Monthly Archives: April 2018

I Remember: “Bruno!” “Bruno!” “Bruno!”

And now, I must write about Bruno Sammartino.

I once wrote that “Mickey Mantle … was … well … Mickey Mantle.”

Bruno Sammartino was … well … Bruno Sammartino.

To me, like so many of you, when you hear the name “Bruno,” there is only one man’s image who comes to mind.

Many times, I’ve been to Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” and marveled at the large poster-displays of legends like Elvis Presley, Walt Frazier … and, Bruno Sammartino.

Bruno Sammartino.

If you are a baseball fan, you “just remember,” just know, Mickey Mantle’s lifetime batting average, how many home runs he had, what number he wore, etc.:

Please keep in mind that in these “I Remember” posts, I never research … I just write from memory, so here goes:
.298
536
Number 7
Etc.

I’m thinking that, in much the same way, you remember Bruno Sammartino:
Headlined at Madison Square Garden … and sold out Madison Square Garden … 188 times.
No one has even come close.
No one has even come close to coming close.
Set the World’s Bench Mark Record, “benching” 565 pounds. He held the weights for 2 seconds on his chest, before raising the weight. He did this without wrapping his wrists or elbows.
Known as “The World’s Strongest Man.”
Superman … “The Italian Superman.”
The Living Legend.
Wrestling 18 minutes with a broken neck.
A true gentleman.
Class personified.

Just last Summer, I was in Pittsburgh, in Bruno’s “hometown,” and spent time in Bruno’s old neighborhood, the “Oakland” section of Pittsburgh. A neighborhood where both Dan Marino and Andy Warhol were raised.

Yes … I know it was Professional Wrestling … but … Bruno held the World Championship longer than any man in history. He beat Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds (I still know that!) at Madison Square Garden, to win his first World Championship. That was in 1963.

Bruno would hold the World Championship (this first time) until January 18th, 1971. Think about how long a time that was. You guessed it:  No one has even come close. No one has even come close to coming close. I have to look this up to make sure: seven years, eight months, and one day (2,803 days). I think of those who grew up during the Great Depression. The only President of the United States they knew was Franklin Roosevelt. In much the same way, kids growing up during this time only knew Bruno Sammartino as Champion.
Bruno lost the title to Ivan Koloff, at Madison Square Garden, on January 18, 1971.
I mention that date to bring back the memory.

A couple of days ago, I watched that match on YouTube. At the end of the match, the announcer said, “You can hear a pin drop at Madison Square Garden.”
Grown men were seen weeping in the crowd.
Later, Bruno would say that he thought he had suffered ear damage, because he could not hear the crowd. His ears were fine. The sold-out crowd was just that stunned.

 Interestingly, one of our favorite shared videos, and most popular, features Ivan Koloff, sharing his testimony of how Jesus saved him, and brought him into the ministry.

Here’s a quick link to that story and video:

https://pastorappreciationblog.com/2013/07/26/special-video-testimony-ivan-koloff/

Yes, Bruno would re-gain the World Championship in 2 years, defeating Stan Stasiak. Remember that?

As I’ve gotten older, do you know what I remember most, think about most, when I think of Bruno Sammartino?
His story.
And … how it inspires me.
How much his family went through.
This is what I remember:

What a thrill it is to see those old videos of Bruno, and, in the introduction, “From Abruzzo, Italy” … I have a special connection to Italy … Yes, Bruno’s family would move to Pittsburgh, but, the way his story began …

There were seven children, and Bruno was the youngest. Four (yes, 4) of the children would die during Bruno’s childhood. Bruno’s father would go on ahead to Pittsburgh, but, before his children could follow … World War II broke out, and Germany invaded Italy … Bruno’s mother took her children, including a young, sickly Bruno, and hid out in the nearby mountains. They would hide all day in the mountains, and then, at night, Bruno’s mother, Amelia, would sneak into town, under cover of darkness, gather whatever food and supplies she could find, and bring them back to her children …

It was a miracle, but, Bruno, underweight, and sick, somehow survived. I’ve heard Bruno speak of this … how sick and weak he was … how he wished his mother “could see her little Bruno now … “

When Bruno arrived in Pittsburgh with his remaining family, he was little, weak, and sickly. He could speak no English. Want to imagine what a target he became to local bullies?

