Eurovision Song Contest

When Donald Trump alluded on Saturday to some horrible event that had happened in Sweden the previous day, you can imagine the tweets in response. One response came from @sweden, the official Twitter account for the country. They stated that the only thing that happened on Friday was the competition to choose the Swedish entrant for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest.

This is not a big deal in the United States, but I remember when we lived in England in the late 1970s, this was must-watch television. So here’s some stuff you may or may not know about this competition.

  • This annual competition began in 1956, partly because Europeans felt the need for something fun that would pull them together after the devastation of World War II.
  • The winner that was most successful after their win was ABBA, from Sweden. They won in 1974 for “Waterloo”. You can see their winning Eurovision performance here. That’s some happy music!
  • The competition is not open to all European countries, but to all members of the European Broadcasting Union. This has changed over the last 60 years as some countries are created or are swallowed up by larger countries.
  • The first Eurovision Song Contest included only seven countries. In 2016, 42 countries competed.
  • For all my Lakenheath friends from England, you probably already know that Katrina and the Waves won for the United Kingdom in 1997, singing “Love Shine a Light“. For those of you not from Lakenheath, you probably know this band, who attended Lakenheath American High School, for the song “Walking on Sunshine“.
  • The first Eurovision was held in Lugano, Switzerland, and after that, the country that wins the competition becomes the host for the contest the next year. This can be used as an opportunity to promote their country as a tourist destination, but there have been times when the host country has declined due to the expense. In those cases, another host (usually the BBC in the United Kingdom) steps up to take over. In May of this year the competition will be held in Kyiv, Ukraine.
  • There are lots of rules about everything from the number of artists allowed onstage to language requirements. But many of the rules change through the years, so you have to give them credit for flexibility due to growth and change.
  • Voting for the winners has also changed. At the moment, the voting is split 50/50 between juries and voting by the public, either by phone or online. The problem with the public aspect is one of scale. Like our electoral college, where my California vote counts less than the vote of someone from Wyoming, the public vote from small countries outweighs the vote from much larger countries.
  • Women have dominated, being a part of 50 of the 64 winning acts through 2016.
  • Sometimes politics rears its ugly head. Certain blocs of countries may vote together and some countries may vote for or against another country based on whatever is happening at the time. Annoyed with your neighbor? Hurt them with music.
  • Ireland has won the most contests, with seven.

Have you ever watched this contest? Can you listen to “Walking on Sunshine” without dancing even a little bit?

Please follow and like us:

Breaking News: The Georgian Papers Programme

Currently our news cycles are stuffed full of BREAKING NEWS. I love that there can be breaking news in history, even if it isn’t urgent enough to require ALL CAPS. This particular news will probably have a wide-ranging and long-lasting effect on historical research and will fill historians and enthusiasts with anticipation about what they might find.

In April of 2015, Queen Elizabeth II launched the Georgian Papers Programme, releasing more than 350,000 pieces of paper from the years 1714-1837, which will be digitized for availability to anyone interested. This time period includes the reigns of several monarchs, but because George III was king for almost 60 years, much of the material is directly from him.

The digitized papers will be searchable, making them an incredible primary research resource in many different subject areas. George III (1738-1820) was king during the French Revolution, the American Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, so you can imagine the information just on those issues. The papers include letters between the king and queen, an assortment of other letters, essays, bills, notes, menus and even a draft letter of abdication which was never completed.

King George III (in coronation robes), painted by Allan Ramsay (1713-1784). Photo via Wikimedia Commons

If you ask many Americans about George III, they will mention that he was crazy or that he was a tyrant. After all, he had to be bad enough that the American Colonies would fight to leave and become our own country.

King George III at Windsor Castle, painted by Peter Edward Stroehling. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

But labels are easy and negate the fact that we are all human beings with varying opinions and flaws. The harder truth is that George III did have some form of mental illness, although historians and others are still debating the exact parameters of that illness, and that one man’s tyrant is another man’s protector.

George III was greatly interested in science in all forms and was generally intellectually curious. He was a husband who reportedly never took a mistress despite the norms for men of his status during his time. He was father to 15 children. Probably mad, possibly a tyrant, but like most of us, he was also much more than that.

George III and Queen Charlotte with their thirteen children, painted by John Murphy. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

So why is this release of papers important? Why are historians so excited by this?

