Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Joe Reding: LSU football was "the greatest experience"

    (Third of three parts)
    He was at LSU from the fall of 1964 until his graduation in the spring of 1969, and Joe Reding calls being part of the LSU football program "the greatest experience of my life. They treated us so well."
LSU football, program photo
    It is an example of his athletic ability, his strength and good feet, that he was able to go from running back and linebacker in high school to the offensive line in college.
    He gained weight before his freshman season -- perhaps a factor in limiting his shot put potential that spring -- and was at 220 pounds when he reported to training camp in August.
    With only upperclassmen eligible for varsity ball in NCAA Division I at the time, he played on the freshman team in 1964, a four-game schedule, and practicing against the varsity, he learned something.
    "There was no way a freshman could ever have played on varsity then anyway," he said. "There was such a gap between the freshmen and the guys who had been there a year or more. It's not like today where kids come out of high school and they're All-Americans as freshmen. In those days, a freshman wouldn't have a prayer in hell of playing."
    By spring practice of 1965, he was down to between 195 and 200 pounds and in line to play at guard. He did not think he would redshirt; most D-I linemen then did sit out one year.
    "I was hard as a rock, fast, quick," he said. "I was one of the very few people that lifted weights regularly."
    But then ... the first knee injury. So it was a redshirt year and a year of rehabbing the knee. LSU wound up the '65 season by upsetting Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl -- a memorable game -- and Joe was merely a spectator.
    He played in 1966, '67 and '68. As in high school, he was only on a couple of very good teams, but not championship teams.
    The Tigers were 5-4-1 (3-3 in the SEC) in his sophomore season, a difficult year in which experienced quarterback Nelson Stokley was hurt during the second game (knee injury, out for the year). LSU led Rice 15-7 in that game and lost 17-15, and then struggled to a 3-4-1 record until two victories at the end.
    It was the worst record in the first 12 years of Charlie McClendon's LSU head coaching tenure.
A favorite photo -- Page One, Baton Rouge Morning
 Advocate, coming home from a victory at Florida.
    Reding was one of three alternating "messenger" guards -- bringing in play calls from the sideline to the huddle -- until an offensive-line shuffle midway in the season made him a starter ... for good. He wound up starting the last 28 games of his career -- the last season at tackle.
    With LSU shy of experience at the position, "they [the coaches] asked me during the off-season (after the '67 season) to switch to tackle."  
     Fine, but unlike high school, when he usually was one of the biggest players on the field, at LSU he played at 6-foot-1, 210-215 pounds, and "I was one of the smallest starting offensive linemen in the SEC."
    The Tigers were 7-3-1 (3-2-1 SEC) and 8-3 (4-2) the next two seasons and bowl winners each time -- the Sugar Bowl (20-13 vs. Wyoming) on Jan. 1, 1968, and the first Peach Bowl at Grant Field in Atlanta (31-27 vs. Florida State in the rain). 

    The down side: In his three varsity seasons, the Tigers were 0-5-1 combined against Alabama and Ole Miss.
    As a senior, Reding was a co-captain for the season's sixth game, a 10-7 victory against TCU at Tiger Stadium. The other co-captain that night: tight end Robert Hamlett, his old teammate (a year younger) at Bossier High.
    Reding was not the star in college he had been in high school, and his size kept him from a pro football career. But no matter; he loved the program.
    "I got to play with some great football players," he said.
    And this: "They treated the players so well, especially the married players. They treated us like family. It was unbelievable.
    "They paid for everything. When we had the baby (Kathy), they paid for the baby expenses, baby food." And there was a place where the married players could go "and stock up on food -- steaks, meat, all sorts of food."
    Plus, he added, players were lined up with summer jobs -- and no gimmes there: "They were union jobs, hard work -- pipefitting, offshore jobs. And those paid well."
