the greatest man i ever knew

The Greatest Man I Ever Knew 

By Dan Margarita 

 The quote says that “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.” Somehow it seems that my father, Bob Margarita, who passed away on Monday, July 28 at age 87, managed to fit into all three categories. 

 He died peacefully at home surrounded by his children whom he dearly loved and who dearly loved him, along with his beloved dog Jake. 

 My siblings and I are of course saddened at the loss of our father, but we have also been able to share numerous smiles at the many wonderful memories we have of him. Though his soft voice and gentle manner will no longer grace our presence, his presence in not only in our lives, but the lives of so many whom he touched throughout his long life, made an indelible impact. 

 As a child, I know I bragged about his storied athletic career. That’s a pretty natural thing for a boy; to confuse his father’s athletic success with greatness. Children always see professional athletes as heroes, as do many adults. 

 A star athlete at Medford High, Brown University and then the Chicago Bears, my father also was scouted as a catcher by the Detroit Tigers and took infield with them when they came to town to play the Red Sox at Fenway Park. 

 When his playing days were over, he became a football coach at many colleges including Harvard, Yale, Boston University and took a Georgetown team to the Sun Bowl, while at the time, the youngest college head football coach in the country. So you see, I had plenty to brag about. 

 As I grew up I got to see that the true measure of his greatness wasn’t in his professional career, but in the way he lived his life and loved his family. 

 After a successful second season as a running back and defensive back with the Chicago Bears, he retired to spend time with my mother and their son Bobby, who suffered from spina bifida. He did come out of retirement when the Bears asked him to as they were heading toward the 1946 NFL Championship. After the Bears won the championship game my father retired from playing for good. 

 Having an intimate knowledge of George Halas’ famed T Formation, he was one of the most sought after college football coaches in the country, but knowing my mother wanted to stay close to her roots, he bypassed numerous high-paying jobs at big-name colleges to stay fairly close to home. How many of us would do that? 

 During a brief stint as a teacher/coach at Wayland High, the principal came into his class one day to tell him that he had a phone call from Los Angeles in his office for my father. A long distance phone call from LA was a pretty big deal in those days. My father returned and explained that the call had been from the owner of the Los Angeles Dons of the new All America Football Conference, an attempted rival to the NFL. 

 He explained to the principal that the Dons had offered him a contract of $40, 000, an incredible sum for the time, to come out of retirement and play for them. The principal was stunned when my father told him he had declined the offer. 

 He continued to turn down lucrative coaching offers to stay in the area. At one point, he took a job as a salesman, which paid reasonably well. As he explained to me one day, he realized that he wasn’t happy in that job and really just wanted to be and belonged on a football field, so when the opportunity to coach again came along, he jumped at the chance. 

 He finally got what I think he thought of as his dream job when he was hired in 1964 as a teacher and football coach in his hometown of Stoneham, Ma. This would cement his local legend status. 

 As a teacher, he was often assigned the tough kids because, as a former administrator once explained to me, he was “the only one that could handle them.” 

 Perhaps his stocky build and powerful forearms helped, but more likely it was his gentle nature and the fact that he treated them fairly and with respect, which I know they recognized because some of them told me that. 

 After retiring from teaching in 1987, he took the job as equipment manager for Stoneham High Athletics. Ever-present at the school and various sporting events with one of his many dogs, he continued to be loved by many generations of students. 

 I couldn’t begin to count the number of times someone told me how much my father meant to them or of a kindness he did for them, such as helping them get into a certain college or getting a certain job. 

 After his induction as a charter member of the Stoneham High Athletic Hall of Fame (also a charter member of the Brown University and Medford High Hall of Fame), he received a note from a former student who told him how much he meant to her and that he was the inspiration for her interest in history and is a constant reader of historical novels due to his influence. He was as proud of that note as any accolade or accomplishment that he ever received in football. He showed the note to anyone and everyone who came by the house or told of the note to anyone whom he spoke to on the phone. 