  • Primary resources allow us to learn about people in their own words. If we want to know why George III did one thing rather than another, we may find that information in one of these letters.
  • Because these resources will be searchable, information about any subject relating to the eighteenth and early-nineteenth century may be found here. Interested in gardening, medicine, astronomy or spies? Any of those may be found in these papers.
  • Opinions about George III have varied over the years depending on the writer and the time when they were writing. This collection of papers allows today’s writers to get past speculation and to interpret a primary resource.
  • Ultimately, more data usually leads to better analysis. This is a lot of data about a lot of subjects. I imagine this incredible resource will lead to many new journal articles.

The digitization is expected to be completed in 2020. If you want a sneak preview, check out this special from BBC Two “George III – The Genius of the Mad King“.

 

Please follow and like us:

Signs For The Future

I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts the difficulty in studying history when original sources do not exist. Documents and art that were destroyed in war or by natural disaster cannot be recreated. But how will the resources we are now creating hold up for future historians?

Years ago I read a time-travel novel about a character from a couple of hundred years in the future. In that fictional future, digital sources did not survive, but instead degraded and became useless within a couple of decades. Paper survived, but there was a big cultural blank spot in regards to music, radio, movies and television.

Social media wasn’t addressed because that book was written before it became such a big thing. Even if the sheer volume of social media posts remain, will future historians be able to correctly understand our cultural shorthand? I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to how much of my Twitter feed could be understood without a day-to-day immersion in these events.

Will future historians be able to access all the digital noise that exists right now? Will they feel it’s worth the effort to wade through the billions (trillions? kazillions?) of words and images available? If we considered the needs of future historians, what would we save?

I saw an article today in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “In Discarded Women’s March Signs, Professors Saw a Chance to Save History” by Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez. After the Women’s March for America in Boston on Saturday, January 21, 2017, a variety of signs were left by a fence for disposal. A design professor at Northeastern University, Nathan Felde, saw them and was struck by the idea that they needed to be saved.

Women’s March for America, Boston, MA, January 21, 2017. Photo: Brad Fagan via Wikimedia Commons

Felde rented a van and a 40-square-foot storage unit and filled the unit with more than 1,000 handmade, heartfelt signs that capture a variety of ideas important to those who created those signs and marched that day. With the help of Northeastern University’s library, these signs, representing a moment in our history, will be archived physically and digitally. Some of those signs will probably need some explanation in the future.

Women’s March for America, Boston, MA, January 21, 2017. Photo: Brad Fagan via Wikimedia Commons

We live in interesting times. Not only do I want to see how this project looks at completion, but I also would love to know what historians one hundred or two hundred years from now will think about these archived bits of our culture.

Please follow and like us:

Aleppo Soap

I have a hard time conceptualizing the numbers of people that are suffering in Aleppo. And the various factions and countries and history and strategies and politics involved are, for many of us, difficult to understand.

So I wanted to find a point of connection other than basic humanity. Something more personal than what we see on the news between stories about U.S. politics. And I found Aleppo soap.

Aleppo, in Syria, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, possibly for the last 8,000 years. Aleppo was part of the ancient trading route, known as the Silk Road. They also created what is believed to be the first soap ever made. That soap was introduced to Europe in the 11th century when participants in the Crusades brought the soap home with them.

Today, many artisans in Aleppo still use recipes that have been around for centuries. Aleppo soap is, and always has been, natural, organic, biodegradable and locally sourced.

True Aleppo soap is made with olive oil, sodium hydroxide and laurel oil. That’s it. The olive oil moisturizes, while the laurel oil is a cleanser with antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-itch properties. It’s gentle enough to use on babies, or if you have sensitive skin, and is said to heal many skin issues.

Vat of Aleppo soap at the Al-Jebeili factory, Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

Vat of Aleppo soap at the Al-Jebeili factory, Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

To make Aleppo soap, they boil the olive oil and sodium hydroxide for three days, then add the laurel oil. They pour that green mixture over a factory floor covered with wax paper. As it solidifies, they use a rake-like device and cut the soap into cubes, which are individually stamped with the maker’s mark. Those cubes are then stacked in a subterranean chamber in a way that allows for maximum air exposure. The cubes are allowed to cure for at least six months, although the longer the cubes are cured, the harder and longer-lasting they become.

