To My Son On His 21st Birthday

Thos., Happy 21st Birthday, son!

The card with The Wizard Of Oz characters on the front may seem like an odd card for a young man's 21st birthday, yet I think it hits four important points that are essential to a happy, serene and meaningful life--which, at least to me means a successful life.

What I hope your Mother and I have taught you is that an age such as 21 means very little when it comes to what I call "life competence". There are certain attributes and morals that will serve you well should you attain and live by them (and I believe you are on your way, but it's a never-ending life long education to that end).

First, successful and competent adults have "heart" as the Tin Man so much wished to have. A good heart keeps you grounded and appreciative of whatever your station in life, respectful and understanding of others different than you or those needing a helping hand, and resolute in your beliefs. Heart keeps you steady in reaching your goals. You might say "heart" is like having passion for life--being passionate in all you do. And ethical in all you do. Your moral heart will steer you clear of short cuts, work arounds, rationalizations, shoddy work and unfair dealings of any kind. Those with heart take life seriously, realize their time on earth is limited and strive to make the most of the journey for themselves and others. With honor even in loss.

Life takes "courage," a trait the Lion knew he lacked and wanted so badly. Life can be scary and dangerous at times. It can be easy to give up or give in. Your courage will see you through those times. Plus, even in good times there are always serious decisions to be made that take the courage of your convictions. As you marry and start a family your decisions will take on an even more dramatic meaning. Your decisions will affect those you love dearly.

Courage allows one to expand their comfort zone, allows you to embrace change and comforts you when your decisions do not create the expected result. Courage and heart go together hand in hand, usually. It's difficult to be courageous without the passion of your convictions. Without heart there is nothing to be courageous about.

The Scarecrow feared he lacked "brains." Even the most fool hardy, lazy and self centered have innate ability. Yet, few cultivate that ability or use reason and logic as effective tools in their life. So often we live for the moment with no other considerations.

Few use their potential which is a sad, sad waste of what the Good Lord gave us. You must not take your intellect, your reasoning ability and your sensibilities for granted. Nurture and use those tools. Accept that to improve your life means continually learning. Learning takes effort and lazy men who are unwilling to grow mentally are rarely successful, and I don't mean just financially. What I do mean is that when one stops learning their life can often stagnate.

Your knowledge will spark the passion of your heart. Your passion will be tethered by courage. No matter what your bank account says a full life will emerge. You will live such that at your dying breath there will be no regrets.

Oh, and one more thing. For those of us so inclined, a good woman by our side is an important ingredient in our success, whether her name is Dorothy or not. And a good woman likes a man with heart, courage and intellect. Just ask your Mother. (!)

Happy Birthday, son. I love you,


The Duke Blue Devil

I grew up a Duke Blue Devil fan growing up in Durham, NC which is the home of Duke University. Not everyone in town was a Duke fan, as the University of NC is just 8 miles away. But me? That Blue Devil mascot was such a pull, along with Sonny Jurgenson, Art Heyman, football coach Bill Murray and his "Lonesome End" offense, and others. But that Blue Devil....cool!

My birthday is in November and when I was young my Father always found a way to "procure" (see the post Memorial Day) good tickets to the Duke vs. Carolina game which was usually played a bit before Thanksgiving.

Oh, it was something I looked forward to every other year when the game was played in Wallace Wade Stadium. Back then, Duke football games
were usually played to a packed stadium and the Carolina game was always a sellout and a coveted ticket.

It was at these games in the late 50's and early 60's that The Blue Devil mascot was such a fun, scurrilous and magical figure to me and others. This was not the big-headed cartoonish mascot of today, but rather a masked, caped and devil-tailed demonic yet humanized mascot with a hellish sense of humor, great panache and mystery. And a pitchfork which he was not afraid to use.

Back then, the identity of each young man who was tapped to be the Blue Devil and thus would embody the spirit of all mischievous college students everywhere, was kept as a sacred secret. To be chosen as the BD was a high honor that was earned through rigorous challenge. Based on the video below I don't think that's the case today.

How was it that in the old days The Blue Devil would end up standing on the crossbar of the goal post during the game without anyone (or at least me, eight years old) seeing him get there? And how did he manage to steal the opposition's third stringer's helmet and walk around with it the whole game taunting the opposition's bench as he made his way around the stadium? That's balls.
That's the Blue Devil.

How was it that he could steal the clapper of The Victory Bell when Carolina won, so the UNC cheerleaders could not run around ringing it after the game? How did he shimmy up the flagpole? Where did the moxie come from that would lead him to stand regal on top of the press box, visible to the home crowd in a classic devil pose; upright with one hand on hip, pitchfork in the other, cape fluttering in the wind. In charge. Victorious always. Because even when on the wrong end of the score we had the Devil. Carolina had...well, a male sheep. Sure, the ram had big curving horns but hey, so did the devil. I never saw that ram anywhere but on the ground.

Duke is in the basketball Final Four this weekend and I will be cheering for them, even though I now follow the Tarheels as much as the Blue Devils. There is something about the passion of Roy Williams I like. Yet, I will still be angry after all these years of cartoon NCAA mascots that the Blue Devil had his balls cut off. Duke could have stuck with the old way.

If those hotshot smart as hell Duke students had half the cool they think they have, a few of 'em would rush that stupid big headed Devil during a pre-game this weekend, kidnap him the way the old schoolers used to kidnap the UNC Ram and have prepared an old-school masked Blue Devil for a replacement. That replacement would be decked out in a Duke blue spandex unitard with a cape that Dracula would envy, lined in white silk. Or maybe red silk. He would be resplendent in his pointy, custom-made toe-curled Ferragamo devil shoes and be armed with a sharpened pitchfork. And stuff a couple of socks down there.

Ready for action. With a big Gothic "D" on his chest. And big horns coming out of that head mask. And big balls, socks or not, enough so that he would end up swinging from the rafters of the arena, mocking the opponents and instilling some old-school Duke Pride in the faithful. Or maybe he would steal the basketball from the Ref during a time out. Or sit for a while behind the opposing bench making mean. Being a devil. Making Duke proud and a winner no matter the score.

GO DUKE! Bring home the Championship. But leave that big headed goofball of a devil in Indiana. He may as well be a devil with a blue dress on.

You call those things horns!?


Top picture mid 60's; Devil with Marching Band 1929; Devil riding on GTO mid 60's; Devil with UNC ram early 30's; Devil with gothic D late 60's; wimp in bottom picture passes a Blue Devil in recent years