 He had been in declining health for quite a while and spent time in various hospitals and nursing homes. Yet, he always managed to keep us laughing because I know he didn’t want us to worry about him. When he was last brought to the hospital and it didn’t look like he’d survive the day, he woke up at one point and saw my brothers Jimmy and Johnny and in a booming voice said “Jimmy, you’re not only smarter than Johnny, you’re better looking!” which of course cracked them up. He then fell right back to sleep. 

 When it was determined by the doctors that nothing more could be done for him, he came back to his home of “54 years” as he proudly noted to a healthcare worker, which made him very happy. 

 Upon being brought into the house, the first thing he said was "Hi Jake! Hi Jake!" despite the presence of four of his children. The next thing he said after looking around was a relieved "I'm home." His last two audible full sentences were "I love you" to all of us and then (I'm not making this up) "Where's Jake?" 

 Yes, he had quite a professional career as a player and then a teacher and coach, but it was his even more successful roles of husband, father and human being that made him without a doubt, the greatest man I ever knew.

hooters

HOOTERS 

By Dan Margarita 

 The past couple of weeks have been quite a feast for sports junkies. I guess it really started in earnest with the annual "Running of the Bulls" in Pamplona, Spain. This event is where someone has the bright idea of letting wild bulls loose in the streets and then allows the general public to try to outrun them. As a native Stonehamite, I grew up as a Celtics fan, but on this occasion I found myself rooting for the Bulls. 

 If these guys really want a macho challenge, I suggest that they hop on a plane to the States and participate in the "Running of the Cars" on Route 93. 

 Next up was the inspirational play of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team and their capturing of the World Cup. This drew national interest the likes of which are seldom seen unless the U.S. has a chance to kick some small country’s butt at something, there's a major weather event or some kid falls down a well. 

 That this was a national event was evidenced by the fact that the victorious ladies got to go to the White House and meet the President. I have no doubt that both parties found this to be a fantasy fulfilled (OK, Bill Clinton libido jokes are becoming hackneyed. Hey, if they're going to keep landing on my doorstep like that, how can I ignore them?) 

 The next major event was the Major League All-Star game right here in Boston. Since tickets were harder to find than laughs in a Pauly Shore movie, the next step was to figure out a place to watch it. 

 At first I thought of the Sports Depot in Allston, but figured that it would be too crowded. Then I considered the Good Time Emporium in Somerville, but I had been there a few times recently. 

 Then I thought, "There's a little place near the Fleet Center, if I recall correctly. Let's see, the name was...oh yeah...Hooters." 

 The establishment is known for it's cold beer, tasty wings and large breasts. OK, so I don't drink and I don't eat chicken wings. 

 I'd had one previous experience at this place. I stopped in after a class one evening and as I contemplated the choices on the appetizer menu, the woman tending bar snapped, "Are you gonna order something?" 

 I declined and left shortly thereafter. The incident was enough for me to dub it "The place to go to pay a lot of money to be treated rudely by all the beautiful girls who ignored you in high school." 

 The bartender was friendly this time, but when they attempted to get the game, which was on Fox, on their large and small TV's, they all seemed to have a problem with the reception. Everything on the screen was a double image. Normally, seeing things in pairs is not a drawback in this restaurant, but for TV viewing purposes it, along with the loud disco music, was disconcerting. 

 During It's Raining Men by the Weathergirls, I decided to move to the Commonwealth Brewery. This proved to be a more satisfactory, albeit less erotic place to watch the game. 

 The sports roll continued this past weekend, and if you felt bad about sweating profusely at your family cookout in the 101-degree heat, you were forgiven for going into the house to watch people playing tennis in 130-degree heat at the Davis Cup final. Perhaps you could’ve turned to the British Open to see people who were bundled up in jackets and braving the gusty winds, watch a Frenchman choke on the final hole. The Allies couldn’t bail him out of this one. 

