Facing the future – without that face mask.

“My good players have all broken their noses a couple of times.” Clark (Ted) Miller, while football coach at Wilkinsburg High School, ca. 1950’s[1].

a face-mask-free zone… and no social distancing

Face mask? Not talking about that cloth thing that we’re all wearing nowadaysRead on.

Every one of us wakes up each morning to confront a set of fresh and ongoing tasks and responsibilities – things that need doing. Most of us tackle and finish a handful, make a bit of progress on a few more – and kick the rest down the road, adding them to tomorrow’s list.

That said, there’s one task we cannot duck – moving another day into the future. We don’t remain in some fixed past. Not an option!

Most days, and most of the time throughout the span of our lives, that’s not a big deal. That new day and new future looks pretty much like yesterday. It’s only the slightest, merest bit different, maybe undetectably so. But our lives also include a handful of days where and when things change a lot for us as individuals. We graduate from school. We start a new job. We get married. We leave one town and go to another. We have that first child. We fall ill. We lose a loved one.

Then there are the milestones – the times when things change a lot – not just for us alone, but for everybody. The company goes into bankruptcy and half the people in town are laid off. The drought hits and the crops fail. This time, the hurricane makes landfall on our stretch of coast. Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the “Big Bopper J. P. Richardson are killed in a plane crash, and “the music dies.” We go to war. Or…

…we suffer a global pandemic.

With the onset of covid-19 a long run of past weeks and months and years that had brought a stifling, oppressive sameness, a mire of meaningless routine and repetition, has been transformed – into the “good old days.” We long for that old normal. We flinch in the face of the now-uncertain future.

Flinching? Exactly what my high school’s football coach didn’t want to see[2]. Helmet face masks were a thing by the 1950’s, but in the hardscrabble steel-mill towns of western Pennsylvania not so much in evidence at the high school level. Our coach wanted players who would keep their eyes riveted on the opposing ball carrier and the ball, up to and including the moment of collision. He didn’t want them flinching before impact, turning their heads ever-so-slightly sideways to soften the blow, giving a good runner opportunity to shift stance and direction, and gain an extra yard, or elude the tackle altogether. If that meant a few more broken noses over a player’s career or a season, then so be it. (Coach Miller got results: Wilkinsburg won the Western-Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) Title for Class IV football my sophomore year.)

Football a metaphor for life itself! The future belongs to those who will embrace it.

As in embrace fully – from life’s broader aspects down to the details.

One of those details – and a place where I’ll be seeking your help if you’re willing – is with respect to the 2020 AMS Summer Policy Colloquium. More in the next post.

A (highly questionable) bonus. One person in this block of Wilkinsburg-High-School seniors from our 1960 yearbook might look familiar:


[1]Not the first time I’ve drawn on this example in LOTRW, but it’s been a while.

[2]Full disclosure: As I said back in 2010, also in a footnote, I didn’t play football at that level. I was my current height and weighed 143 pounds, and the wishbone offense was in vogue in those days. I visualized the wishbone as the defensive tackle grabbing my left leg, and the defensive end grabbing my right leg, exclaiming, “make a wish!” Basketball beckoned.

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