Accidents happen. Even in a well-planned event.
On April 26, 1976 (I did have to check the exact date), at Madison Square Garden, Bruno wrestled Stan Hansen (yes, we remember “the Lariat” and Borger, Texas). Something went wrong. Bruno suffered a “neck fracture.” Yes, a broken neck. Bruno literally, and I mean literally, for real, had his neck fractured during the match. A broken neck. In the middle of the match. I’ll never forget it … because of what happened next … and, next … and, next …

Bruno Sammartino wrestled for another 18 minutes … another 18 minutes … with a broken neck … a broken neck …
He wrestled for 18 minutes with a broken neck. Bruno would later say that his doctors advised him that he came within a millimeter of being paralyzed from the neck down. I remember the cover of the Wrestling magazines, with Bruno on a stretcher … with the neck brace on, and everything …

Keep in mind that I, like many of you, lived “way out in the boonies,” so we only got a couple of local TV channels, so we only got to “see” our heroes in magazines … which made them, somehow, even more of a hero …

Was this real? Yes, it was. I’ve written how, because of how honest my Father was, I never doubted the story of Abraham Lincoln walking 5 miles to return a book. In the same way, I never doubted how tough Bruno was. My dad was that tough, so I never doubted how tough Bruno was. 

By the way … remember? … the rematch with Stan Hansen had to be held at Shea Stadium … Madison Square Garden would have been too small to hold the crowd … Yes … Shea Stadium … I’ve seen that match, too …

I’ll probably watch that one again tonight …

Today, Saturday, as I do laundry, the grocery shopping, the bills, and, instead of going outside to enjoy the first “almost warm” sunny day in recent memory, I write … I remember … What a privilege it is, to be able to share my thoughts on the great Bruno Sammartino.
Not the wrestler.
The man.
The gentleman.

This week, once again, grown men, including myself, were “seen weeping” over a Bruno Sammartino loss … The Great Bruno Sammartino …

Here is a video announcement of Bruno’s death, from KDKA Television in Pittsburgh … where we hear Bruno speak of his Mother … Note the look in his eyes … the sound of his voice … as he says, “My Mom showed the courage of a lion … I don’t know if I’d been man enough to do what she did …”

 

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The Slide Show: John Michael Montgomery’s “The Little Girl”

Recently, we featured the song “The Little Girl,” written by Harley Allen, and sung by John Michael Montgomery, from his album “Brand New Me,” which was released in August, 2000.

I wrote how I had wanted to do a “slide show” of this song, but never got around to it. Years later, I had never forgotten the song, or wanting to feature it, in some format, some day.

Here’s a link to that post:
“The Little Girl:” John Michael Montgomery

I found a “slide show” done to the song, and feature it now.

I will admit, readily, that, frankly, I went “back and forth, back and forth” about sharing this. Yes, I received notes like “That’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.”

When I featured the song, I wrote:
I think about how blessed I’ve been, how fortunate I’ve been, and, I think of this verse:
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
Psalm 27:10

I thought … and thought … about sharing this slide show. It does have some disturbing images.
But … Not all of them are.

However … it is about life … which can, for so many … carry “disturbing images.”
But … Not all of them are.

However … I then realized that … it’s not about the beginning … it’s about the ending …
Now, that’s a familiar theme …

Now, I’m reminded of this verse:
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.”
Ecclesiastes 7:8
That was written by King Solomon, considered to be the wisest man who ever lived.

The beginning of this story does carry some disturbing images.
The beginning of many of our lives carry some disturbing images.

I thought, “Our only goal, our Mission Statement here, is
“To bless, inspire, and encourage.”

