If there were an Olympic medal for love and inspiration, Tank Schottle would hold the record for most gold medals.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: In this crazy world that we live in, sometimes simple, positive messages can easily get lost in all the "noise" … but they're there, and sometimes even the most pragmatic people (that'd be Black) feel the need to share them (much to Red's surprise).
It began when Black sent Red a screenshot of a Red & Black tweet that "we" posted (no one should be surprised that Black does the tweeting), "Guess who is throwing out the first pitch at tonight's @astros game … so excited for @TankSchottle because Special Olympian spreads message of love". At first, Red thought it was because Black knew Red's younger daughter had helped coach a Special Olympics volleyball team (the Fort Bend Falcons) but soon learned that Black's interest in Tank had nothing to do with that.
It turns out that for one of the least likely "warm and fuzzy" people you'll ever meet, Black was nevertheless inspired by Tank's "warm and fuzzy" attitude and approach to, well, just about everything. Suffering from an intellectual disability (or DIFF-ability as Black would say, but that's another post for another day), Tank came into his own when he was introduced to Special Olympics as a child, which led to his not only developing a greater sense of self-acceptance and pride but spreading his message of love based on his experience,
I love to spread love and hope for our country and our world. We should all love one another and bring hope and inspiration to other people.
Not someone you'd expect Black to follow, so Red asked, "Why?" (knowing that's Black's favorite word) and wasn't surprised how it started,
Some twit on Twitter decided to take issue with the punctuation or grammar of one of Tank's tweets, and I happened to follow one of the people who vehemently came to his defense, which got my initial attention. Now, I am one of the thousands of Tank's Twitter followers who finds the simplicity and sincerity of Tank's positive messages not only worth reading, but worth sharing.
Well, the more Red learned about Tank, the more she was struck at how one person can make such a difference. And there even was an instance when Tank could accomplish something no one else could with a 97-year-old veteran. And although Red initially found his words overly simple, as she watched her daughter (the one who volunteered with Special Olympics) get ready for college, she found herself echoing Tank's words (from a video that went viral several years ago),
Never give up on your dreams. Do what makes you happy. Do what makes you smile.
It's hard not to have an opinion about this year's Olympics, but can we all agree that the athletes represent strength, perseverance, and hope?
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: The Olympics is the world's largest sporting event, and although it seems that history occurs both on and off the "field", it's safe to say that the Olympics means very different things to different people (especially us).
When Red was growing up, she looked forward to the Olympics for years as both the summer and winter Olympics Games were held in the same year every four years (it wasn't until 1994 that they started to alternate every two years), so the anticipation and excitement would build until the games finally began,
I can remember it as if it was yesterday, sitting in the rocking chair in our family room covered in a blanket (even in summer) when the iconic Olympic theme would come on. Even now, when I hear it, it immediately takes me back to those days when I'd be glued, for weeks on end, to the TV. And though I loved the Winter Games more (between the figure skating and the skiing, I'm not sure I slept much), ironically, one of my most vivid Olympic memories is watching Nadia Comaneci getting the first perfect score in gymnastics (on the uneven parallel bars) in 1976 in Montreal. It was so amazing that even the electronic scoreboard wasn't programmed for perfection!
Black vaguely remembers watching the Olympics, and except for watching the U. S. men's hockey team, was more likely to have watched replays of key segments than entire competitions. (And that was pre-internet days.) However, she's always been fascinated with the business side of the Olympics (of course),
Even before the fiasco of the 2020 Summer Olympics (the fact it is being held a year late and without spectators says it all), the Olympics have not made economic sense in decades. And, although the broadcast rights account for the lion's share of the Olympic revenues, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) locks those in, while the host cities spend billions. Usually ending up in debt and with "white elephants" – expensive facilities with limited (or no) post-Olympics use.
And, what about this year? It was deemed a financial bust for Japan even before the opening ceremonies (great photos), which had the lowest viewership for the summer Olympics ever. Red didn't even watch them, but Black did watch them (after the fact) as she was interested in the technological feat of almost two thousand synchronized drones, recognizing that technology (including robots) has become a significant part of the Olympics. And, in an attempt to try and attract younger viewers, they're introducing (or re-introducing) six new sports.
Yet, we continue to care about the stories of the Olympics. About the athletes. About the triumph of achievement, perseverance, and commitment. About achieving dreams despite all the challenges. So, will the Olympics still be around in the decades ahead? Well, no one has the answer to that question. Although Red would like to think that the answer lies in one of her favorite movies,
I can't help but think of "Chariots of Fire," which, although I love its memorable theme song by Vangelis, touched me then, and still does … because it's about two athletes who competed for more than themselves, and against odds that had nothing to do with their athletic ability.
The "space race" used to be about countries competing … now, it's billionaires.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up in the 1960s when space exploration was in its infancy and space travel was left to the imagination of television show and movie writers; but since one of us was a theater major and the other studied business, it's not surprising we had very different reactions to the recent flights.
Black expected Red's reaction would be filled with television and movie references (she could only think of Star Trek and the opening phrase "Space, the final frontier," and The Jetsons) so was surprised when Red explained that it wasn't so much what was happening, as who was doing it.
Red remembers when she first heard of Richard Branson (well before being knighted, earning the title "Sir"). It was in 1979 (wow, that's over 40 years ago) on her first trip to England (to visit Black, who was at London Business School) when she went to the original Virgin Megastore down by Marble Arch shortly after it opened. Over the years, Red's connection to England continued (including a college semester, marrying a Brit, and living there for, on and off, for several years), so she couldn't help but read about Richard Branson as he was such a flamboyant personality and often in the news. Especially for his travel-focused "adventures" – such as founding Virgin Atlantic airline, being a daredevil in a hot air balloon, and breaking the speed record for crossing the Atlantic.
So, when Red heard that Sir Richard Branson (and then Jeff Bezos) was going up into space, she wasn't surprised but was certainly very interested in watching,
Let's face it. When an astronaut goes up into space, there's a certain level of excitement, even if you're not a "space geek". For me, watching the billionaires go up includes a certain element of "OMG, they're well-known people who have a lot to lose if something goes wrong." Of course, you don't want anything to go wrong, but for some reason, the element of danger and what's actually happening becomes more real when there's a very public face attached to it.
Black, on the other hand, was more interested in the business side of space, not only tourism but how these flights renewed interest in space (and you can't ignore NASA and government contracts). Of course, Bezos shared his belief that space could be the answer to how to save the earth, something he touted as far back as his 1982 high school valedictorian speech. And, Black was intrigued that his aircraft, a more traditional rocket and space capsule, was so different from Branson's "space airplane".
Also, having watched the two flights on their respective websites, Black couldn't help but be entertained by all the "marketing" each company mixed in with the science and excitement. And later, was amused when Bezos thanked Amazon customers and employees for helping to make the flight possible, although she had to wonder if he genuinely meant it or if it was written by a clever marketing executive to offset some of Amazon's "people problems".
Red couldn't help but remember that comment when she got an Amazon delivery later that day, although she knew her new cereal bowls didn't contribute much. But that wasn't what she shared with Black, but rather how she'd never compared Jeff Bezos and her sister until,
During the press conference after the flight, when a reporter asked Bezos if he'll be flying again soon, his response was something that I'd absolutely expect you to say … "Hell, yes. How fast can you refuel that thing?"