Saying goodbye to Midge

Midge's three children gathered with family to celebrate her life.

Midge’s three children gathered with family to celebrate her life.

It was a brilliant fall day in Palo Alto, the type of fall day you see in California and not too many other places. Sun shining, birds chirping, slight breeze.

Fourteen of us gathered for a private service at the cemetery to pay our respects and say a final goodbye to my grandmother, Marjorie Winter Johnson. Many of us hadn’t seen each other in years, in some cases decades, and I don’t know when or even if some of us will see each other again.

However, on this day we gathered, listened to some thoughtful words from a minister that were perfect for this occasion, and individually and collectively we remembered Midge. From my great aunt Florence, herself in her 90s but spry and witty as I remember from my youth; to my mother and her two brothers, Midge’s three children; to my daughter Sarah, not yet 20; four generations and untold numbers of memories were represented. Continue reading

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Remembering Grandma Midge

Marjorie Elizabeth Winter Johnson, 1917-2014

Marjorie Elizabeth Winter Johnson, 1917-2014

I write this in memory of my grandmother, Marjorie Elizabeth Winter Johnson, who passed away early today at the age of 97. Hers was a life well-lived, full of grace and dignity. She was the only grandparent I ever really knew, and she had a huge influence on me that has continued to this day, and one that lives on in my daughter.

Marjorie, or “Midge” as she was known, was the daughter of a man who worked his way from teenage office boy to Chairman of the Board of Atlantic Mutual Insurance Co., and she knew the value of education, determination, and preparation. Continue reading

Goodbye, NFL

NFLI’m a lifelong sports fan. I have a master’s degree in sport management. I worked and consulted in professional and college athletics for many years. And I’ve been a fantasy sports geek for decades. I’ve invested untold amounts of time and money in sports. But in the case of pro football, enough is enough. I’m done with the National Football League. Continue reading

Baseball’s biggest tease

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum: a one-time ace who still teases greatness.

Giants fans got teased again last week. In the midst of a dreadful, team-wide June Swoon, Tim Lincecum took the hill against San Diego and fired a no-hitter – his second in as many seasons.

This isn’t the fireballing Lincecum of five years ago, however. Watching him today, it’s increasingly difficult to recall “The Freak” that burst upon baseball in 2007 and went on to back-to-back Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons in the big leagues in 2008-09. That flame-thrower led the National League in strikeouts three straight years, posted remarkable WARs (Wins Above Replacement) of 7.9 and 7.5 in 2008-09, and was widely regarded as the game’s most dominant pitcher and a future Hall of Famer. Continue reading

Not your father’s 49ers

49ersMaybe I’m naïve, but today’s San Francisco 49ers bear so little resemblance to the dynasty I grew up watching that it’s hard to imagine they wear the same red and gold. Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Steve Young…these aren’t just names in 49ers history – they’re symbols of a team that won with class, with integrity, and with character.

Surely there were legal issues and other misdeeds among the 49ers of yesteryear, and ultimately owner Eddie DeBartolo’s legal problems in an unrelated business venture cost him the franchise, but I don’t recall anything like what we’re seeing from today’s players. Continue reading

Larger than life

Ultimate Warrior

Jim Hellwig, aka the Ultimate Warrior, in his prime as WWF World Heavyweight Champion

I was very sad to learn of the passing of Jim Hellwig, known to millions as pro wrestling’s “Ultimate Warrior” from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s. He was one of the true legends of pro wrestling, with an outsized personality to match his cartoon-like physique. But he was always something more, too. He was an articulate, intelligent guy who never quite fit the medium intellectually. He spoke with great conviction about big ideas, spiritual thoughts, and grand visions; things pro wrestlers don’t tend to trade in.

He left the big stage of the then-WWF in 1996 and largely disappeared from public view after that. I interacted with him at length via phone calls and emails around 2000-01, when I was running a network of websites and e-commerce operations for a number of Hellwig’s contemporaries from the pro wrestling world, and I was struck by how different he was. Continue reading

Dave Parker: The Cobra’s on-field impact too easily forgotten

Dave Parker

Dave Parker was the star of the stars for the late-’70s Pirates.

Today’s sad news that former All-Star Dave Parker is battling Parkinson’s Disease stirred a host of childhood memories.

I grew up watching “The Cobra.” I was a mediocre right fielder in Little League right around the time Parker was winning batting titles and Gold Gloves patrolling right field in Pittsburgh. For years he was one of my favorite players, both in his truly electric prime as a legitimate five-tool talent with the “We Are Family” Pirates of the late 1970s and later, when he resurrected his career following baseball’s cocaine scandal of the 1980s that also claimed another hero of mine, Vida Blue.

As a West Coast native, I was never a Pirates fan, but they were a fun team to watch throughout much of the 1970s. The late ‘70s “Lumber Company” lineup of Willie Stargell and Bill Madlock and Omar Moreno and more was impressive to say the least, but to me the true superstar was always Parker. Continue reading