“If you can’t take a curve ball…”

As a Disney fan, I know all about Richard and Robert Sherman, the Academy Award-winning songwriters with credits like Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. I’ve read all about their lives in the autobiographical Walt’s Time (Camphor Tree Publishers, 1998).

In this book they relate how they longed to follow in the footsteps of their composer father Al Sherman. Al had challenged them to write a commercial popular song, and “After writing 20 or 30 songs that failed to meet Dad’s challenge,” they had come up with “Gold Can Buy Anything (But Love).” They found a publisher, singing cowboy Gene Autry recorded it, and it began climbing the charts on the Columbia Records label.

Then, on the cusp of success, they were blindsided by world events. President Harry Truman relieved General Douglas MacArthur of his command in the Korean War, and General MacArthur gave his “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” speech. This sent Gene Autry hurrying back to the recording studio. As the book relates, “Columbia had ripped our song off the record presses and replaced it with Autry singing “Old Soldiers Never Die”.”

Their father, show-business veteran that he was, put everything in perspective, “That’s what they call a curve ball. If you can’t take a curve, then get out of the game.”

I happened to think of this story while reflecting on how the coronavirus has made a shambles of my personal life this year. In April I had planned to run the London Marathon (my last of the six major marathons, for which I would receive a special medal) and tour Scotland. Yesterday I learned that my 50th college reunion (in October!) has been postponed for eleven months. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if my other fall events will suffer a similar fate. This pandemic has turned out to be one heckofa curve ball!

So what’s our alternative? Some people seem to think there has been no curve, just a conspiracy by who-knows-who to disrupt our lives for whatever nefarious purpose.

But, in the absence of the proverbial smoking gun, I’ve found the simplest explanation is almost always correct. These events happen semi-regularly (See “20 of the Worst Epidemics and Pandemics in History” by Owen Jaris, https://www.livescience.com/worst-epidemics-and-pandemics-in-history.html) and they will continue to happen. That’s the way life is, and we just have to be ready to take a curve.

Although “Memo to Everyone”: It would be helpful to anticipate and prepare a bit for the next one!

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