Well … this story “ends well.” In fact, it blesses, inspires, and encourages me.
My heart breaks at the beginning … and … guess what?
When I went in and watched this, just now … for “the hundredth time” … those were real tears I was wiping away …
Why do I feel “it’s the right thing to do” to feature this?
Because those tears came at the end of the slide show … not the beginning …

Disturbing images?
Maybe … just maybe … I need to be disturbed … I need to “feel as He feels,” heart breaking, as He sees choices made, and “at what cost.” Maybe I do need to be reminded to care more … to pray more … to do more … Maybe I do need to be “disturbed” …

Plus … I really love the ending … It “gets me every time.” The fact that it features the Police and Military, two groups I respect and admire … and, then … there is Jesus … He died for me, too … He loves me, too … He cares for me, too …

It’s not about the beginning …

In my research, I found this profound statement on the website, Greater Grace World Outreach,” in a commentary on the verse from Ecclesiastes:
“We are not able to know how something will end by the way it started.”

Great News! Praise God! “The Buzzards are Circling!”

Hi Friends:
It’s funny how you can take one “old saying,” and apply it to two different circumstances, and it mean two totally different things.

All my life, the saying that “The Buzzards are Circling” was a bad thing.

A very bad thing.
In fact, it always meant that, as bad as things are now … they were about to get worse.

That is … until I moved into the North Country.
To the Great North Woods.
A place where even words like “Spring” have a totally different meaning than from anywhere else in the Country.

A little over 2 weeks ago, our version of “Spring” arrived.
As with a lot of things “up here,” what things mean “everywhere else” means something different here.

Please don’t take this as “always negative,” either. It’s amazing the difference that even something like “an old saying” can take on a totally different meaning … based solely upon the attitude of the person who is saying it. That’s the case with this “Buzzards are Circling” phrase. All my life, it has meant that things were going to go from bad to worse … and, that fact was so evident that even the buzzards knew it.

We all know what buzzards do. Like so many things we may consider as “undesirable,” they have a purpose and a benefit.

I’m thinking that the saying “The Buzzards are Circling” came from the Old West, here in the United States. My earliest memories of hearing the phrase came from watching those old Western movies, where, at a really bad time, the characters, always in a desperate situation with no hope for rescue, would look up to the skies … where, sure enough, the buzzards would be circling. We all knew what they were waiting for. What they were expecting to happen.
So, this phrase, it just went without saying, meant that all hope was gone. It’s over. I mean … things are so bad, that … well … the buzzards are circling …

Enter the Great North Woods.
Literally.

The land across the road from our house is wooded.
Tall, tall pine trees.
Thick branches.
Perfect for roosting.
Guess what roosts every year in the top of those big pine trees?
Buzzards.
Guess when they begin to gather and roost in these trees?
At the end of Winter.
Not, necessarily, at the beginning of Spring.
But, at the end of Winter.

I honestly don’t know where they stay during the Winter months.
I really don’t.
I mean, I see them all Winter, all over the countryside.
But, they don’t roost here.
I don’t know where they stay all Winter.
All I know is that they show up, like clockwork, at Winter’s end, a couple of hours before dark.
First, only a couple of buzzards are seen circling around the trees.
Then, as we get closer and closer to dusk, the number increases.
Increases greatly.
You see them circling … first, in wide circles … then, gradually, the circles get smaller … and smaller … until, one by one, they land in the tops of the trees.
You can hear their wings ruffle as they get comfortable in the trees.
You can see them, through the branches, as you hear them “settle in for the night.”

Again, they only start doing this at the end of Winter … and, they continue to roost there all Summer, and deep into the Fall.

So … after such a long, long, cold, cold, seemingly never-ending Winter … last Wednesday, the last week of March … they started to arrive.
What an allegory this is … they arrived Wednesday evening … only a couple to begin with … but they were here!
Praise God!
The buzzards are circling!
Let me say that again:
Praise God!
The buzzards were circling!

