Covert Matters Digest

My Word

(Note: The assimilation between athletics and politics is often more than intriguing. Recently, the two collided in Maryland and the consequences could have serious results.)

Lessons from the Basketball Court

By Harry M. Covert

Opportunities come when least expected for sure and seen especially true in sports and politics where ideals of right and wrong often are in dispute.

A fantastic example of this recently hit the front pages and could have well been on sports pages as a teenage basketball official got the ire of a coach.

This situation is nothing new to officials, players and moms and dads of any athletic event. It may be fun for spectators but consequences of such public displays can lead to futures that may include success.

This space is concerning the altercation between the 17-year-old referee and the coach-dad of a 5th-6th grade basketball game in Frederick County.

If anything, the young referee can learn from this quickly and rise in officiating circles to recreation leagues to high school to college and quite possibly the pros. It can be a good living. Taking advantage of the verbal altercation is a learning experience. Such antics from coaches and fans will always be there.

The first lesson in referees’ classes is not ejection of the bellyache r  It is don’t have rabbit-ears, That is, don’t listen to the yelling and screaming. Always remember you can clear the benches, coaches and fans if necessary.

For volunteer coaches  trying to be good dads and/or mothers and teachers on all levels there are consequences, especially if there are hopes for further public careers. They can be devastating.

I’m writing of course about the squabble and name-calling involving the president of the Board of Commissioners – after the game of course. It’s not known what words were used to excoriate the adolescent game official but the mother reported they were profane.

Now, Mr. President, once the event was uncovered said he apologized to the youngster. He also shared his contrition to commission colleagues and public on the Frederick cable channel.

After learning the ropes of the officiating business, a friend of mine had advanced. He was assigned to a varsity level Christian school semifinal tournament. Both coaches, learning to be pastors, each became enraged during the first-half. Both were ejected for their disrespect for the officials and using words not seen in a Holy book.

At the start of the second half, one of the assistant coaches took umbrage at his fate and resumed berating the referees. He was also removed from the game and a school principal finished as coach.

Both head coaches thought their futures remained in coaching instead of ministry.

Another friend involved in officiating called many high school, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, college baseball and professional Carolina League games. The day came when he was lured into campaigning for public office.

He worked the neighborhoods, rich and poor. At one front porch, the lady of the house opened the door and then ordered, “Get off my porch. I wouldn’t vote for you, you called my son out at home plate.” A dream shattered.

One of the better professional basketball referees came from my hometown. He started officiating in the rec leagues and was an outstanding basketball, baseball and softball player.

One night in Morgantown, officiating a West Virginia Mountaineers game, on the final shot of the tie game, he dared to make a goal-tending call. The home team lost. Booing, shouting and general misbehavior broke out.

In the stands was the supervisor of officials of the (ABA) American Basketball Association. The next day he was hired for the new league, later to merge with the (NBA) National Basketball Association. He became one of the best and worked practically all of the playoffs and title games. He retired at the top of the field.

Our young referee seems to have an excellent future ahead of him.

Our Mr. President probably learned a good lesson.

The famous strip teaser Gypsy Rose Lee is often quoted as saying that all publicity is good.

This may or may not be true in this day and age. The public may have short memories in some instances. But there’s always someone who never forgets and may also have designs on a lofty perch.© 2013 Harry M. Covert. 

This column appeared February 7, 2013 in

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(Note: It’s finally coming true. The U. S. Postal Service will stop Saturday delivery service in an effort to solve a billion-dollar operating loss. I imagine the internet and electronic mail is the culprit. I wrote about this two years ago.)

For 3¢ Plain

By Harry M. Covert

I began writing letters as a boy, back in the days when a stamp was three cents and mail delivery was twice daily – morning and afternoon.  Postcards were one cent.  Tempus fugit.

The other day I visited an Alexandria post office and was astonished to count only four customers, one to mail an overseas parcel, two for Christmas stamps and another to pick up a registered letter.  Right in the middle of the holiday season when, before the internet age, the lines were packed and jammed with people sending letters, cards and parcels.

It struck me then as to why the Post Office is facing such a devastating time.  With electronic mail so prevalent nowadays, people have just stopped sending Christmas cards en masse.  No wonder panic abounds for the men and women with the slogan, “neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night shall stray these couriers from their appointed rounds.”

Average people, though, are not up in arms over the crises days of the U. S. Postal Service.  The only subject it seems is why postal employee pensions are so great and service is down.  Really?

I’m sure the politicians will see the importance to rescue the mail and postal delivery and they should.  We need six-day delivery.

Another American icon is passing from the scene after the New Year.  U. S. Savings Bonds will not be sold by banking institutions.  The only way to get them will be online from the U. S. Treasury.  High-dollar investors don’t have much use for the low rate of return bonds but they have always been good for savings if you wait 10 years.

Many will recall their “grammar” school days of the 1940s and 1950s.  We bought stamps in class – 10 and 25 cents.  The idea was to fill out a little booklet with $18.75 and buy a $25 bond.  I’ve misplaced or lost all the little booklets.

