A Few Random Things for Your Monday
Some fun, some touching, some scary
Cullen Bryant was an NFL running back with the Rams when I was a kid. I remember his 1976 card very well (see above). He was never much of a pro player, really, had a thoroughly mundane career, though of course if you make it to the NFL, you are far from mundane in that business.
I remember in high school, when I read William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis,” which impressed me greatly, thinking “Huh. The Ram running back has the same name, that’s weird.”
It turns out the football player’s father was a fan of the poet. I like the idea that the spirit of the author of that wonderful poem made it to the NFL…
Here’s another one of these, about which I learned in college, that comes to mind just as I’m writing this. The full name of Fran Tarkenton, the great Minnesota Vikings quarterback, one of the greats at that position in a time (the mid-1970s) when there were a bunch of future Hall of Fame and near HoF QBs in the league (Terry Bradshaw, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Bert Jones, Kenny Stabler, Joe Namath, Ken Anderson, Jim Hart, Jim Plunkett) is Francis Asbury Tarkenton.
He was named for Francis Asbury, one of the most important Methodist circuit rider ministers in the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s. Asbury helped Methodism become one of the rising Christian denominations during that time by his dogged evangelism. Fran “The Scram” Tarkenton had no horse, but he managed to do some traveling nonetheless.
I posted something a while back about Frank Zappa’s song “King Kong,” which features his Mothers of Invention. The bass player in that group was Roy Estrada, who also sang the hilariously great vocal line in “Oh, In the Sky,” a lovingly faithful but still very Zappa-esque Zappa take on doo-wop music. I thought that song was wonderfully precious from the first time I heard it. I have often caught myself singing it around the house over the past 25 years or so.
I just learned that Estrada is currently serving what amounts to a life sentence for sexual assault of a child. It has been claimed that perhaps Frank and his wife Gail had known about some illegal activity Estrada was engaged in and did not report it to police. His vocal in that song is now forever altered for me, not to mention the fact that the weirdness of the Zappas gets less charming and quite a bit scarier with this information. I almost wish I had not discovered this…
“You Are So Beautiful,” made famous of course by Joe Cocker’s rendition, was co-written by Billy Preston, who played such superb electric piano and organ on the Beatles’ “Get Back” sessions. And it’s written to Billy’s mom! Beautiful. Billy cheers me back up after the awful news about the lead vocalist in “Oh, In the Sky.”
BP greets the Beatles
I watched this as it happened, but hadn’t thought about it in a long time. Just prompted to look up first pitches by my news feed the other day, which showed some famous pop culture-y guy I never heard of (and whose name I can’t even be bothered to remember 30 seconds after looking at the story) throwing a first pitch high up on to the net behind home plate, that is, way off target. Looked around on YouTube and found President Bush’s first pitch in game 3 of 2001 World Series, which took place a bit more than a month after the 9/11 attacks.
Now I’m not going to get into the political substance of the GWB administration, I promise, I’m not.
Just want to note what an extremely big emotional deal it was for Americans like me, for whom baseball was a quasi-religious affair for much of my life, to watch an American President walk out to the mound in the Series, in the wake of what we had just suffered, acknowledge the crowd, throw a strike right down the middle of the plate (and just listen to the Yankee Stadium crowd acknowledge it), then walk confidently off like he had been doing that his whole life.