Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Footballers

An open letter to Illinois state representative Carol Sente, regarding the dangers of playing tackle football, especially by children;

April 19, 2018

The Honorable Carol Sente
Illinois House of Representatives
59th House District
272-S Stratton Office Building
Springfield, Illinois 62706

Dear Representative Sente,

While reading an article in today’s Columbus Dispatch regarding a proposal to ban children in your state under the age of twelve from playing tackle football, I could not believe your comment that parents “need more time to absorb the evidence” which links repeated blows to the head to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Throughout the past two decades, colleges and pros have cut back on tackling in practice because of the brutality of the game, however, studies on the effects to the brain has only centered on concussions.

During the past six or eight years, if not longer, PBS aired two programs detailing the impact of tackle football on our youth. I do not remember the person’s name or occupation, but I will never forget the comment he made regarding the effects on a child’s brain when helmets bang together. He compared what happens to the brain as to shaking a bowl of Jell-O. This banging together of helmets occurs on every single play in every game and during every practice.

I grew up playing football, however the only time I wore a helmet was when I made the high school reserves team in the tenth grade. The ironic thing about helmets is that the more safer we make them, the more dangerous they have become, turning them into death-defying weapons of destruction. The sporting world only seems to link CTE to concussions, however, to me, and I’m no doctor, but the shaking of brains comparable to shaking a bowl of Jell-O, especially in children, is the real concern.

My son (and my daughter too) got his love of the sport from me, and he played two years of peewee tackle football twenty some years ago. Knowing what I know now, I would not allow him to play tackle football at such a young age.

Sincerely,

Steven H. Spring

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“Dissed”

December 30, 2017

I do not understand why more and more draft eligible players are choosing not to play in a bowl game, fearful of injuring themselves and potentially losing millions of NFL guaranteed dollars. Granted, in the past few years, a couple of players suffered from this cruel fate, but, how does a player face his teammates?

What I really do not understand is why coaches allow a player who is refusing to play to still be a part of the team, allowing them to stand along the sidelines. I’m no coach, but if one, would tell any player who refused to play, that’s fine, but you’re staying home.

Players have been complaining for several decades now about being disrespected. The complaint become so widespread it ended up with its own slang word, “dissed.” But, isn’t refusing to play the ultimate form of disrespect? Coming of age on the south side of Columbus through the ‘70s, we would have had one word for such a player, a word now days most associated with the president.

What does this say about a player? What does this say about us as a society and a nation?

Steven H. Spring
Earth

Where Is The Outrage?

September 27, 2017

As the list of Americans, which grows longer every day, that are outraged by NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, allegedly showing disrespect to our military, our flag and the country itself, I wonder how many are patriotic enough to have actually served their country? America’s two longest wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which are still ongoing, with no end in sight, and yet only one percent of Americans serve in the military, resulting in those who serve being sent into harm’s way over and over and over again. Some soldiers have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan more than a dozen times. Where is the outrage?

In addition to these two wars, America is also bombing on a somewhat semi-regular basis four other countries: Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Where is the outrage? Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every single day. Where is the outrage? We have a president who appears hell-bent on instigating a nuclear war with North Korea. Where is the outrage over a potential nuclear war that could destroy planet Earth as we know it? The president also appears more than willing to get into a war with Iran. Where is the outrage?

It appears that Russia hi-jacked our 2016 presidential election, as more and more evidence comes forth seeming every single day, yet half the country, including nearly the entire Republican Party are in denial. Where is the outrage? We have a president who seems to be more interested in tweeting all day long than running the government, a man who apparently cannot tell the truth. Where is the outrage?

I find there are far too many more important issues facing Americans and humanity world-wide to be outraged because football players are kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, in protest of social injustice. There is so much pain and suffering in this world for anyone to be outraged by players protesting the all too common murder of black men by police.

Steven H. Spring
Earth

Is Chris Duarte The Greatest Living Guitarist?

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July 8, 2017

I have seen in concert or have listened to the recordings of most, if not all of the greatest rock and/or blues guitarists during the past forty-five years, and without a doubt one of the best is Chris Duarte. There have been comparisons made to Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix and there are several Duarte songs that have that SRV sound, but I believe it’s due more to a Texas blues shuffle thing going on than sounding like the man himself.

I have seen Duarte in concert five times and every show has been amazing. As someone who is not widely known, to put it mildly, I always saw him in very small bars and every time he puts on a two to three-hour show of amazing guitar playing for less than ten bucks. The only time I paid more for a ticket, and when he played less than two hours was when he opened for Gov’t Mule at Ludlow‘s, a bar in Columbus, Ohio, which cost fifteen dollars. These seven photographs were shot at Chelsie’s, a now defunct bar that was located in the Short North artisan district in Columbus on June 18, 1999. The price of the ticket was an incredible seven dollars. Needless to say, these photos were shot with film, and then the 4×6 prints were scanned onto my computer to be adjusted, framed and matted before being uploaded online.