    And Joe did not even mention game tickets. It was common knowledge that LSU players could sell their two or four games tickets for whatever they could get for them -- no NCAA rules against that then (the NCAA put a stop to it a few years later). As now, LSU game tickets were much in demand, so there was money to be made.
    Hearing these things, I asked Joe: Was this within the rules?
    "Who knows," he answered. "They did it."
     As for McClendon -- the folksy country boy who lasted longer than any LSU head coach (18 years) and was so often criticized -- Reding said, "Coach Mac was just great to me.
    "I could not have been treated any better. It was the best five years of my life [in athletics]."
     He remembers this, too, about wearing jersey No. 78.
    "I think I have a unique position at LSU," he pointed out. "The guy who wore that number before me, George Rice, was a first-team All-American [defensive tackle]. The guy who wore it after me, Ronnie Estay, was a first-team All-American."  
    Rice was a huge man, out of Istrouma (like Cannon), who went on to play several seasons with the Houston Oilers (also like Cannon). He was a practice opponent for Reding and "he hit me with a forearm, and I have never been hit as hard in my life. And then he laughed at me."
    And when Joe's right knee buckled and was torn up in a 2-on-1 blocking drill in the spring of 1965, the player who drove him to the ground: George Rice.
    His playing days finished, his degree earned, he moved into coaching, back home in Bossier City. He and David Smith were named assistant coaches at Parkway, which was converting from a junior high school to a high school by adding a sophomore-only class in 1969.
    The head coach was Freddy Shewmake, who had been Reding's coach in kids' baseball for several years in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
    After one year, Reding moved to the Airline coaching staff. Jack Gray was the head coach and had one of the area's best programs (state champions in 1967, the school's fourth year). 
    Reding was the offensive line coach for five years, the last two with M.D. Ray as head coach. The highlight was a district championship team in 1972, with a superb passing game (with Steve Haynes at quarterback) and an 11-3 record that ended with a tough 6-0 loss to Neville (Monroe) in the Class AAAA state finals.
    That was a bad-luck night for Airline -- the game was played on Neville's field in a downpour on a soaked, slippery field that was perfect for the well-coached, defensive-minded Neville team.           
    Reding remembers that Vikings team as much for its  intelligence as its ability. "Great group of kids, a lot of very smart, disciplined kids," he said.
    "I loved coaching," Reding said. "I was like a big kid. I had so much fun with those kids. I'd wrestle with them, run with them, lift weights with them."
    Billy Don Maples remembers the friendship with the Redings -- pool parties and camping trips.
    "Our families used to visit a lot," he said. "Karen's parents lived in Broadmoor (in Shreveport) and they had an indoor pool. We'd go there and swim after games, and we have a good time."
    And Maples also recalls the long hours the Airline staff put in, especially Reding.
    "Jack [Gray] was known for long practices, 3-4 hours; he kept us out there," Maples said. "Then on weekends, we'd be hours breaking down films. Joe would do that, then he go work at Roadway, loading and unloading trucks."
    He'd worked at the freight company even in his high school days and while coaching, Reding concurs, "I worked some nights, and weekends. I'd go work from 5 p.m. Sunday to 1:30 a.m., then be at school the next morning."
    The managers at the freight company were impressed with his strength and work habits, and in 1974, one manager suggested to Reding that he come to work there full-time.
    Joe told him he didn't want to load and unload freight his whole life. No, the manager assured him; he meant for Joe to learn a management position.
    Reding said he talked with Karen about it, and she was open to his decision. He decided to leave Airline as soon as the '74 football team was eliminated from the playoffs.
    So on the Monday after a first-round loss, Joe Reding moved into a new career and "I tripled my salary starting that day."
    Thus began the freight company journey -- one move after another, one company after another, one advancement after another, from assistant terminal manager to terminal manager, to company executive.
    And in 2005, back home to Louisiana -- downstate, near LSU.

     The long, relentless hours the jobs required were part of his life; he always had had the desire to work, work, work. 
