Dodge This!

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It is rather sad when one peaks in the 5th grade. I mean, so much of life still lies ahead but the glory days remain back in grade school. You see, I was a bit of a prodigy in elementary school. I have already recounted my feats of speed in an earlier blog but apparently I was quite the agile little dickens as well. I was unbeatable in a sport I’m told is rarely played in schools these days. Of course, I’m talking about dodgeball.

Because I grew up in the 60s, we’re not talking about the sanctioned sport of Dodgeball with complex rules and uniformed teams as showcased in the Vince Vaughn movie. The way we played it on the blacktop, one kid stood in the center of a circle around which the entire class was standing. And the sole object was to throw a red rubber kickball, a little larger than a basketball, at that kid until he was hit. Who ever threw the ball that hit the kid became the next one to stand in the middle as the target.

Once I made the center, it was game over. I was like ridiculously hard to hit. I may have lost the limberness I once had but back in the day I was a cross between a circus contortionist and Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four (he was the one who could stretch himself like rubber.) On more than one occasion, the recess monitor had to come to break up our game because it was time to resume class. With me in the center, the game would never end.

My superior skill at dodging a ball soon became the stuff of classroom legend. My peers, who once were my friends, became determined to bring me down. They started sneaking extra balls to the lineup thinking I could be blindsided.  They changed the rules by eliminating the circle and just lining me up against the brick wall of the school building. It was like facing a firing squad of rubber balls.

I graduated from elementary school undefeated in dodgeball. I was certain my future was bright. But my career came to a sudden and unexpected end. No one ever told me they didn’t play dodgeball in junior high.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Keeping In Sync

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As many years as I have been transferring home movies for families, I would have thought I had captured every sporting event known to mankind.  I have transferred baseball games, football games, soccer matches, volleyball games, lacrosse matches, field hockey games, martial arts exhibitions, and more. But yesterday was a first. I transferred a videotape that had actually contained a client’s family member performing a synchronized swimming performance.

Now, let me first state how appreciative I am at the discipline needed to effectively pull off a synchronized performance of any kind. It requires great concentration, skill, and practice to move in unison with another person. Just ask the Rockettes. But, in this particular instance, there is a problem… the elephant in the room if you will…

I discovered through the watching of the tape I transferred that I am incapable of seeing a synchronized swimming performance without bringing to mind the Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Martin Short and Harry Shearer. First aired in 1984, it has arguably been declared as the best sketch ever to have appeared on SNL.  That is high praise. There may be a few sketches that I would personally rank higher but I can’t argue with the impact it had upon my brain because this sketch will invariably come to mind whenever when I see a legitimate synchronized performance no matter how good it may be.

In the sketch, Shearer and Short appeared as brothers who pursued their passion for the sport even though, in Short’s own words, he is not that strong at swimming. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a link to this classic SNL routine:

 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio cassette, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Sink or Swim?

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I am currently transferring a large number of a family’s videotapes that span a decade or two. Today I went through a series of tapes where the parents lovingly worked with their children in the pool, teaching them to swim. That sparked a memory within me.

I believe I mentioned earlier that I used to be a lifeguard. I was also a swimming instructor. I typically taught beginner classes because, as I said in an earlier blog, I do enjoy working with children.

One day, I was in the lifeguard tower when I heard a high-pitched, terrified scream. I focused in on the sound and saw a young boy struggling to reach the side of the pool. He made it and a male adult, who I assumed was his father, pulled him out of the pool and threw him back into the water. The crowd was watching. I jumped down from my station and began walking toward him.

Not a good scene. Here I am, a 17 year old kid in a speedo with a whistle around my neck, approaching a grown-ass man who, in my view, was abusing his child. This could get ugly.

The child, once again, managed to get to the edge of the pool and before the adult could throw him back in, I spoke softly: “I can help you.” He looked at me. “If you want to teach your son to swim, there are better ways. I have a class starting next week. I can leave a spot open for him. No charge.”

I thought the father was going to create a scene but he backed down, perhaps sensing the crowd was not on his side. The mother, after he left, came up and thanked me and offered to pay me for the lessons. I declined.

I have never taught anyone as fearful of the water as that child was. It took the better part of a week to get him to let go of my arm when we were in the water together. Another half week to get him to trust me enough to lie still with my hand beneath his head as his body floated on the surface. On the last day of class, I removed my hand and he floated on the water all by himself.

The entire poolside of parents stood and cheered. I high-fived the young boy and then looked over to his mother and her expression of pure joy and gratitude will always stay with me. A few weeks later, I saw the boy, happy and playing in the water with other children his age. I never saw his father again. And I had no problem with that.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, slides, and more. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The Replacements

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I saw an old movie on TV the other night. It was a Keanu Reeves film called The Replacements. It was inspired, though not based, on actual events that I still remember. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable football season that I, as a fan, ever lived through. Most others vehemently disagree.

The year was 1987 and the NFL players union decided to hold a strike during the regular season. Wanting a change in the free agency program, the players, after game two of the season, decided to sit out games until negotiations went their way. The owners had a different idea. They chose to field replacement teams using players they found wherever they could. Some had been cut during training camp, others were passed over by the draft, some were just invited to play because they were big and strong. They dressed these guys in the uniforms and put them on the field but they had precious little time to teach them the game and how to gel as a team. The result was a series of some pretty ugly plays disguising itself as a football game.

I was fortunate because I grew up in the DC area and was thus an enthusiastic Redskins fan. This all happened during the Joe Gibbs era and he was a master at manipulating events to his favor. I don’t know how he did it but he managed to go 3-0 during these replacement games. It may have been because of his quirky and charismatic replacement quarterback, Babe Laufenberg.

I found Babe fun to watch because every down brought what seemed to me to be a broken play that required him to somehow improvise to find a way to advance the ball. And a lot of times he did. Games were unpredictable and resembled more of the neighborhood backyard football I played as a kid. You remember the kind I mean. We huddled and the play called was always the same… “go long… I’ll throw it to you.”

After three games, the regular players came back. I guess they realized they needed the league more than the league needed them. The Redskins went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Babe Laufenberg was released by the Redskins, no longer needed or wanted. And for this one fan, the game would never be the same. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.