BUDDY MARTIN BLOG: We’re Short on Words Today. Our Fumes of Hope Burn Dimly. Please Keep Them Lit.

“Man can live without hope … but not for long.”

In more than a half-century of writing a column about sports, this has happened only a few times. I am a man of many words – perhaps millions written for newspapers, books and online. Yet today I am feeling inadequate, impotent and incapable of finding the right ones to express what I feel, think, hope or fear. So please cut me a little slack.

Perhaps what I would say would be considered impertinent, anyway. Because I write about fun and games. These days current world events are anything but fun and games. Every day, it seems, we are pummeled by more bad news.

As a matter of fact, there is even a warped, somewhat dark sense of humor pervading out there sometimes expressing our gloomy expectations. Like the tweet the other day about a huge asteroid “taller than the Empire State Building and the London Eye” allegedly hurtling its way towards earth according to English newspapers. Which inspired these two fatalistic responses:

“Hurry up and get here.”

And, “Finally! Some good news!”

One of my friends added: “Could they at least let us get through football season?!”

Of course, never let the facts get in the way of a good, gloomy story, that the asteroid will miss us by a mere three million miles.

Fears are real and anxiety plays tricks on our mind, but very sane people are also reading much more into the Pandemic and violence stemming from political, civil and cultural discord over racism. I have a very level-headed pastor friend who is not an alarmist, now telling me he believes the End Times are here and that Jesus will be coming soon.

And so it goes. What do we do? I am fresh out of answers – not that a lowly, insignificant sportswriter would have sufficient words anyway.

I am from the Silent Generation. Speak up, they say today – because staying silent when so many terrible things are happening is improper anymore, if not immoral. The character of good people on both sides is getting harpooned and impugned. Never mind what your mother told you about not talking about someone if you can’t say something nice – those days are over, if they ever existed in the first place. "Speak up!" they demand of us.

I don’t hate people, I hate hatred. And I hate times like these which are robbing of us health, happiness, civility, joy, laughter, peace, production and provision—things I literally pray for on my hands and knees every morning. How I deal with it in my little world is knowing they can never take all of my Faith, Hope and Love. Although somedays if feels like my fuel tank of Hope is running on fumes.

I always remember the line from a book written by the late, great Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings that I often invoke, which was uttered by someone in her novel “Golden Apples” about the Great Freeze of the 1880s which destroyed citrus in North Central Florida as well as the lives of several English growers/investors who committed suicide:

"Man can live without hope ... but not for long."

That’s worse than cautious optimism. It’s fractured optimism. But it’s how I feel today about the horrible events of recent times—especially the evil of racism…rioting, looting, burning down buildings…and the divided country caused by a broken political system.

A few days ago I had this column all planned out. It felt like we all needed a boost, something to make us proud of our country – something to cheer about. Since we don’t have sports to divert our attention from the biblical-like plagues, why not focus on the space program’s first big launch from American soil with American astronauts in 11 years?

So I stationed myself in front of the TV with a notebook for the 3:22 p.m. Saturday launch of the SpaceX rocket which would carry NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the space station, barring any setbacks. This, I said, would be just the antidote the doctor ordered for national pride.

I had this column all planned out. We all needed something to cheer about.

And this would also be perfect symmetry for me. Just shy of fifty-one years ago I covered an event for my Brevard County newspaper, "TODAY", from the same location, looking toward Pad 39 when Apollo 11 went to the moon with Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. My job was to chronicle the crowd reaction.

I will never forget that day on July 16, 1969 when the huge rocket, spewing staccato thunder, shook the earth. It was boosted by the will of several hundred grandstanded, awestruck spectators who cheered and prayed and cried, impelling the Saturn V rocket toward the azure sky. It made the hair on your neck stand up.

Watching live on TV Saturday, May 30, 2020 in person, it felt similar when I heard the smattering of cheers from a small group as SpaceX went airborne. Too much was a stake. SpaceX COULD NOT FAIL!

More than anything, I felt relieved to see the separation downrange as the booster hurling Behnken and Hurley into orbit spit out a puff of smoke. While a five-year resident of Cocoa during the height of the Apollo program, the windows of my house off Fiske Boulevard rattled on every launch. As a veteran space launch observer, I knew the Dragon was successfully on its way. And then came the feeling of pride over the accomplishment.

There was a moment of patriotic pride which buzzed my soul. And it seemed to create a prism of optimism. Hey, my small, simple sportswriting mind responded: Maybe now we could bridge this moment to the talk of a college football season again!

But that buzz quickly began to subside with the ensuing news of the night. After dinner, my son, wife and I watched hell unleash on our streets. It got worse by each day and night. They hijacked our hope – at least for the moment. We need to find a pathway back pretty soon, because as MKR said, we can’t live without it for long.

Phew! The huge asteroid only missed us by 3 million miles!

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