Good morning, Highland Middle

I spent all of Friday morning talking writing with Mr. John Beasley’s classes at Highland Middle School, at the gracious invitation of Deborah Aubespin.

They probably had more questions about a “Grinch” parody I wrote in November than about anything I’d written for sports, so we spent a good bit of time talking about poems and verse. But they didn’t think it was too bad a gig to get to go watch ball games for a living and have the newspaper pay for the travel, hotel, tickets and food.

They had some good questions.

Someone wanted to know what I’d do if I were to not be working for the newspaper anymore. I wish I’d had a good answer, and I wish I didn’t have to think about that question so much!

A couple of people wanted to know if I’d always do sports or do something else. Hard to say.

In the first hour, there was a young lady named Kaitlin, and I sure hope I’m spelling her name right, who came to me after class and said she wants to be a writer, and even is working on her own book. I guarantee you I’ll be one of those at the front of the line to buy it.

I’d sure hope that those young people, and any others around, will look at their writing assignments in school not just as chores they have to finish, but as chances for them to show who they are, to express themselves. Kids tend to think of doing those things through hair styles and clothes and shoes and personality. I’d hope they’d also realize they can do it through the written word, no matter the subject they’re writing about.

Finally, I was asked in one of the classes about the first column I ever wrote. This was either the first or second. It ran in The Evansville Press on August 27, 1994. I share it here because the class was working on parody and verse, and this is an example of both. (Though not a great example. My apologies to the general reading public. It’s a bit dated, but came about as the result of the baseball players’ strike.)

A modern classic: The mighty Casey at the bargaining table

We hear every day about the suffering incurred by owners, players, concession workers and fans from the ongoing baseball strike. But what of the strike’s long-term effects? What about its impact on baseball’s legacy.

Consider the result had a strike been looming when Ernest Lawrence Thayer sat down to write “Casey at the Bat . . . “

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that year
They stood full four games out with the races in high gear.
And then when talk of strike reared up to cut the season short,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the sport.

A fuming few cast down their stubs and vowed to stay away,
Still others dared to hope that someone might yet save the day.
They thought if only Casey could be brought to the talks,
Their hallowed player rep would never let his teammates walk.

But the owners and the players weren’t close to sitting down.
Not a single meeting had been planed in any single town.
Ravitch represented owners, and Fehr the players’ stake,
But the latter was a pansy while the former was a snake.

So from the stricken multitudes a plaintive wail was heard.
For there seemed but little chance that Casey’d get to say a word.
When to the wonderment of all the sides agreed to meet,
And there was Ravitch at the table and Fehr a-huggin briefs.

Then from five million throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell.
It knocked among the mountains and recoiled upon the station,
For Casey, mighty Casey, would begin negotiation.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped out of his B-mer.
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile to his demeanor.
And when Casey saw reporters and promised mediation,
No stranger there could doubt that Casey’d fix the situation.

Ten million eyes were on him as he gripped his briefcase tight,
Five million tongues applauded as he vowed to work all night.
Then while the gathered owners drew up a salary cap,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye as he gave his hands a clap.

And now a slip of paper came a-sliding ‘cross the desk,
And Casey sat and watched it as it slowly came to rest.
He snatched up the owners’ offer and carefully he read —
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one,” the owners said.

From the sports bars thick with people there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore.
“Kill them, kill the owners!” shouted someone from his beer,
And it’s likely they’d have kille
d them all
had Casey not been near.

“It’s a game of give-and-take,” Casey told ESPN,
And he went on Larry King’s show and he said they’d try again.
Then he signaled to the owners, and to them an offer came,
But they laughed out when they saw it, and snidely said, “No way.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened millions, and echo answered, “Fraud!”
But a single look from Casey and the multitude was awed.
And now transfixed on cable they all watched as both sides plotted.
They knew the sides would settle to avoid an eighth work stoppage.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched with rage,
He pounds his fist in angry pose for tomorrow’s front sports page.
And now an owner holds an offer, and now he lets it fly,
And now the air is shattered by Casey’s fierce reply.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land, the children laugh and play,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere folks are gay.
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere hearts are light,
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey is on strike.


9 thoughts on “Good morning, Highland Middle

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