 This fall the Ryder Cup is coming to the area and I hope to see some of it. I’ll just have to figure out where. 

 I just hope that it won't be on Fox.

lactose intolerant

Regular readers of this space know that I tend to be left-leaning in my politics, but I try to call ‘em like I see ‘em, and if that means taking the left to task, I will. Thus, when I read recent news reports that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has asked the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s to substitute cow milk with human breast milk in their ice cream, in my head it was a column screaming “Write me! Write me!”

I can appreciate that PETA doesn’t want cows to suffer, and kudos to them for bringing the plight of cows to our attention. If you’re wondering just how bad it can be, you can check out FactoryFarm.org but seriously, do you want human breast milk in your diet?  

There are several things to be considered before going this particular route. First of all, do you plan to hire the thousands upon thousands of women it would require to replace Ben & Jerry’s milk supply? Just how many women would it take to produce enough milk to fill Ben & Jerry’s needs (insert your own Dolly Parton joke here)? This would likely be extremely expensive not to mention the image of several topless women hooked up to machines being “milked” (worst porn flick ever!) doesn’t exactly shriek “political correctness.” I’m not sure how PETA wants it to work but I don’t see them endorsing “women” farms where the gals are herded into a barn by border collies. 

That certainly would’ve given John Wayne’s western films a different perspective of their cattle drives. 

“We’ve gotta get this heard of women through to Sacramento, Pilgrim.” 

As is usually the case, it likely will be destitute women, in serious need of cash being taken advantage of and being paid low wages for their services. I can’t imagine a woman giving up a lucrative career on the board of IBM to take up a livelihood as a wet nurse. 

Sure, most of us start out with breast milk as babies which not only gives infants needed nutrition but also provides them with their mom’s immunities, so it’s a natural thing in that respect. Right or wrong, however, after a certain age we just don’t do it in our culture. Although, I’m sure if you searched the Internet long enough, you’ll find some fetish site or something where some people do it for kicks. 

Just how and when humans came to discover that we could and should drink cow’s milk and not say, dog milk, I have no idea. Goat’s milk is often used for human consumption but offhand, I can’t think of any other mammal whose milk we consume. 

Ben & Jerry’s is just one company and thus make up a small percentage of the cow milk used. Will PETA try to get all of Western society to replace cow milk with human milk? Will we start seeing billboards with famous athletes sporting a “milk mustache” with a caption reading “got boobs?” 

Of course, if Ben & Jerry’s ever decide to make this switch to breast milk, this would provide them with a new array of flavors with cutesy names, as is their penchant, including: 

Racky Road 
Booblegum 
Knockerwurst 
Watermelons 
Boob-Berry (not to be confused with the children’s cereal) 
Nipple Chocolate Fudge 
Reese’s Peanut Butter D Cup 

Double-stuffed Areolas
And in keeping with their theme of celebrity-inspired names, such as “Cherry Garcia” there could be “Dolly Part-skim.” 

However well-intentioned PETA might be in their attempts to save cows, I have to say that this is idea is simply (wait for it)…udder nonsense.

movie merchandise

Movie Merchandise 

By Dan Margarita 

There's been a lot of movie hype lately. First it was Star Wars and now it's for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, a sequel to one of my all-time favorite movies, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. 

I knew that I was in a mood to laugh the night of the latter flick, when I went into hysterics at the sight of the dancing hot dog singing "Let's All go To the Lobby" prior to the coming attractions. 

Enormous hype can lead to enormous expectations, which in turn can lead to tremendous disappointment, thus leading to many a disappointing wedding night, no doubt. 

For example, people raved about the movie A Fish Called Wanda, but great expectations coupled with an already bad mood had me hating it. By the same token, my sister and her husband rented The Great Santini upon my recommendation, but wound up turning it off after ten minutes. 

"Robert Duvall's character was such a jerk," my sister explained. 