     The admittedly reticent young man grew into a sure-of-himself speaker at company gatherings, and -- I'll vouch for this -- he now is a free talker and story-spinner.
     He remains a Tigers fan, but attending games is more of a chore now -- he hasn't been to a Tiger Stadium game in three years -- "and it's easier to sit in my recliner at home and watch."
    He's not the modern communicator -- seldom uses the computer now that he's no longer working; the only cellphone he has is the old flip phone sort he bought after Katrina hit -- when phone lines were out -- and keeps in his car for emergency use only. So no texting, no messaging, no Internet.
    There was a special honor at Bossier High in 2010 when he, Dick and their father were inducted into the school's athletics Hall of Fame -- a Reding triple play. He returned the next year as featured speaker when, among others, Neal Prather was inducted.
     Joe's weight ballooned to 240 a few years ago and a knee surgery and major back pain convinced him it was time to get back in shape.
    He was at 175 a year ago and is 180 now, and "I go to the gym six days a week when possible and have stayed in great shape for a 70-year-old. ... I still push the younger guys there."
    And those younger guys probably don't want to challenge him to a shot-putting contest. Even Billy Cannon was no match for him.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Joe Reding: Topping Billy Cannon's record

(Second of three parts)
     The first few years Joe Reding played organized football, he could not play with kids his age. He was too big.
     Because kids football in Bossier City (and Shreveport) in the mid to late 1950s was organized by weight limits, Joe always was too heavy for his age group and so he played "up" with kids a year or two older.
     But in 1959 and 1960 (eighth and ninth grades) at Rusheon Junior High, he was unlimited ... and unstoppable. And even as an eighth grader, he was big enough and good enough to play with the ninth-grade team.
    He was nearing his full height (6-foot-1) and growing toward the 200 pounds or so he was in high school. Opposing teams' kids found him hard to tackle in football; he ran over them or past them. Hard to guard in basketball, impossible to beat in track.

In junior high school and at Bossier High (above), Joe Reding
was the big man in the middle (front row)
     Shreveport sportswriting legend Jerry Byrd called him "a superstar" and here's why: As a ninth grader in football, he scored 120 points (in eight games); in basketball, he was the dominant center who led his team to 37 consecutive victories; in track and field, he set four city (Shreveport-Bossier) records (shot put, discus, long jump, high jump).
    Rusheon swept every championship for two years and was so good, its facilities better than any across the river, that the next year the Shreveport schools' league excluded the Bossier City schools. Don't know that they ever reunited.
    David Smith, a longtime coach/administrator in Bossier Parish and for the past 23 years an insurance agency manager now based in West Monroe, La., recalls that Joe's success was due to "No. 1, he was such a competitor.
    "He was a quiet guy, didn't say a lot, but he was great. He came from a great family; his Mom and Dad were such nice people; it was just a super family.
    "He didn't talk about his accomplishments, he was just an ordinary guy like anyone else, but he was a super guy.
    "We had a great time together; I spent a lot of time at their house."
    They headed to high school together, but in the summer before their sophomore year, reality dealt the Reding family a huge blow -- his father's death.
    "That put me in a tailspin," Joe said. "I was only 15. I didn't really understand life."
    Mr. Reding "was always pretty tough on us, he stayed on us all the time," Joe said, "but he was very encouraging. He was always trying to teach us. I wasn't the greatest student, and I can remember him sitting at the kitchen table working with me on algebra, etc.
    "Our relationship was good, and the sad thing was we were just getting to the bonding stage."
    For a couple of days before Mr. Reding's fatal heart attack, he and Joe worked to refurbish a garage apartment on the house they owned (and lived in) near Bossier High (they subsequently moved to a home on Old Minden Road, a few miles away).
    "I treasure those last 2-3 days; we worked together and we worked hard," Joe said. "I treasure those days a lot."
    Another treasure: When Mr. Reding passed away, construction was well underway on a new gymnasium for Bossier High, replacing the old gym inside the main school building where some 600 fans crammed in to watch the Bearkats win the Class AAA state basketball championship in 1960.