For those who have yet to experience the fury of Chris’ playing, I would recommend starting with his 1994 album Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. However, on his 2003 album Romp, is his incredible version of the Bob Dylan song One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below). This song in itself is worth the price of the CD. It was while listening to this CD for the first time while setting up my computer for a new high-speed internet connection that I came up with the name of my new email address, that being DoTheRomp@SBCglobal.net, borrowing the title from the first song on the CD.

Do not take it from me as to the greatness of Chris Duarte, as on the guitarist’s website is a quote from Eddie Van Halen who, when asked during a 1989 Rock One Radio interview what’s it like to be greatest guitar player in the world, Van Halen replied “I don’t know, ask Chris Duarte.”

Do The Romp? Yes, indeed!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

Muddy Waters #25A, 77A, 77B, 52A, 21C & 21B

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January 21, 2017

McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) was born on April 4, 1913 in Jug’s Corner, Mississippi. Although he first began playing the blues on harmonica, by age 17 Muddy was playing local parties and juke joints on acoustic guitar. In 1940, Waters moved to Chicago for the first time, but soon returned home. During 1943, he returned to Chicago for good. In 1945, Muddy was given his first electric guitar from his uncle, Joe Grant, and the rest as they say is history. In 1950, Muddy recorded Rollin’ Stone, a song one decade later five young white, English lads would take as the name of the band, who would become the world’s greatest rock and roll band, The Rolling Stones. Over the years, Waters would have as his backing band some of the most respected sidemen in blues history, including Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

In 1977, Waters recorded Hard Again, a comeback album of sorts that featured Johnny Winters on guitar, producer and miscellaneous screaming. The first song on the album is a blistering, powerful remake of his 1955 classic, Mannish Boy. For anyone not familiar with the music of Mr. Waters, this is the album to start with. If I could only own twelve albums, and what a hardship that would be, however this would definitely be one.

These photos were shot at a very small bar on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and as such, the lighting was not very conducive to someone wanting to photograph arguably the greatest bluesman of all-time. As a matter of fact, of the two or three rolls of film I shot that night, only one print actually looked worthy of posting on my blog. All others came back underdeveloped. With the use of my computer, I was able to adjust both the color and contrast levels to make them presentable. The one print that looked halfway decent did not even make the final cut to this post. Instead of shooting only two or three rolls of thirty-six exposure film that night, if I had a digital camera back then, I most likely would have shot a thousand photos that night, if not more.

I have always thought the location of this show was Stache’s & Little Brothers. However, when doing some research, it seems the location was a place called High Street Brewing Company, but this might be the same locale, only under a different name. The date of the show was either Sunday February 8, 1981 or Tuesday November 3, 1981, as it seems that Waters played at this bar twice during that year.

Muddy Waters passed away in Chicago on April 30, 1983. The blues are rock and roll and Muddy Waters is the blues!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

A Tale Of Two Parties (Apologies To Charles Dickens)

November 10, 2016

Less than twenty-four hours after the Republican Party candidate pulled off the biggest upset this year, no, make that number two behind Penn State pulling off a huge upset in a Happy Valley white-out against the Buckeyes, President Obama invited the president-elect, who mocked Obama for years, to the White House to discuss the peaceful transfer of power come January. Whatever happened to the president-elect’s investigation into the president’s birth and religion, the results of which we were told is gonna shock us?

Eight years ago, on the day President Obama was first sworn into office, Republican Congressional leaders met at the Caucus Room restaurant to make sure the “uppity” first-term Senator from Illinois was a complete failure, in effect the most perfect example of putting party over country. Especially considering the disastrous economy he inherited. Or a world economy on the brink of a catastrophic meltdown, due to the Wall Street mess. Not to mention the two longest wars in U.S. history, both unfunded and still ongoing. Also unfunded were two massive tax cuts, benefiting mainly the wealthy elite, as well as the Medicare prescription drug program.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had the audacity to announce his number one priority was seeing Barack Obama a one-term president. He couldn’t even get that right!!!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

U.S. Elections Are Rigged, Just Not In The Way Donald Trump Whines About

November 1, 2016

How is it that America, which prides itself on being the world’s all-time greatest democracy, is becoming less and less so with each and every election? Though technically a representative democracy in which we elect local and state officials, along with members of Congress to cast our votes for us, this concluding presidential season just might prove that we are anything but one.