Well, yes he was, but if she'd hung in for the whole movie, she would've seen him redeemed in the end. You can't give up on a movie halfway through. That's like turning off It's a Wonderful Life when George Bailey (spoiler alert) is standing on the edge of a bridge contemplating suicide and saying, "This is too depressing." Only by sticking with it do you find out that George Bailey lives. (I hope I didn't spoil it for the .006 percent of people who haven't seen it.) 

Yes, I did see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and found it to be more like "Star Wars: The Phantom Plot." It was reasonably entertaining despite blatantly being a giant toy commercial. 

George Lucas knows full well of the marketing possibilities. It's not just toys either. Most bars in America seem to have a Lethal Weapon pinball machine with Mel Gibson's picture on it. I wonder if in 1939 saloons across America had Mr. Smith Goes to Washington pinball machines. I can just hear a bell ringing and Jimmy Stewart's voice coming from the game saying, “Another thousand points, a bill becomes a law." Trust me, that's much funnier in person with me doing the impression (I promise, no more Jimmy Stewart references). 

Of course, it's generally action movies that exploit merchandising, which is sort of a shame. I can think of a number of films that might have benefited from clever marketing. 

What child wouldn't want to play with the Ernest Borgnine Marty doll? After all, at some point hasn't every child played cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, or pretended to be an overweight, unattractive, lonely butcher from Queens? 

Nothing compares to the imagination of a child, except the imagination of certain movie directors, in the opinion of some people. 

How often have you heard a child say things like: 

"There's a boogeyman in the closet" or 

"There's a vampire under my bed" or 

"There's a shadow government that conspired to kill President Kennedy and eliminate all possible witnesses." 

Yes, for kid's who loved Oliver Stone's J.F.K. there would be "Junior Paintball." Now the little tykes can re-enact their own theories on what happened in Dealey Plaza and re-construct the Kennedy shooting. 

There's the Goodfella's ice pick. 

Mom can do her shopping from the Schindler's Grocery List, or how about Dracula denture cream? 

If Mr. Lucas wants to call me for some ideas, I'd be more than happy to help. 

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me opens this Friday. 

Yeah, baby!

romeo, juliet & The D.S.S.

Romeo, Juliet & The D.S.S. 

By Dan Margarita 

I think if William Shakespeare were alive today he'd say, "My God, I was dead for 398 years!" 

I mention this because this year marks the 450th birthday of Shakespeare, also known as “The Bard of Avon Calling” or something like that. 

In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t), according to Wikipedia a bard is “a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities.” 

Sadly, we no longer live in a world where people can hire their own poets and those of us who are wordsmiths have to go out and get real jobs. 

It makes me wonder what Shakespeare would be doing if he were around today and trying to make a living as a writer in Hollywood. I suppose he would be pitching sitcom ideas to network executives. 

“Okay, it’s about a young prince who always gets into mischief. It’s called Leave It To Hamlet or The Fresh Prince of Denmark.” 

If he proposed Richard III as a movie it would certainly have been rejected because Americans wouldn’t go to see it since they hadn’t seen the first two Richard movies yet. 

Undoubtedly, both Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet remain among the best known works of Shakespeare. The latter is perhaps considered the most romantic work of all time. Maybe…hey, I’m not a chick. 

If one takes a closer look at this classic play, it’s frankly a little disturbing. 

There were these two families, the Montague’s and the Capulet’s, who had a sort of Hatfield and McCoy-type feud but with better English (though probably the same dental plan). 

There’s a count, Count Paris, who wants to marry Capulet’s daughter, Juliet. She’s 13 years old. Shall I repeat that? SHE’S 13 YEARS OLD. 

Capulet says no, but we’re having a shindig later, come on by. Meanwhile, Montague’s son Romeo, who has the hots for Capulet’s niece Rosaline, crashes the party to see Rosaline but instead meets Juliet and immediately falls in love with her…a 13 year old, and she with him. 