    The spacious new gym opened early in 1962 ... and was named E.L. Reding Gym. It's still in use, and last season's Bossier team won another state championship.
    For the dedication ceremony, Dick and Joe -- both playing basketball for Bossier -- were in uniform. "It was very special" for the family, said Joe. "Memories I will never forget."
     In the 1961 football season, Dick was a senior end and Joe was an immediate starter at tackle for the Bearkats in an era when few sophomores ever played at a Class AAA school. Not only did he start, "he made 18 tackles in his first game," said Dick.

     He made All-City (Shreveport-Bossier) as a sophomore, the first of three consecutive All-City selections.
     "He was so physical, so tough," said Billy Don Maples. He recalled a big, strong Springhill running back (white-haired Larry Fambrough) colliding with Reding in a brutal matchup early that season.
    "Fambrough hit him high in the chest," Maples said, "and Joe was down. He was moaning and crying, and bleeding from the nose, and they took him out of the game. He came back in the second half, and led our team in tackling."
    In his three seasons, Bossier had records of 8-3, 9-2 and 7-3-1. But Byrd and Woodlawn and a surprising Bastrop team in 1963 kept the Bearkats from making the state playoffs.
     Because at the time, only 11 players were selected for the All-State team, it was his teammate and classmate Neal Prather who made the Class AAA team in 1963. Prather, who went on to play at Northwestern State and then became a doctor in Shreveport-Bossier, was a breakaway back (Reding was the strong inside runner). Like Joe, Prather was very mature physically early and also a star as a sophomore.
    If the all-star teams had had separate offensive and defensive units -- that didn't begin until later in the 1960s -- Reding would have been a first-team cinch at linebacker. In fact, he was an All-City choice in 1963 as a designated "defensive specialist."
    LSU was impressed enough to sign him to a football scholarship. And Joe was talented enough to convert to the offensive line.
    So football was the ticket to college, but where Joe Reding really was impressive was in the shot put.
    The Reding boys learned to shot put tossing the ball back and forth in the backyard.
    "It [the shot] would just fly out of his hand," Dick recalled. "It was like he was a freak."
    As a Bossier sophomore (spring 1962), Joe bettered 56 feet, got close to the state record -- and won his first Class AAA state title. Just a beginning.
    He began the next spring with a 58-9 effort at the season-opening Shreveport Relays at Byrd, topping Billy Cannon's state record (57-10). Thus, the photo (and distance on the shot put) arranged by Jerry Byrd for the Shreveport Journal
    A few weeks later, at the Indian Relays at Fair Park, he broke the sound barrier -- 60 feet -- with a 60-3 1/4 toss.
    Cannon had won the state shot put and 100-yard dash titles -- a phenomenal double -- for Istrouma (Baton Rouge) in the spring of 1956 before going to LSU and becoming a football immortal.
    To break his record, said Reding, "was almost beyond my comprehension."
    He repeated the state titles in 1963 and 1964 ... but he never improved on his best mark. He had a 60-1/2 toss early in his senior year, but that was it. 
    "I don't know what happened," he said. "I got stuck between 57 [feet] and 59." 
    But he competed without the benefit of much weight training -- it wasn't part of many athletes' workouts those days -- and certainly not any performance-enhancing drugs (those were for a later era).
    This was a clean era, and Joe's tools were strength (those hands, wrists and forearms), technique (form and quickness across the shot put ring) and hard work/practice.
    When The Shreveport Times last year had a panel of a dozen or so sports-minded people voting on Shreveport-Bossier's top 20 greatest all-time athletes, my ballot included Joe Reding at No. 17. As I wrote then in a blog piece, as one of the "oldtime" voters, I probably was the only one who listed Joe.
    My reasoning: His shot-put state record "stood up for a decade or two" and he was a three-year football starter at LSU in a great era (1960s). 