Remember that early line about how even an “old saying” can take on a completely different meaning, based solely upon who was speaking it?
I clearly remember, last Wednesday evening, being on the front porch, and saying this, out loud, and I mean out loud:
“Thank you Jesus!
The buzzards are circling!”

God is so good.
So good!
He can even take something like that old saying, those words, and turn them into a praise report!

Oh yeah?
Yeah!
“Well, how is it now?”

Well … I’m looking out the office window, at 5:00PM on Friday, April 6.
What do I see?
Not buzzards.
It looks more like “blizzard.”
Good ‘ol North Country.

That’s ok.
We’ve been blessed.
So it’s snowing.
Hard.
This morning, when I left for School … it was 12 degrees.
But … the buzzards are circling!
It didn’t feel that cold.
Ok … that’s because we just finished a wind storm (good ‘ol high gusty winds with below freezing temperatures), and,
because the wind had subsided, it felt warmer.
How high has the wind been?
One of our neighbors, at School today, asked if we’d lost any trees.
So, 12 degrees, with no wind, was a blessing.
Plus … the buzzards are circling!

Man! I’m still looking outside, and it still looks like a blizzard.
Good ‘ol April 6th!
But … a few minutes ago, about 4:30 … through the snow … as I stood on the front porch … I could make out … through the snow … yes it was …
A buzzard circling!
I saw, and heard, him land in the treetop across the road, and heard the ruffling of his feathers …
Any minute now … more buzzards would be circling through the snow …
We’re at the end of Winter!
I look outside the window again:
Man, those are some big flakes!

I just looked out the back window.
Those are some big flakes!
I rush back to the office to make sure I read the calendar right. Yes … and, this last Sunday was, in fact, Easter.
Yep … Today is April 6.
Baseball season has started.
I gotta get back out to that front porch …
I gotta see more buzzards!
I also gotta make sure I’ve got gas in the snow-blower …

I write of all this, because we have readers all over who just find it so hard to believe that the weather is really “like this.”
It is.
They always ask questions like “How do you handle it?”
(I know they really mean something like “What are you, crazy???)
Anyway, when I left for School this morning, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Beautiful.
What does this mean?
Stick around … it’ll change.
Enter the Great North Woods.

Here’s how we “handle it” in the North Country:
When I left School this afternoon, it had already begun to snow.
I left the School parking lot, and up ahead, a couple of blocks away … through the snow … I could make out an image …
A student, who lives a couple of blocks from the School, was shooting hoops, out in front of his house.
Keep in mind that it is snowing.
This student has a basketball goal at the end of his driveway, so he has to “dribble” in the street. There he was, shooting hoops …
as the snow continued to fall … wearing the “hoodie” which we up in New England have come to love … big deal … he was outside, Friday
after School … snow falling … big deal … he was playing basketball, and hitting layups …
Did he know we were officially at the end of Winter?
Did he know the buzzards had begun to circle?

A couple of streets down … snow falling heavier now … I glance off to the right … the baseball field …
Yep … there they were …. as the snow continued to fall …
Baseball practice.
Baseball practice.
Looks like everyone showed up.
Baseball practice.
As the snow falls.
Did they somehow know that it was the end of Winter?
Did they somehow know that the buzzards had returned?
Did they know, for a week now, that the buzzards had been circling?

For our friends “all over,” who are complaining about the cold weather, this is how we “handle” the weather “up here.”
Yes … the buzzards are indeed circling …
Let’s grab our bats, mitts and gloves … let’s get out there and practice our layups …

For … Praise God … “The Buzzards are Circling.”

Wow! Those are some really big flakes.
That’s ok:
The buzzards are circling!

Just so you know … we’ve used 6 tons … plus 20 bags of wood pellets, in our stove … so far …
For those keeping score … that is 12,800 pounds of wood fuel pellets …

But … Thank you, Jesus … The buzzards are circling!

Blessings to you, and your family,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.