While Juliet’s age of 13 is specified in the text, Shakespeare never mentions Romeo’s exact age, though general speculation runs from age 13 to age 21. If he’s 13 then maybe their initial attraction is a cute case of puppy love. If Romeo is 21 then he should be wearing a ball and chain around his ankle and have a sign hanging around his neck. 

Later Romeo hides beneath Juliet’s balcony for their famous love scene and they agree to marry. This would be like if in that episode of The Brady Bunch where The Monkees’ Davy Jones goes to the Brady house, meets Marsha and marries her the next day (yeah, once again I date myself but then again, I am my type). 

I mean, couldn’t they have gotten to know each other a bit first? 

“Who are your favorite minstrels? Do you like marmalade on your steak and kidney pie?” 

Shakespeare would have a hard time writing that scene today because these kids would’ve just texted each other. 

u up? 

yea 

where r u? 

home 

I realize that maybe in that era the age of 13 might have been considered middle-aged, what with penicillin yet to be invented and the most advanced medical treatments being bloodletting and the application of leeches; then again, maybe not. Hopefully they found the idea of marrying a 13-year old just as repulsive as we do, unless of course you’re Jerry Lee Lewis. 

Though R & J marry and even consummate the marriage, Capulet agrees to marry Juliet off to Paris. Well, since we’ve already got statutory rape in the plot, why not add bigamy? Juliet will never have Paris (ode to Casablanca here) and takes a potion to make her seem dead for a couple of days 

Hearing about Juliet’s supposed death, Romeo goes to an apothecary and buys poison to commit suicide. Oh, how times have changed. I can’t buy Nyquil at Stop & Shop without showing my I.D. to some high school kid working there but Romeo can buy over the counter poison. 

Anyway, at Juliet’s crypt Romeo kills himself and is discovered there by Juliet upon her awakening. Distraught, she takes a knife and kills herself, thus ending any possibility of a sequel, Romeo & Juliet II: The Honeymoon

It did have a sort of happy ending though, since the tragic death of two kids who knew each other for three days brought the families together to end their feud. 

Perhaps they had another party…adults, only.

tae bo fever

TAE BO FEVER 

By Dan Margarita 

Tae Bo fever is sweeping the nation, although personally I seem to have missed the epidemic. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, a gentleman named Billy Blanks has come out with a workout video in which he combines the martial arts of Tae Kwan Do and Kick Boxing. 

The idea seems to be that the mental disciplines of Tae added to Kick Boxing lead to some sort of spiritual awakening, and gosh who wouldn't feel more spiritual when delivering a knee to the groin? 

This is a great idea, but why stop there? Following Mr. Blanks' lead, I have come up with several new workouts that combine elements of multiple activities. 

TAE FISH---This brings the mental discipline of Tae Kwan Do to a sport, which desperately needs it, and fishing. 

It's very easy for one's mind to wander while sitting alone in a canoe for hours on end, thus the fisherman needs all the help he can get to focus on the task at hand. Those who have low blood pressure may want to bring along a defibrillator. The advanced workout involves bringing a cooler full of beer along. Concentration can be difficult after your tenth Budweiser as you sit there wondering "where it all went wrong." 

BASKET BOX---The grace and skill of Dr. Naismith's game combined with the brutality of boxing. Many people believe that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time, but how great would he have been if he knew that every time he went in for a lay-up, he might get an uppercut to the chin? I suspect that this would've curtailed his inside game considerably, especially since Michael had a habit of sticking out his tongue every time he drove to the hoop. 

JUMPING JERKS---We've all seen Olympic weight lifters perform Herculean tasks, lifting several hundred pound bars over their heads. Let's be honest, these guys look like they couldn't run 50 feet without having a major stroke. Jumping Jerks provides them with the cardiovascular workout that they so desperately need. After having lifted a bar over one's head, a "clean and jerk" in weight lifting lingo, he begins doing the jumping portion of the jumping jacks exercise. This should be done in a wide-open area. 

THE DUNKIN' JOG---The ultimate cardiovascular workout. Simply jog to your nearest Dunkin' Donuts and order a large black coffee with extra sugar and continue your run while drinking the java. Watch that heart rate soar! 