    Oops. Upon further review ... His state record stood up for a few weeks.
    His meet performances in North Louisiana probably stood for some 20 years until the bulked-up Campbell brothers, first John and then Arnold, shattered them while competing for Airline in the early 1980s. Arnold was Louisiana's first 70-foot shot putter and his 74-10 1/2 in 1984 is an out-of-sight record.
    But Reding's state best was topped by Terry Esthay of LaGrange (Lake Charles), who got even for Reding's victory over him in the state meet a week later when -- again competing against Joe -- he beat him with a 61-4 1/2 effort in the New Orleans Recreation Department "Meet of Champions."
    Soon enough Reding and Esthay would be teammates, offensive-line mates, at LSU. And their shot put days were short-lived.
    Joe did compete with the 16-pound college shot put (12 pounds in high school) as a freshman, and he threw it 53-plus feet. But football was -- is -- king, and that's why he was there.
    "We just didn't have time [for track and field season]," Reding said. "We had off-season workouts and then 20 spring practices, four days a week [five weeks]." So he and Esthay only occasionally "messed around" with the shot put.
    "They were married to the football program," Dick Reding observed.
    Next: LSU football was "the greatest experience"

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Joe Reding: A big shot, always

      (First of three parts)
    Whether it was athletics or business or family, Joe Reding has a lot to be proud of and cherish.
    He is 70 now, white-haired, actually lighter than he was in high school and college, and in relatively good shape physically, retired and living a few miles from New Orleans.
Joe and Karen Reding, on their 50th wedding anniversary
     He was, as those of us from his time (basically 1960s) well remember, one of the distinctive athletes from Shreveport-Bossier -- Bossier actually -- and in Louisiana.
    Three athletic achievements that set Joe Reding apart:
    (1) He was the first Louisiana high school shot putter to break the 60-foot barrier.
    (2) When he set the state record in the shot put, the athlete whose record he broke was ... Billy Cannon. (If you don't know who Billy Cannon is, you probably don't need to read any further.)
    (3) He won three consecutive state championship in the event. That might have been equaled but likely will not be topped.
    I will add another, and it's a personal observation because being a year younger than Joe and being at other schools, I saw him in a variety of sports: He was the biggest, best, most dominant, junior high athlete I've seen.
    He was -- to us -- Superman. With him as team leader, I don't remember Rusheon Junior High in Bossier City ever losing in football, basketball and track/field. 
    So when he went on to star in football (fullback-linebacker) and track (shot put) at Bossier High, and then go on to become a three-year starter (1966-68) in the offensive line at LSU, it was no surprise.
    "He did some amazing things; it's hard to believe," his older brother and role model, Dick Reding, told me a few weeks ago, recalling that even when Joe was in elementary school, his athletic potential showed. And Dick was a standout all-around athlete himself.
     "He was a fine football player, and great in track. ... Quite a guy," said David Smith, Joe's junior high and high school teammate and good friend. "He was a 'man' early -- just bigger and better and stronger than anyone."
    "He was strong as a bear, with God-given talent," said Billy Don Maples, a Bossier High football teammate two years older than Joe and later on the same Airline High School coaching staff for five years.
    "Dick maybe was the better all-around athlete, but Joe was a genuine guy with good values. ... He was an excellent offensive line coach [at Airline] ... a very, very hard worker."
    The work ethic, traced to his parents' nurturing in Bossier City, and his talent and dedication carried Joe a long way through a lot of places.
Three-year starter in the offensive line, 1966-68
    For almost two decades, athletics was a big part of his life. They provided an outlet, recognition as a star, the above-mentioned notable distinctions, eventually a college scholarship and then an entry into coaching.
    That was a long time ago. Then he moved into real life, the real world.
    There's not much glamor, not many headlines, in the freight business. But for some 38 years as a manager -- until he retired in 2012 -- it gave Reding and his family what they needed.
