo by Bill Pike with a special assist from Chris Rollison, Student Activities Director, Hermitage High School)

Definition research for pylon, finds a number of uses for the word, and its origin can be traced to the Greek language meaning “gateway.” Today, we associate pylon as a marker or tower, but a pylon can also be used to provide support.

Thirty-eight days ago we were celebrating Christmas, a season full of markers of support, and tomorrow is the Super Bowl, a football game that has become a national extravaganza with so much media hype that the basics of the game can be overlooked. I often wonder if the basics of Christmas are overlooked once it is over? Is the significance of Christmas still with me today, or have I tucked it away in my heart until next December?

In answering that questions, perhaps, I would be wise to consider the scripture from Jeremiah Chapter 31, verse 21: “Set up road markers for yourself, make yourself signposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went.” I can whine about decisions related to touchdowns and pylons, but I suspect I would be better served if I push that whine energy into not forgetting the pylons of Christmas. How might I do this?

It’s a matter of redirecting my journey on the road of life by improving my focus on the markers and signposts I need to navigate the ups and downs of living. Part of that refocusing means a commitment to revisit the road by which I have traveled. To do this I must strengthen my daily devotional reading, scripture reflection, and prayer while looking for more growth opportunities at our church.

For the last several years, it has been pretty clear to me that the highway of life is more manageable with road markers and signposts from the good Lord to guide me. I’m not willing to continue my daily journey without guidance and direction from the good Lord and his Son. How about you? Have you tucked away the pylons of Christmas, and redirected your focus to less religious markers and signposts on your journey?

Author’s note: This piece “The pylons of Christmas are best not forgotten” was published as a Faith and Values column in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Saturday, February 1, 2014. The section B Metro editor was John Hoke.

When their voices were young: The Beach Boys Sail On Sailor 1972

At some point after lunch on Thursday, November 2, 1972, we piled into the 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle. My Greensboro College classmate, Butch Sherrill, had somehow talked his younger brother, Robert, into loaning him the car for a road trip.

That Chevelle, painted Petty Blue, was our ride to Boone, North Carolina. In honor of Butch’s birthday, we were going to the Beach Boys concert that evening at Appalachian State University(ASU).

The we in the car were Butch, Steve Hodge, maybe his girlfriend, Gwen, who attended Guilford College, our classmate, Rita Jones, and me. Butch’s girlfriend, Marian, was a student at ASU. She would join us for the concert.

Even though we would be driving into the Blue Ridge Mountains, fall was not in the air. The temperature in Greensboro would top out at 76 degrees that day after an overnight low of 51.

We made it to Boone with no problems. We headed toward Varsity Gym where the concert would take place. My friend from Burlington, Jeff Aaron, was part of the student committee that booked concerts for ASU.

I tracked down Jeff, and he was able to sneak me backstage where the Beach Boys were rehearsing. We worked out a strategy for holding seats in the front rows, and then we waited.

Earlier in the year, with another college friend, Dan Callow, I had seen the Beach Boys in concert on March 28 at Cole Field House on the campus of the University of Maryland.

That night at Cole Field House, I sensed the Beach Boys were figuring out how to make the addition of two new bandmates work.

Seven months later at ASU, the Beach Boys had figured that out. These shows were preparation for November 23, the last concert of this tour would mark their return to Carnegie Hall for a live recording.

In 1972, the Beach Boys had been busy. Late in the spring, the band released a new album: Carl and the Passions—“So Tough.” That album featured two new members in the group, Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Blondie and Ricky were from South Africa, a part of The Flame, a band that had recorded and released an album on the Beach Boys’ Brother Records label.

Also at some point in 1972, Bruce Johnston, who ably filled in for Brian Wilson, when Brian gave up touring had decided to leave the Beach Boys. Apparently, Bruce and Beach Boys’ manager, Jack Rieley, were unable to resolve their perspectives.

From 1970-1973, Jack Rieley helped to transform the Beach Boys. That transformation impacted their creativity in the recording studio and made the group a hot concert ticket.

By the summer of 1972, Mr. Rieley had convinced the Beach Boys to temporarily pull up their California roots, including their recording studio and families, and move to Holland.

They made this massive logistical move, and once the studio was reassembled in a barn like building in the rural farmlands near Baambrugge, the band began recording their next album to be titled—Holland.

When the Holland album was completed, the Beach Boys returned to America, and on November 1 began a tour performing at many college campuses in the South, Midwest, and Northeast.

Fast forward to December 2, 2022, Capitol Records released the box set: The Beach Boys Sail On Sailor 1972.

Box set cover, lower left Mike Love, above him Carl Wilson, middle top Brian Wilson, upper right Blondie Chaplin, center looking down Dennis Wilson, beside Dennis, Ricky Fataar, and bottom right with his eyes closed Al Jardine.

Box set is a misleading term, as fans were really treated to a 48 page hardbound book complete with photos and interviews about these recordings that include six CDs full of music. This package features the albums Carl and the Passions—“So Tough” and Holland with many unreleased outtakes from these sessions.

But for me, the center piece of this release is the Carnegie Hall concert from Thanksgiving night 1972. That evening, the band performed two back to back shows at 8:00 and 11:30. At this point, you should probably sit down. Tickets for that concert were $5.00, $5.50, $6.50, and $7.00.

Advertisement for the concert, from my attic archives (Photo by Bill Pike)

For fifty years, the Carnegie Hall tapes sat silently in climate controlled vaults. I sense those tapes were quietly hoping that someday they would be released. As a long time follower of the Beach Boys, I was rooting for the tapes to be converted into an album for release too.