I managed to buy the stamps in Miss Reames’ fifth grade class.  I did it by selling newspapers.  The advertisement in a comic book led me to a weekly national paper called Grit.  It was the only time I was a paper boy.  Fifty papers usually arrived from Williamsport, Pa., around Thursday or Friday at my house.  Before I began to pester my neighbors and family members to buy the latest issue, I naturally had to read Grit from cover to cover.  It was in Grit that I first heard of Paul Harvey, just starting his column writing and broadcasting career.  And I miss his journalism to this day.

Friday evenings and Saturdays, pay days for many in those days, were usually good selling days.  I’d stand in front of the Virginia ABC store and haunt the liquor buyers going in and coming out.  I made 10 cents on the 50-cent paper and sometimes tips would be good enough.

It didn’t bother me at all that most of the content involved stories of rural America, recipes and human interest stories. “Read the latest news,” I chanted and most of the time the drinkers felt sorry for the tow-headed boy and would buy one.  Lots of times the would-be readers would promptly discard them at the gas station across the street where they’d go, buy a Seven-Up and take a slug of Seagram’s.

I was slick, though.  The papers didn’t go to waste.  I picked up the unread and re-sold them.  I had to pay the Grit Publishing Company six-cents ($3.00) for my 50.  This I would do at the Post Office with a money order.  I enjoyed going to the post office for this business transaction.

Now back to the original intent of these words.  I have a simple solution to saving the post office. I think if each citizen would mail at least three or more personal first-class letters weekly that could make a dent in the mail deficits.  Certainly, we know friends and family who’d enjoy a personal handwritten note, pen pals and letters to the editor.  I have about 100 Forever stamps recalling the Liberty Ships of World War II.  And we don’t have to lick them either.

Can’t we put down our iPhones and Droids long enough to mail a letter in an envelope?

So, I urge you, gentle readers, to become philatelists and deltiologists. © 2011 Harry M. Covert

This column appeared December 20, 2011 in the Alexandria, Va., Gazette Packet © 2011 Harry M. Covert

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(Note: It’s fascinating how governments keep the public in panic over financial conditions of local, state and federal operations. It’s also curious if financial ruin is around the corner how politicians and college and professional sports entities still find millions upon millions of dollars.. From November 2011 before the election, I wrote the following column.)

The Jackal is Still Around

By Harry M. Covert

Money, money, money. A nice sound and it’s not filthy lucre unless, of course, it’s the undying love of legal tender, but who can tell?

The recently completed election cycle is proof positive that money is the motivating force in every moment of every day. The lack of such gold and silver forces people to do strange things – good, bad and for fun.

This has been the most expensive election on all levels in history. The campaigns beat the citizens to death and into submission about jobs, jobs and jobs. The public has been inundated about the economic crisis. Certainly many are hurting, but it’s difficult to understand.

The national campaigns spent billions. The most expensive race for a U. S. Senate seat occurred in Virginia – $30 million helped the economy in the Old Dominion. How nice!

The Old Line State’s economy didn’t suffer either with millions coming from inside and outside the friendly confines. How nice, too.

Is there any doubt today that money talks? None whatsoever. That was evident in the advertising coffers for gambling and other things heretofore referred to as vices. The latter word is about to be removed from proper English.

No one seems to be squawking about the excesses in the money department of elections. Do voters really care about the spending? Doesn’t seem so. These attitudes fall right into line.

Hurricane Sandy’s visit has taken no prisoners. I wince at the loss of lives, electricity, homes, cars and all services. The people are hurting and it’s going to take more than the federal, state and local governments to ease the cries and pains. Rhetoric won’t fix anything.

It’s wonderful to see the charities, churches and individuals jumping in to help the hurting. The great thing is that the revival of lives and locales is because the money is available. Don’t listen if anyone says there’s no money in the bank. Isn’t true. Just recall the election coffers.

When I think about the dollars to win the presidency, the senatorial and congressional races, and the causes for gambling enterprises, I think about all of the one-arm bandits who’ve lurked around the hustings.

When OAS commanders found an assassin to shoot French President Charles de Gaulle in the fictional 1972 classic “The Day of the Jackal,” they asked how much?

The Jackal: “Half a million.”

Colonel Rodin: “What?”

The Jackal: “In cash. Half in advance and half on completion.”

Colonel Rodin: “Half a million francs!”

The Jackal: “Dollars.”

Colonel Rodin: “Are you mad?”

The Jackal: “Considering you expect to get France in return, I’d have thought it a reasonable price.”

Let’s put all this in perspective here at home. Frederick Forsythe’s novel was based on fact. Can’t criticize candidates, their agents, advisors, broadcast consultants and advertising moneybags. They’re not mad.

Billions for the 2012 presidential race, multi-millions for the Senate and House of Representatives around the nation, and millions upon millions in other ways to coerce voters. Francs? Lord, no, Dollars. The Jackal’s half-million dollars is valued today at $3,621,043.05

Considering they all wanted to get the USA in return and all the ancillary perks, the state and local governments, the elected, donors, personal and professional have – and will – cash in.

Jobs, jobs and jobs? Well, they “got‘em.” The treasuries are open and their hands are in your pockets.

A physician I know emphasizes that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

© 2013 Harry M. Covert.