    Home is now Pearl River, La. ("actually it's north Slidell," says Joe), and has been for 11 years. The Redings arrived there "just before [Hurricane] Katrina" and Joe was the manager of UPS freight division in the New Orleans area.
    "We like South Louisiana; we're very, very at home here," he said. (Of course, South Louisiana is where he played college football.)
    That was last of 12 moves through such stops as Memphis, Little Rock, Springfield, Mo., a decade in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore corridor and four years in Hurst, Texas (mid-cities area of Fort Worth-Dallas).
    "I worked for five different companies, three went bankrupt," Joe said. "You move a lot; it's sort of like coaching or being in the military. ...
    "It's been a good life; it provided well for my family."
    Family: Joe and fellow Bossier High graduate Karen (Reisinger) have been married for 50 years (since his second year at LSU), with two children -- daughter Kathy, 49, and son Kris, 34 (both in the Little Rock area), two grandchildren (Kassey, 26, and Joe, 21) and 5-year-old great grandson Abel.
    But he knew about close family ties from way back.
    His father, E.L. (Elbert Lee) Reding, was the Bossier High football coach (1927-32) as a young man in his 20s; the Bossier High principal in the early 1950s, then after a few years out of education, a supervisor (assistant superintendent) in the Bossier Parish school system.
    Dick was 18 months, two grades in school, older than Joe. Becky was four years younger than Joe.
    E.L. and Doris Reding were deeply involved in their children's schooling and athletics, almost always present and watching.
    But all lives have hardships, and so it is with Joe.
    E.L. Reding, at age 57, died of a massive heart attack, sitting at home one evening drinking ice tea, in the summer of 1961 -- just before Dick's senior year at Bossier and Joe's sophomore year.
    For Joe, it's been three knee surgeries, beginning with "a horrible knee injury in the spring of my freshman year at LSU" and three years ago  "invasive lower lumbar
surgery called a laminectomy ... which decompresses the lower back."
    And then this: In December, on their 50-year wedding anniversary cruise, Karen became ill. The result: esophageal cancer.
    She has undergone treatment in New Orleans and "we don't know what's ahead of us," Joe said, "but right now [it's] going very well and she has responded well. Best I can put it: We are encouraged, but guarded."
    Athletics began early; Bossier elementary schools -- unlike those in Shreveport -- had organized teams. Joe's prowess first showed in baseball; as Dick recalls, playing in the Dixie League programs, Joe once hit five home runs in five at-bats at one of the then-new Walbrook Park diamonds.
    As a 14- and 15-year-old, he was a star on Bossier teams that played in the national VFW "Teener League" tournament in Hershey, Pa. The second year Bossier lost the title game 4-1 to a perennial powerhouse from Gastonia, N.C., and Reding scored the Bossier run. 
    "He was a great hitter; if he had stayed with it, he could have been a major-league player," says his older brother. But he left baseball after that summer of '61 and in high school gravitated to football, basketball (for a year) and the shot put and discus in the spring.
    He got plenty of practice, and guidance, at home.
    "When we were kids, we played a lot together," Dick said, "and we loved each other. But we were brothers; we fought a lot, too.
    "Joe was pretty methodical," he added, "and very opinionated. He would argue at the drop of a hat, and he was very dogged in what he thought, what he believed in."
    Athletics caught hold. "I remember Joe looking at the newspaper almost every day," Dick said, "and looking at statistics, writing them down. We had all these little pieces of paper all over the house, with the stats on them."
    Dick would develop into a three-sport star at Bossier High. An end in football, he earned a scholarship to Northwestern State, where as a senior in 1966, he was an all-conference player and a leader of an undefeated [Gulf States] conference team coached by his father-in-law, Jack Clayton, in the final of his 10 years as NSU's head coach.
    By the time he was a senior, he was a "future" pro football draft pick -- Washington Redskins (NFL) and Kansas City Chiefs (AFL). He did go to the Redskins' training camp in 1967, but did not make the team.
