Day 323: That’d be great

It’s Day 323 of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve and Day 83 of Ohio’s 21-day WuFlu Curfew.

Deb and I are ok.

The weekend of our “maiden voyage” with the Bumper Bunker last July was hot and oppressively humid. Temps in the mid-90s were buffered by a gentle breeze and tall trees arching over our Hocking County campsite, making things tolerable if not entirely pleasant.

Life got considerably better after sunset, which came early to the wooded hills. Settled in our camp chairs outside the Bunker after dinner, we had a clear view of a clear night sky without interference from urban light.

We traded constellations. We enjoyed our neighbors’ flickering campfires. Mostly we were quiet, absorbing the world around us.

Bourbon happened.

Today’s header image captures that moment, the first night of what turned out to be a new direction in our American Life.

On Sunday I paid exactly zero attention to the Super Bowl. The NFL started walking away from me years ago, breaking into a dead run when it endorsed disrespect for our flag, our country, our military and our cops.

I am, however, aware of the game’s outcome and some of the buzz surrounding it. A few observations.

When cardboard cutouts outnumber actual breathing fans, it’s not a real American football game.

I’m told that Bruce Springsteen did an aspirational Jeep commercial, making an appeal for unity. If true, that’s about as credible as the sitting vice president pitching celibacy.

So Tom Brady, now with seven rings, is the most successful quarterback in modern NFL history. I chose my words carefully there — if winning is the object of sport, and a championship is the ultimate victory, then Brady certainly defines success.

The greatest?

I gotta admit, quarterbacking your team to ten pro-football championship games and winning seven is pretty remarkable.

Just like Otto Graham did.

And he only played ten years.

That was after he’d won a championship the only season he played professional basketball.

And that was after he earned his wings as a naval aviator during World War II. Which was after he was named a college All-American in football. And in basketball.

The greatest?

Bill Russell, in a 13-year career, went to 12 NBA finals and won 11 championships. After winning two NCAA championships.

Russell teammate John Havlicek, who’d played on an NCAA championship team himself, over 17 years in the NBA had eight finals appearances and won eight titles.

Henri Richard played 20 years in the NHL, went to the Stanley Cup Finals 13 times and won 11 titles. Yogi Berra. Joe DiMaggio. Rocky Marciano. Sugar Ray Robinson. Jack Nicklaus. Michael Phelps.

Calm down, sports fans. “Greatest” is a conversation, not a coronation.

Now I want to tell you a story of real greatness.

Chuck Csuri was born on the Fourth of July. He played football at The Ohio State University for legendary head coach Paul Brown — who later would coach Otto Graham with the Browns, by the way — and, as a tackle in 1942, he was captain of a Buckeyes squad that won the school’s first national championship.

He was voted the team’s most valuable player. He also was named MVP of the Big Ten Conference and a consensus first-team All-American. Quite a résumé, eh?

Csuri was drafted by the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals but, like many of his teammates, he left OSU after the 1942 season and enlisted. While a forward observer with the U.S. Army 69th Infantry, helping to direct artillery fire during the Battle of the Bulge, communications went down and the barrage stopped. Cpl. Csuri volunteered to run dispatches through snow-covered terrain back to Allied headquarters, which earned him a Bronze Star for his bravery under fire.

That résumé of his was now even more impressive. And if this story had ended right then and there, Chuck Csuri would be worthy of respect accorded very few men.

It didn’t. Read on.

The celebrated athlete and decorated combat veteran returned to Ohio State after the war, in 1948 earning a Master’s Degree in art and joining the university’s faculty a year later. He embraced emerging technology, too, looking for ways to apply it to his creative discipline.

In 1964, he created what’s considered the first computer art.

Today, Dr. Charles A. Csuri is universally recognized, worldwide, as the father of digital art and computer animation. He’s currently Professor Emeritus at The Advanced Computing Center for Art and Design at The Ohio State University.

Chuck Csuri will turn 99 years old this coming Independence Day.

Look, I understand the natural human desire to award titles like “the greatest of all time” and bestow other superlatives. It makes us feel better about ourselves when the objects of our admiration are contemporaries, and so we fall under the spell of recency. But if we don’t know our history, if we lose our cultural memory, if all we do is suck the teat of pop culture and media, we become sorry, superficial creatures.

Greatness surrounds us. Heroes walk among us. Our lives are populated by people we don’t know, people with stories full of wisdom, discovery, courage and accomplishment we’ve never heard. Many of their stories are still being written.

Find those stories. Learn them. Tell them.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath