Voice of the Mountain
by Shawn K. Inlow
Good morning, Mountaineers! We've gotten our first snow of the year but it's one of those snows that doesn't know what it wants to do. With temperatures hovering around freezing you don't get snow so much as gloop. Slushy ice-water that freezes and refreezes. But this is nothing compared to some of the freak storms I've seen.
I had personally noted climate shift while on patrol over 20 years as a Pennsylvania State Trooper. Over time, gone were the bitter winter nights where you couldn't bear to get out of the car. Nights where breathing hurt and exposed skin quickly blistered faded early in my career. Over my police career, I've seen a shift in weather patterns where late winter early spring storms were massive. There was a blizzard in March, I believe, in the early 1990s where the governor closed all the roads and we had to patrol in Humvees driven by local National Guardsmen.
Then there was the weird ice storm of Valentine's Day, 2007. It was a steroid freak of a storm which affected everything from the Great Lakes to the east coast. But in Pennsylvania, it took on a strange characteristic of being an Ice Storm. Highways were closed down-east for days on end. People stranded in massive backlogs on the highways snuggled up and went to sleep and ran out of gas. I had heard there was something like a foot of ice on some highways.
Again, it was a late winter storm. Patrolling in that storm was actually a bit scary in these mountains. Trees were going down everywhere. If you were helping some stranded motorist, you'd hear the trees snapping - the sound was like gunshots - under the weight of the ice. You'd hear a mighty crack and quickly glance up to see if you were going to get killed by a falling tree.
It was as if the seasons had begun sliding around the calendar with actual winter happening after January and then the weather events were classically weird. I think that's because the average winter temperature here (not a scientific assertion) seems to have risen slightly over time. I always go outside without a coat and marvel how much I enjoy these North Carolina Winters in Pennsylvania.
Thus, the little weather event we had last night. The temperature was just above or just at freezing, so the precipitation couldn't decide how it wanted to be. I'll be rain. No, I think I'll be slush. No, I'll be ice, I think, I feel a chill coming on! The Inuit in Alaska, I'm told, have something like 100 different words for snow.
Point is, when it stays cold for elongate periods of time you get these nice little Hallmark Card snow events. But it doesn't seem to anymore around here. I'll wait for this crusty, icy snow to melt in a few days.
Hell, last year, on New Years' Eve, we cooked out on the back deck. Strange.
I'm reclaiming the word "football" in the USA. I was a life-long Pittsburgh Steeler fan as anyone who knows me growing up in the 1970s can tell you. But I'm not anymore. I have been struck by a long trend in American professional football toward violence and I feel like a little 100 by 50 yard field just isn't big enough when you're talking about 22 giant men fighting over ten yards of space. The Canadian field is much bigger and I'm sure their game is a bit different because of it.
No, I can't watch American football anymore.
I hereby reclaim the term "football" for the sport we Americans call "soccer." The Mountain says there's "football" - which is ancient and actually played primarily with the feet and involves kicking and chasing a round ball around a field that can be a maximum of 130 x 100 yards - and then there's "American Football" - which is newer and has a bean-shaped thing which you primarily carry or throw with your hands.
A football match is 90 minutes with no commercials. It actually takes 90 minutes.
An American football game is 60 minutes but takes about 4 hours to watch on teevee. Brief periods of action separated by long stints of busty women selling you on the idea that BEER makes you more ATTRACTIVE.
Where I live, here in Central Pennsylvania, in the heart of these good mountains, I have been involved with football since Pele came to the New York Cosmos in the 1970s and touched off the wildfire that spread the sport across this country. We are all the children of Pele.
Also, since then, I've spent more than 30 years teaching the kids of Clearfield and Philipsburg, Pa. about the game I love. There is Santa, and he spreads toys and holiday cheer. There is Christ, and he spreads love and eternal life. And those guys have done really well. And then there is me, and I spread the love of the game. It's a tiny thing, in comparison, but I'm doing that thing I spoke about earlier this week: being kind wherever you are. And so I am a football Johnny Appleseed. And I've seen thousands of young sprouts develop into wonderful young people who express their joy in the beautiful game.
Recently, our school, Philipsburg-Osceola High School, won its first ever district title. I had been the program's first head coach from 1993-1995 and we did okay. And I've returned over the last three years and we're doing okay.
Meanwhile, the American professional league, MLS, is doing okay. But the real action is in Europe. I follow a big club from Birmingham, England, called Aston Villa. And they are never in the mix for the Premier League Title, but that doesn't matter. There's good football in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, all OVER Europe, and we're into this thing called the Champions' League where the titans of each European country vie every year to see who is the boss of the land. You might call it a football superbowl or something.
And that's as good as it gets unless you are talking about the World Cup. Football is the only sport that has a true world championship. When American Football crowns its "world champion," that's decided each year from one of 32 teams that exist in the USA. But it takes 4 years to qualify for the World Cup and almost every country on the planet vies to make it through to the final tournament. To become the real world champion in the real game of football, is a titanic achievement. If the United States ever wins the World Cup, my ears will fall off.
This concludes the first week of the Voice of the Mountain and something like 2,000 people have checked in to share ideas and see what the mad guy from Osceola Mills is raving about now. Thanks for visiting, everyone, and please feel free to forward on the link to friends you think might enjoy our company.
I've had some interesting feedback both in the message boards below, where you can leave your own thoughts, and in private notes sent along.
Early in the week, we talked about violence in our culture and I was stunned by some of the readership's responses. I'd also received an interesting bundle of information from Tom Elling on gun control issues that I'm going to form a post around when I can do some research around the issue. Tom is an advocate of the second amendment and I think his views are important.
I spoke a few days ago in the post titled "Electioneering" about my skepticism about the integrity of electronic voting in the US. I was interested to find out that the discussion that ensued was more about the character of Rachel Maddow (who I admire) rather than the issue I was trying to highlight by using a clip from her Nov. 7, 2012 show. My ears were blistered by a vulgar tirade from Ryan Hertlein (who does not admire Ms. Maddow) and I was charmed by the reasoned response from Jim Ritter, whose permission I'm trying to get to use his take wholesale. Jim's take was factual and concise and made me rethink something I'd said.
My favorite moment of the week, though, was during yesterday's Thursday Poetry Corner. It gave me a sense of pleasure to share with you an original poem evoking winter and the innocence of childhood.
Until Monday, have a safe and joyous holiday season!
Shawn K. Inlow
Osceola Mills, Pa.