Aleppo soap at the Al-Jebeili factory, Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

Aleppo soap at the Al-Jebeili factory, Aleppo, Syria. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons.

The green color comes from the laurel oil and you can tell a lot about your particular bar of soap by the color. The amount of laurel oil can vary from 2-40%, with the price of the soap increasing as the percentage rises. The soap changes color as it dries, but that color depends upon the percentage of laurel oil. Less laurel oil makes for a more yellow bar, and a bar that is brown has a higher percentage. In all cases, the inside will still be green because it has not been exposed to the air.

Aleppo soap. Photo by  yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany via Wikimedia Commons.

Aleppo soap. Photo by yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany via Wikimedia Commons.

Now, after about a thousand years, we may soon see the end of true Aleppo soap. Many of the established soap makers have had to leave Aleppo for their safety. For any that remain, there are other problems. Although the olive groves remain, they don’t always have the labor available to pick the olives and process the oil. They now have to get their laurel oil from Turkey rather than locally. Prices for everything involved in the process have skyrocketed, as have prices for everything involved in basic survival. Stores in Aleppo have closed and many of the distribution routes to export their product have been cut off. Even if the artisans have relocated to Damascus or Beirut, is it still Aleppo soap if it’s not made in Aleppo with the local products?

There is also the problem of fake Aleppo soap. Some people call their product Aleppo soap even though they have added chemicals and have mass produced the soap. If a bar of soap only costs a couple of bucks, it’s probably not real. Also, unlike most soaps, the real stuff floats in water. This lack of standards could sink the industry before Aleppo has a chance to heal and restart their businesses.

You can find articles on the internet that will let you know how you can help the relief efforts in Aleppo. One organization is the Karam Foundation. You can donate money at that site, and it also has a store called Scents of Syria where you can purchase Aleppo soap.

So yes, Syria is a disaster at the moment, and I’m certainly not going to claim to know how to fix it. I just hope that this has helped to personalize the situation for you a little. When you hear about the people of Aleppo, I want you to be able to see them as individuals. Of course they are not all soap artists, but maybe this will help you to realize that they are also not just numbers and statistics.

Please follow and like us:

Breaking News: HMS Terror Found?

I’m postponing the story that I wrote earlier today so that I can share some breaking news. Yes, there is breaking news for historical stories, and yes, this one is a big deal.

Back in December 2015 I wrote a post titled “Mystery (Mostly) Solved” about the 1845 Franklin expedition to map the Northwest Passage. Both ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, along with 129 men, disappeared.

I watched a show on PBS NOVA called “Arctic Ghost Ship” which told the story of how the HMS Erebus was finally found in 2014. Although it was a huge discovery, finding the ship didn’t answer all the questions about the disappearance, but the ship hadn’t yet been explored, so there was hope.

The Guardian reported yesterday that the HMS Terror has been found. At least they’re almost positive it’s the HMS Terror, judging by what is known of the architecture of that lost ship. It was found about 60 miles from where experts believed it to be, in a bay called Terror Bay. I’m not sure when the bay got that name, but did read somewhere that the name predates the expedition.

HMS Terror : view of the Port side of the ship with an effect of sunrise in February 1837 and shewing the state of the snow walls at that time. Artist William Smyth (1800-1877). Photo via Wikimedia Commons

HMS Terror : view of the Port side of the ship with an effect of sunrise in February 1837 and shewing the state of the snow walls at that time. Artist William Smyth (1800-1877). Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The reason this find may change history is because the condition of the ship shows that events may have happened differently than previously believed. And that’s how history works. Each new discovery, large or small, adds to what we already know, allowing for changes in interpretation.

I highly recommend you read The Guardian story as it includes some great photos and maps. And maybe read my original post again, because this is a really good story.

Please follow and like us:

So Much History and Mystery in One Shipwreck

Sometimes one new artifact or historical find can lead to many different avenues of study. It can answer some questions, but also create even more. And sometimes, it can change the way we do things in the present.

In 2003, a shipwreck was discovered in the Baltic Sea near the Aland Islands off the coast of Finland, but it wasn’t until 2010 that divers finally visited the wreck and found some interesting cargo.

The Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. Source: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/File:Åland_Political_Map-en.svg via Wikimedia Commons

The Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. Source: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/File:Åland_Political_Map-en.svg via Wikimedia Commons

  • The name of the ship, the route it was taking, where it originated and the year it sank are still mysteries, although there may be clues in parts of the wreckage that remains unexplored. It’s estimated that there are approximately a hundred thousand wrecks in the Baltic Sea, only a fraction of which have been investigated.
  • Ceramics found in the wreckage date from 1780-1830.
  • Forty-six of the 186 intact bottles of champagne, identified by branding in the cork, came from the Veuve Clicquot champagne house in Reims, France. Founded in 1772, they are still open for business, selling high end champagne with a distinctive yellow label.
  • Scientists spent several years studying the chemical properties of the wine, eventually including a taste test. Although some of the carbonation had seemingly escaped through the corks, the wine had not become vinegary.
  • The wine is much sweeter than most wine that is produced today. Apparently in the 19th century, Russians preferred their wine and champagne extra sweet, even to the point of adding sugar to their wine at the table.
  • It also had a lower alcohol content than today’s wine. Not sure what’s up with that.
  • The water pressure and darkness 165 feet below the surface, as well as a consistent temperature of 35-39 degrees Fahrenheit, is apparently a good way to age wine. The Veuve Clicquot champagne house is now experimenting with aging some of their wine that way, and will compare it to the same wine that was aged in the more traditional cellar.
  • There were traces of arsenic in the wine, but that was probably from pest-control measures in the vineyards.
  • Some of the wine bottles were from the Juglar champagne house, which was absorbed into another company, Jacquesson, in 1829.
  • They also found five bottles of beer in the wreck. One bottle broke on the divers boat, and researchers used two of the bottles for chemical analysis. They weren’t as well preserved, as seawater had seeped into the bottles, and there was evidence of bacterial activity.
  • The fact that the beer was bottled, when most beer was kept in wooden casks, may indicate that it was a higher quality, more expensive, beer. The origin of the beer was traced to Belgium.
A View from the East-End of the Brewery Chiswell Street; Schabkunstblatt about 1792. Painted by G(eorge) Garrard. Engrav'd by W. Ward bzw. by R(ichar)d Earlom. Published ... 1792 by G. Garrard & W. Ward bzw. London, ... 1791 by John & Josiah Boydell. Via Wikimedia Commons

A View from the East-End of the Brewery Chiswell Street; Schabkunstblatt about 1792. Painted by G(eorge) Garrard. Engrav’d by W. Ward bzw. by R(ichar)d Earlom. Published … 1792 by G. Garrard & W. Ward bzw. London, … 1791 by John & Josiah Boydell. Via Wikimedia Commons

  • Stallhagen brewery, with exclusive rights to the research results, used the chemical analyses to produce Historic Beer 1842 (which had a limited production and high price) and Historical Beer 1843.
  • The divers also found spices (black and white peppercorns, coriander seeds), olives, coffee beans and preserved fruit. Other than the fact that they were recognizable, I found no mention of how well they survived their stay at the bottom of the sea.

There was a lot of media interest in this story. A quick internet search will show many articles in a wide variety of periodicals about these finds. My personal favorite was “The Quest to Produce the World’s Oldest Shipwreck Beer” by McKenna Stayner, in The New Yorker.

Maybe all that’s necessary to bring history to a wider audience is alcohol.

Please follow and like us:

100 Years Ago This Month – SHARKS!

If not for the events of July 1916, one hundred years ago, we may not have Jaws, Shark Week, or even Sharknado so ingrained in our culture. Imagine an America without that multi-purpose phrase, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

There has been much written and filmed about those two weeks in July  1916 along the New Jersey shore. Shark attacks killed four and injured a fifth, leading to panic and uncertainty, as well as the killing of unknown numbers of sharks. The first two fatal attacks were at separate resort towns along the coast. The final three attacks were at Matawan Creek, killing two.

Map of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks. Author: Kmusser via Wikimedia Commons

Map of the 1916 Jersey Shore shark attacks. Author: Kmusser via Wikimedia Commons

There is still controversy over the type of shark and the number involved. Was one rogue shark responsible for all five attacks? Was it a Great White or a bull shark?

In the past 100 years, there has been a lot of research and speculation about the attacks, but I wanted to see what they knew (or reported) at the time. Original reporting reveals so much about the culture and language. I went into The New York Times archives to see what was reported about these attacks.

DIES AFTER ATTACK BY FISH

C. E. Vansant Had Been Bitten While Swimming at Beach Haven

Special to The New York Times.