Long after I’m gone, future music historians will revisit the legacy of the Beach Boys. No one will deny the blitz of hot hits from 1961-1966. They will discover the doldrums from 1967-1969, and when these musical sleuths uncover the recordings from 1970-1973, I think they will be stunned.

For me, that is my favorite era of the Beach Boys. I love their energy. Every band member contributes to the songwriting. The production values are high, and the recordings are deftly captured by recording engineer, Stephen Desper. Their still vibrant harmonies are beautifully present. And when the group performs live, there is an undeniable boldness in these concerts. The Beach Boys 1972-Live At Carnegie Hall captures the boldness of the songs selected to be performed that night.

Album cover

In 1972, the Beach Boys performed 101 concerts. Seventy-one of those were in America and thirty overseas.( I sense when this fall tour started, the group knew, and must have been thinking internally— ok, we’ve got to use these shows prior to Carnegie Hall to make sure we are rehearsed and ready.

They arrived at Carnegie Hall ready to play and sing their hearts out. Of course, I’m biased, but my old ears believe they did play and sing their hearts out.

However, there is also a collision coming, a collision that served to foreshadow how the boldness of their concerts in the early 70s would gradually erode the Beach Boys into into an oldies band in the latter stages of their legacy. That collision is noted in the Carnegie Hall concert.

When manager Jack Rieley introduces the band, he respectfully asks the audience to hold their song requests until the end of the second set.

At some point, in the concert, singer, Mike Love, becomes annoyed with an impatient fan. Mr. Love almost uses the “f-word” in trying to keep this fan quiet. The great irony here is that Mr. Love is an ardent practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.

To confirm his convictions, during a pause between songs, Mr. Love quickly gives a personal endorsement for Transcendental Meditation encouraging the audience to check out classes in New York City.

Clearly in Mr. Love’s meltdown moment, any calmness or composure from his meditative spiritualness was tossed overboard.

For this concert, 24 songs are performed. From that 24, four songs were from the Surf’s Up and So Tough albums, and three were new songs from the Holland album that was released in January 1973. With the remaining 17 songs, 13 were hit records. Chances are the restless fan probably heard a song that he wanted to hear.

Thankfully that disruptive tension was short-lived as the beauty and power of the music seems to subdue the agitation for the remainder of the show.

Darryl Dragon, who the Beach Boys nicknamed Captain Keyboards, is on the piano, organ, and Moog synthesizer. Also, his future wife, Toni Tennille, is contributing background vocals. Mr. Dragon’s keyboard playing sparkles through the recording, but especially on “Help Me Rhonda.”

I’m not sure there is a prettier Beach Boys love song than “Only With You.” Fresh from the Holland recording sessions, here, the song is performed to heartfelt perfection.

I love the concussion of the percussion that is pounded out after the a cappella section on “Heroes and Villains.” I had never forgotten that thunder from the ASU show.

Blondie Chaplain and Ricky Faatar sound like they have been in the band for a long time rather than a few months. Blondie’s soulful vocals and guitar work add to the energy, and Ricky’s drumming is quick, steady, and creative.

Unlike the Beatles, the Beach Boys never gave up touring, and as they pushed into the early 70s, that hard work on the road made them a tight performing unit.

Even the most difficult of their songs performed live reveal their musicianship and tender care for their trademark harmonies. Lots of that concert success can be attributed to the youngest of the Wilson brothers, Carl.

During the encore with spunky confidence, Carl leads the band through “California Girls,” “Surfin’USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Then he turns the Carnegie Hall audience on its collective ears as the Beach Boys blister through “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Yes, the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

I’ve never forgotten the concert at Appalachian State University. Too bad that the Carnegie Hall tapes had to wait 50 years for release.

Was the wait worth it?

Speaking solely for myself, my answer is yes.

During the listening, a handful of times, my old eyes have moistened when the timeless blending of the voices and instruments strummed my soul.

In 1972 Mike Love was 31, Al Jardine 30, Dennis Wilson 27, and Carl Wilson 26. My goodness, they were young. Yet, even in 1972, it felt like they had been around forever. Sadly, Dennis drowned in 1983, and Carl lost his battle with cancer in 1998.

Personally, I hope Capitol Records doesn’t plan anymore box set releases for the Beach Boys.

After 1975, I feel the Beach Boys suffered a “reverse storm surge.” It seemed as though all of their creative energy had been drained from the group. Never did they recapture, the beauty and brilliance of the music they created from 1970-1973. I wonder if the living members of the Beach Boys feel the same as I do about those remarkable years?

Back on November 2, 1972, I wish we could have driven that Petty Blue 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle to the back of Varsity Gym where all of the band’s equipment had been loaded in for the show.

I imagine if the car loving Dennis Wilson had been out on that loading dock and seen that beauty, he would have flagged Butch down for a ride or a drive.

I’m certain Butch would have obliged Dennis’ request. If that storybook drive had taken place, then Butch had a memory of a lifetime to share with his brother, Robert.

Perhaps, that is the beauty of a wishful daydream.

Then again, a daydream can also be a chance to recall a priceless memory, a concert that has never left me, shared with good friends, and our pals, the Beach Boys when their voices were still young, and we were too.

From my attic archives, black and white photo by John Craft, concert review by Dave Wright. (Photo by Bill Pike)

Author’s note: A belated thanks to Robert Sherrill for loaning Butch the car. Thanks to my attic archives, and a heartfelt thanks to our three children Lauren, Andrew, and Elizabeth who surprised their ancient father with this boxed set gift at Christmas 2022.