CHESS UPS---Although chess may provide great exercise for the brain, it offers zilch for the body. Chess Ups merely involves hanging from a bar upside down, doing sit-ups, crunchers and pull-ups while waiting for your opponent to make their next move. There's no reason for nerds not to be in shape. 

REGGAECIZE---A variation of the popular "Jazzercize" program, this workout is done to the melodies of Reggae legend Bob Marley. The advanced workout involves smoking Ganga, or as it is more commonly known in America, marijuana. You may want to keep a bag of Fritos handy. Warning: this advanced workout will be ineffective for those who "don't inhale." 

There you have it folks. Time to put down the TV remote and get in shape. 

Actually, that gives me an idea for a workout.

mr. lincoln's t-mails

Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails 

By Dan Margarita 

I’ve freely acknowledged on many occasions that I watch way too much TV. Sometimes I watch C-Span, though if for no other reason than to feel less guilty about watching a rerun for the 400th time of a Leave It To Beaver episode. 

Recently on C-Span 2, the even geekier version of C-Span, author Tom Wheeler was promoting his latest book “Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails” which contains many of the telegraph messages that Lincoln sent during his presidency (Bless you, Book Notes). Mr. Wheeler makes the keen observation that telegrams, a.k.a. T-Mails, were the Internet messages of their day. Plus, unlike carrier pigeons, telegrams weren’t infested with lice. 

One of the most notable aspects of telegrams was the usage of the word “stop” to end every sentence, as the period had yet to be invented. If somebody were sending a message telling someone to stop doing something, it must’ve caused quite a bit of confusion. Fortunately for history, Lincoln was able to deliver The Gettysburg Address in person and not relay it in a telegram, which would’ve sounded a bit awkward. 

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation stop.” 

With the Civil War (or perhaps “Confederate Insurgency” by today’s phraseology) raging, Lincoln was able to keep in almost immediate touch with his field generals by telegram. While most were of great importance, it must’ve been hard not to send some more conversational telegrams. 

“dear general grant stop the wife is driving me nuts stop always wants to go to the theater stop” 

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that Lincoln didn’t spend a lot of time at work, as many of us do, fooling around on the Internet, or it’s telegraph equivalent. 

Had there been some sort of Google-type search engine, it’s still unlikely that The Great Emancipator would be sitting in the White House typing in “Harriet Tubman + diet” or “John Wilkes Booth + gay.” 

Nobody seemed to use the telegraph to send advertisements or “spam” as far as I know. The Smithsonian probably doesn’t display spam telegrams that Lincoln may have received such as “your loan application has been approved stop” or “natural male enhancement for you stop.” 

Nor did the technology allow users to send silly video clips of things such as a drunk Gen. Ulysses S. Grant falling off his horse. The telegraph certainly had its own technological problems such as “crashing” as in the lines being cut by Confederate soldiers of the Apache Indians. 

Like modern computers, Morse Code was probably more easily learned by youngsters than their elders. Even in the nineteenth century, children brains were likely more malleable than adults. If so, Lincoln may have needed to call in his nine-year-old son Tad into his office to send a message to Grant to advise him on how to conduct the Civil War (Confederate Insurgency). Can you imagine George W. Bush calling in his twin daughters to help him send a message to his field commander in Iraq? 

One of the most talked and/or joked about aspects of the Internet is online pornography. Considering that the social mores of the time made viewing a woman’s ankle from beneath her skirt was scandalous, the idea of pornographic spam telegrams seems like an oxymoron…or would it? 

“XXX stop hot teen ankles stop” 

The slowness of telegraph technology at least kept one of the more annoying aspects of the Internet from bothering users---the chain email. Lincoln probably never ended a telegraph with “send this to ten more people and you’ll have good luck stop” 

At least compared to the Pony Express the telegraph would’ve been considered “high-speed.”