    (He and Nancy, Coach Clayton's daughter, for years have made their home in Colorado where he was a teacher and coach.)
    Dick, significantly, also was a two-time conference champion in the shot put. He was not the best shot putter in the family.
    Here is how the late Jerry Byrd put it in his book Football Country"Dick Reding was a rare example of an athlete who grew up in the shadow of a younger brother. ..." 
    Dick remembers this about Joe: "He had really strong hands, thick forearms, always. I realized after a while it might be better to have him as a friend than someone I wanted to fight every day."
    Keep those strong hands and forearms in mind because soon they belonged to The Best Ever in the shot put in Louisiana.
    (Next: Topping Billy Cannon's record)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

An ideal time: 69 ... and counting

One of the joys of life these days: Spending time with the
youngest of our four grandchildren: Eli Smith, 1 1/2.
     So it's the annual birthday blog -- the fifth annual since the blog began in 2012 -- and let's start with my age today.
    I will begin with how my mother used to answer when someone asked how old she was. "Well, it starts with a 6 ..."
    Today will be the last time I am able to answer that way because this is birthday No. 69.
     The number 69 has, well, an unconventional definition you might know, but never mind that. I found a web site -- affinitynumerology.com -- with this:
    "... 69 is a number of idealism, family, and harmony. It's also a number of health and compassion.

    "The number 69 is a philosopher and an idealist. It tends to determine an ideal way of being or method of doing and sticks to it, yet is open to alternate points of view and may change its own ideal as a result."
    Now that is how I'd like to be this year ... and every year.
    That is what I wish for everyone -- it's the idealist in me -- but the reality, it seems to me, is that we're more divided, more contentious, in this country than we've been in a long while.
    I can't fix it, but I can try to fix my part in my world.
    I'd like to think I do fit some of that definition. But there's always room for improvement.
    My wife several times in the past week has quoted this verse to me:
    "Talk less. Smile more. Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for."
    This is from the musical/play Hamilton. You might have heard of it recently.
    Bea, as some people who follow my posts on Facebook and my e-mails might know, was Hamilton-obsessed a few months earlier than most of the world. So here she is borrowing from Aaron Burr's advice to Alexander Hamilton in their first meeting.
    Put it in hip-hop form, and you have the right rhythm.
    But the advice is pretty solid, don't you think? Talk less, smile more.
    Most people who know me know that I love to smile -- well, laugh -- a lot. But talk less? Ha. I probably should, but that'll be the day.
    Still, as for letting you know what I'm against or what I'm for, you won't find a lot of that from me on Facebook or in my e-mail posts -- at least not on politics or social issues.
    Again, people who know me well know I'm pretty darned opinionated. But, thinking of that harmony/compassion aspect of the number 69 -- and open to those alternative points of view -- I will leave the public opinions to others.
     You can guess what I'm against and what I'm for.
     I don't even post that many thoughts about the sports world -- and I know a helluva lot more about sports than I do politics and social issues. But arguing online, or in person, is not how I want to waste my time, or yours.
     Just don't feel like bashing anyone, or being bashed. No sense in it. There is too much negativity all around us.
     A year from being 70, I do think more and more about our mortality. Not planning to leave soon, but we're talking about living wills and emergency situations and, well, funeral plans.
     I figure, if I keep eating right and stay in relatively good physical condition and remaining fortunate, I will stay around. My parents -- who went through a lot of hardships -- lasted into their late 80s.
     So maybe I have a couple of decades left. That's a lot more birthday blogs. I welcome the thought.     
     I will keep smiling and living a day at a time, maybe talk less (and maybe not).
     I embrace family first, compassion and harmony, an open mind and others' point of view, and I'll try to be philosophical and even idealistic.
     I want to be optimistic and realistic and -- if possible -- idealistic. So here's hoping for the best ... for everyone, for our country, for the world.
     See you next June 16, birthday No. 70.