Thursday, May 29, 2014

Swen Nater

On the road to the top of the mountain,
At the base of the very last hill,
There’s a pleasing and well-traveled exit,
For the faint with a weakening will. 

For the last stretch is steep and is daunting,
And for most, it’s just too much to bear.
And those with the best of intentions, 
Turn right and then settle down there.

And together they built a calm city.
And they talk of such things as, “I could have.”
And they find consolation in “but” and in “if,”
And of course the most popular, “would have.”

There’s a sign up ahead by the highway,
“Excuseville: A Sweet-Dreaming Town.”
You’ve done well; you can stop.
It’s too far to the top.
Take the exit and just settle down.   

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier

By Swen Nater


I cry when pompous orators,

Omit me when they teach,

And thereby steal the credit,

For the freedom of their speech.


I cry when cunning lawyers,

Make their case, and all the while,

Forget that I’m responsible,

For a fair and speedy trial.


I cry when news reporters,

Don’t reserve in their address,

One word to give me tribute,

For the freedom of the press.


And politicians make me weep,

In speeches that they wrote,

When they don’t mention, my shed blood,

Preserved the right to vote.


I am the Unknown Soldier,

Unknown for what I’ve won.

Buried in the ground am I,

And all that I have done.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kevin Durant NBA MVP

Kevin Durant NBA MVP

When being given the award, the NBA MVP usually, at best, sometimes, gives partial credit to his teammates and his coach. I say “sometimes” because it rarely happens. Normally, the MVP jerks the trophy from the hand of whoever is presenting it, and accepts the award gladly on national television. And the next-day’s newspaper shows him holding the trophy high over his head with his teammates in a blurred background. And when the microphone is put by his mouth, he snatches it and takes the opportunity to tell us (as if we are interested or didn’t know) how he, as a kid, dreamed of being in the NBA and how hard he worked to get here.

If you haven’t seen the video of Kevin Durant’s 2014 NBA MVP acceptance speech, I warn you; it’s very emotional. And it was very unusual. True, he did a little of what’s in the first paragraph. You almost have to since you are MVP and people want to know you are proud of yourself. So, to appease the audience, Durant mentioned how, when young, the only dream he had was to be a Rec league coach, never imagining that one day he would stand on a stage alongside his teammates to accept the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.

But once that was said, Durant led us to a place we were not expecting to go, one we have rarely visited, a place called, “Perspective.” This grown man with apparent impeccable character, gave credit where credit was due, calling his mother, “The “Real MVP.” He recalled his youth, dominated with poverty and how his mom, somehow and often sacrificially, made ends meet. As he continued, I reckon there was not a dry eye in America.  The trip to the fridge for that second beer was put on hold. Everyone was challenged to think, once again, about the fact, nobody gets anywhere on their own and we all need to give credit where it belongs.

But I have a question for  Kevin Durant. You said, when you were young, the only dream you had was to be a rec league coach and that you never thought you would be on the big stage. I hope you didn’t mean, being an NBA player is more important to society than being a youth coach. For  I can tell you it’s not. I know because I have done both.

You can have more impact as a coach than as a player. When I played in the NBA, I met many young people. The influence I had on them was that I was a hardworking player who was nice to people and not conceited. I signed lots of autographs and made a host of personal appearances, free of charge. But that was basically the extent of it. However, when I coached that 5th grade boys basketball rec team, I had the opportunity to make a difference.

It was time to take Bryce out of the game; I had to play every player the same minutes. Bryce pouted while sitting in my seat and, with stiffly-folded arms, he refused to get out when the game resumed.  I told him he was not going to play at all if he didn’t move but he didn’t budge. I told my assistant to go tell his mother that Bryce would be on the bench the remainder of the game. To my surprise, after the game, Bryce and his mom came up to me. With streaming tears, Bryce apologized. We hugged and I saw Bryce take a step toward maturity that day and the rest of the season, he continued to do so.

Nobody can tell me, being an NBA player is more important than being a rec league coach.