On the Republican side of the wall separating the two parties, businessman, blowhard and national embarrassment on the world stage Donald Trump beat a field of sixteen other mostly uninspiring candidates by out-name calling them to win his party’s nomination. Trump is such a polarizing candidate that members of his own party took an anybody-but-Trump movement right up to the moment he accept the nomination during the Republican Convention held earlier this summer in Cleveland.

Even though Trump won his party’s nomination by winning more than the 1,237 delegates needed to win, he referred to the system as rigged. As Election Day finally approaches, he has begun a full-time campaign decrying the system as rigged and massive fraud will be committed on Election Day. Trump has gone as far as stating he will contest the outcome, unless of course he miraculously wins. With election fraud virtually nonexistent, and polls indicating that Hillary Clinton just might win in a landslide, it seems that Trump is getting his excuses in order when he loses the election, so that the final result will not be a blow to his enormous ego.

Mr. Trump probably saw nothing wrong with winning his home state primary of New York with sixty percent of the vote, yet he received ninety-seven percent of the votes that really counts, the delegate vote. Making matters more complicated than this seemingly unnatural method of electing candidates are the party’s “unbound” delegates. The Republican Party cannot even give an accurate account of their highly influential number, as it ranges from plus or minus one hundred and fifty to as many as two hundred. These unbound delegates are free to vote for whomever they choose, despite the vote of the people, and comprise as much as sixteen percent of the actual vote needed to win the Republican nomination. This is democracy?

The Democratic Party, with its seven hundred and twelve unpledged “super delegates,” comprising a whopping thirty percent of the party’s total delegate count, is even more undemocratic. These super delegates, who are comprised of various Democratic leaders such as sitting governors and members of Congress, are under no obligation to vote for the candidate who won their state primary. The perfect example of democracy in action for the Democratic Party, despite the irony in its name occurred during the New Hampshire primary. Senator Bernie Sanders, who beat Clinton by twenty percentage points, walked away with a virtual tie in the delegate count.

Based on his margin of victory, Senator Sanders won the pledged delegate count fifteen – nine over Clinton, yet six of the state’s eight super delegates pledged their support for the former New York senator, with two delegates uncommitted. This resulted in fundamentally a tie between the two candidates, despite Sanders soundly beating his opponent. In an even more egregious example, Sanders won the Wyoming caucus by eleven percentage points, yet Clinton won the total delegate count eleven – seven. How is that possible?

The Democrat Party’s super delegate nominating process came about after former California governor Ronald Reagan beat President Jimmy Cater during his re-election bid in 1980. Party leaders felt to urge to correct any “mistake” made by voters during the primary season, thereby being able to nominate a candidate more their liking, despite how Americans actually voted. The vast majority of Hillary Clinton’s delegate count over Bernie Sanders was due to super delegates.

When you also consider the Republican Party is doing everything it can to restrict voter turnout, be it by reducing early voting dates or enacting new voter ID laws, America’s democratic values are being greatly undermined. In Texas, a hunting license is an acceptable form of voter ID, yet a college ID is not. We are led to believe that stricter ID laws are required because of voter fraud, yet voter fraud is basically nonexistent. From 2000 through 2014, more than one billion votes were cast with only thirty-one documented case of voter fraud, a fraction so insignificant it might very well be zero. Most cases of alleged fraud are only errors committed by citizens staffing the polling stations.

The Grand Old Party has also taken to greatly reducing the number of voting machines in historically Democratic voting districts, resulting in lengthy waits in line just to cast a vote. In this past Arizona primary, voters waited in lines for up to five hours, while during the last presidential election, voters in Ohio waited in line up to eight hours. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted was sued earlier this year by the ACLU over allegations of illegally removing tens of thousands of voter names from registration rolls. In September, the Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals ruled he cannot purge the voting rolls merely because citizens do not vote regularly. Maybe it’s time for America to change its national motto from “In God We Trust” to “If You Cannot Beat Them, Restrict Them.”

Another method of restricting voter turnout are the “closed” primaries, in which Democrats are only allowed to vote Democrat and Republican the same, leaving Independents out of the process. One report indicated that more than a million New Yorkers were refused their constitutional right to vote. Who can forget that two of Trump’s children failed to properly register and left unable to vote for their father?

Making the entire process even more corrupt was the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in which the court basically ruled that the ability of corporations and unions to contribute unlimited amounts of money to candidates and issues equates to speech. Money is not free speech, and not free as money buys influence. Unlimited money buys corruption. Campaign contributions to candidates by Wall Street have tripled since 2012. It is said that members of Congress now spend most of their time begging for campaign contributions.

After voting is completed in state primaries and then finally the national election, it is not the candidate who receives the most votes that wins the election, it is the Electoral College that decides who will be the next president of the United States. Is America a democracy? Hardly.

Steven H. Spring
Earth