Diver Down

by Rich on July 14, 2015

Diver Down

Long before YouTube and Google, in a time without The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, there was National Geographic.

Growing up in the 1970s, I was fortunate to live in a home full of National Geographic magazines. My grandmother Jean, a lovely, cultured southern woman, gave my family an annual Christmas gift of a yearly subscription to the magazine and I loved seeing it arrive each month. National GeographicOld issues were boxed in my grandparents attic on Norman Dr. in Mountain Brooke and I would spend hours combing through the dusty black and white pages. One of my earliest memories is sitting in the giant lap of my soon-to-be stepfather as he patiently flipped through every page with me. This was our window to the world beyond Dolly Brooke Lane. And I was fascinated by it.

Memory is a funny thing, but looking back, it seems now as if there were basically only 3 subjects covered by National Geographic in those days: Space (it was in the heyday of moon landings), half-naked tribes of sub-Saharan Africa (I’ll just leave that right there…) and….the ocean.

Sharks, turtles, sunken warships…Jacques Cousteau! Remember Jacques Cousteau? He was everywhere! The man who invented Scuba diving. Well, he invented the regulator which then allowed for the development of the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. He was so cool. Smallish, wiry, grizzled. He and his team were always in some exotic location, diving to incredible depths seeing things never before seen by human eyes. As a child I was awe-struck. The submarines, the tanks and masks and wetsuits. Knives, cameras, spear guns…THIS was adventure! The divers were all tanned with wind-blown hair, speaking in foreign languages and deftly handling all this cool, complicated gear like it was as normal as my mom driving our ’68 Beetle to the A&P. I was hooked.

My toys as a child reflected this fascination. Adventure People. Remember those? Google them. The old school G.I Joe. These were my favorites Adventure Peoplebecause they let my small child’s mind escape into those wonderful worlds I saw in the magazines and the weekly TV shows. I just loved the idea of being underwater!

As I grew, my interests turned to the things a boys mind turns to (girls). But planted deep down was that Scuba seed. Later, while on my honeymoon, I had the opportunity to actually do it. Granted, it was a resort course, only good for a couple of days, but still… I was diving! And it was incredible. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I swore that as soon as I got back home I would get certified. But, life happens, and that dream fell by the wayside like so many dreams in life do. But still the dream remained, hidden.

And now, it has become a reality. While looking for an activity that I could share with my teenage son, it struck me that diving could be the perfect shared experience for us. Neither are huge hunters. Neither have the patience for fishing to do it more than maybe once every couple of years. He doesn’t particularly care for golf. But diving? Diving is different. It is exotic. It is dangerous. There is something…just cool about it! And so we did it. We signed up with our local dive shop (yes, there is a dive shop in Auburn, AL., Adventure Sports) took the course, bought a bunch of gear, trained in the pool, and then… went diving!Diving

What an experience. I wont go into the nuances of every dive we took our first weekend, but we dove in fresh water springs and open sea wrecks and reefs… it was amazing. And really, what made it so amazing is that I was doing something that I had wanted to do for years, and I was doing it with my son. And he loved it. That’s a pretty major accomplishment for a dad these days.

Scuba involves teamwork and trust. You always have a “dive buddy” and my son and I were each others. That time spent together was invaluable. And I am excited about future trips.

Look, diving isn’t cheap. Unless you live on the coast, it isn’t something most people can just go do one afternoon. It takes forethought and planning. But it’s been worth it. The last 2 months have been an exercise in memory making that will last a life-time. And I can’t wait for the 2 of us to go on our next adventure.

I just wish those wet suits were a little more flattering….

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Throw Like A Girl

by Rich on May 11, 2015

You will have to forgive me, but what follows is social commentary. I know, we get preached at enough from all corners, but in this you will have to indulge me.

Auburn University (my alma mater) has a softball team. It’s had one for almost 20 years. And to be perfectly frank, I have not paid it much attention. Until now. And friends, that has been a mistake. Allow me to explain.

It hasn’t been a mistake merely because women in general, and women’s collegiate athletics in particular, deserve the same recognition and respect as their male counterparts (they do), but rather, on a purely selfish level, I have been depriving myself of some damn good sport.

I started realizing this a little over a year ago, after I attended maybe the second softball game at Auburn since the program’s inception. Sadly, I have lived here virtually that entire time span, and for most of said span, it didn’t even cost anything to go. So really, there’s no excuse. But I didn’t. And that’s a shame because I have missed out on a lot, and judging from anecdotal evidence from around town, I’m not alone.

Auburn’s softball team is having a great season. A record-breaking season. A historic season. Those are not hyperbolic platitudes. They are facts. And because of that, people like me are starting to pay attention. I regret that it has taken this long, and to the players and coaches, past and present, I offer my heartfelt apologies. But I am all in now.

So far, I haven’t delved too much into social commentary, but here it comes.

Recently I heard a dad of 4 (3 boys, 1 girl) talk about taking his daughter to some of the softball games to see Auburn’s team in action. And I think that is great. I have heard similar thoughts from many parents lately. But friends, if you think that it’s only important for you daughters to watch this team, then you are shortchanging yourselves and your sons.

Let me ask you a question. Is it important for your son to see good examples of selfless teamwork? Is it important for them to witness hard work and perseverance? Do you think your son might learn something about integrity and fair play and respecting others by seeing it demonstrated at the highest level in collegiate athletics? Would you like for your son to see things like striving for excellence and working towards a future goal with dogged determination, while keeping a spirit of joy and the knowledge that sports are games to be played and enjoyed? Would you and your son enjoy being entertained and engaged by well executed, fast-paced play while your son is learning all of these life lessons? Of course you would.

So why do you care if the athletes exhibiting all of those qualities and more are women? Do you not point towards male leaders in medicine, politics and business as examples of what your daughters may accomplish in life?

What Auburn softball is accomplishing is worthy of praise and admiration on it’s own merits, not because it’s a group of girls playing a girl’s game pretty well.

This is sport at the highest level, and if you think sport at the highest level has merit in SEC or NFL football, Major League Baseball, The NBA, or the PGA, then what Auburn softball is doing deserves and demands your respect. Not as some nice little thing for your daughter, where she can go watch “the big girls play”, but as the legitimate athletic endeavor it is.

And that is something all of us can watch, admire, enjoy, and learn from.

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