BEACH HAVEN, N. J., July 2 – Charles Epting Vansant of Philadelphia, who was badly bitten in the surf here on Saturday afternoon by a fish, presumably a shark, died late last night.

He was less than fifty feet from the beach and was swimming in when those on the shore saw the fin of a fish coming rapidly toward him. They called to him to hurry and yelled warning at him but before he swam many feet the fish closed with him. Vansant shouted for help and then went under. Alexander Ott, an expert swimmer and a member of the American Olympic swimming team, dashed to his assistance, but arrived too late to prevent his being bitten. After a struggle, Ott brought him ashore.

Mr. Vansant was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene L. Vansant of 4,038 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, and was in his twenty-fifth year. He was a graduate of the Department of Fine Arts of the University of Pennsylvania and was connected with the firm of Nathan Folwell & Co., of Philadelphia.

It is said that large sharks have been seen recently a few miles out.

The next attack was 5 days later, 45 miles north.

SHARK KILLS BATHER OFF JERSEY BEACH

Bites Off Both Legs of a Youth Swimming Beyond Spring Lake Life Lines

GUARDS FIND HIM DYING

Women Are Panic-Stricken as Mutilated Body of Hotel Employe (sic) is Brought Ashore

Special to The New York Times.

SPRING LAKE, N. J., July 6. – Hundreds of men and women and many children were on the beach this afternoon when a swimmer, far out beyond the outer life lines, raised a cry for help. George White and Chris Anderson, life guards, who had been watching the swimmer closely because of his distance from shore, launched a lifeboat and started for him while the crowd on the beach watched in suspense and fear.

As the life guards drew near him the water about the man was suddenly tinged with red and he shrieked loudly. A woman onshore cried that the man in the red canoe had upset, but others realized it was blood that colored the water and women fainted at the sight. As the life guards reached for the swimmer he cried out that a shark had bitten him and then fainted.

They dragged him into the boat and discovered that his left leg had been bitten off above the knee and the right leg just below the knee. The shark also had nipped his left side, for there were marks of teeth beneath the arm. Women fled when the man was placed on the beach, but the life guards and other men tried to bandage his wounds while a doctor was called. Before one arrived however the man was dead. He was recognized as Charles Bruder, a bell boy in a local hotel, who had the reputation of being a strong swimmer who often went out beyond the life lines.

The news that the man had been killed by a shark spread rapidly through the resort, and many persons were so overcome by the horror of Bruder’s death that they had to be assisted to their rooms. Swimmers hurried out of the water and couldn’t be induced to return.

So far as the life guards and old residents could recall, Bruder’s was the first death due to a shark at this resort. Sharks have been caught occasionally in fish pounds, but none was ever seen near shore before.

A few days ago a boy had one leg bitten off while swimming off Beach Haven, and a movement was started here tonight by Colonel W. G. Schauffler of Governor Fielder’s staff to have the waters patrolled in an effort to kill off the big fish.

Colonel Schauffler purposes to organize a squad of motor boatmen to patrol up and down the coast. Experienced shark fishermen will be in command of the boats, and it is hoped that the commotion will drive away such fish as the fishermen do not catch.

Matawan Creek near the mouth. Photo: Mr. Matté via Wikimedia Commons

Matawan Creek near the mouth. Photo: Mr. Matté via Wikimedia Commons

And then the final attacks six days later, 30 miles up the coast in Matawan Creek. I’m not going to post the entire article because it’s so long, but you can read it here (click to download PDF).

SHARK KILLS 2 BATHERS, MAIMS 1, NEAR NEW YORK

Swims Ten Miles from Sea Through Raritan Bay, and Into Small Creek for It’s Prey

BOY TORN FROM HIP TO KNEE

Another Dragged Down to Death by Monster Fish – Leg of Third Twice Bitten

TOWN SCORNS 2 WARNINGS

Man Eater Seen in Matawan Creek on Sunday – One Boy Seized in Three Feet of Water

Special to The New York Times.

MATAWAN, N. J., July 12 –

Tonight the whole town is stirred by a personal feeling, a feeling which makes men and women regard the fish as they might a human being who had taken the lives of a boy and a youth and badly, perhaps mortally, injured another youngster. The one purpose in which everybody shares is to get the shark, to kill it, and to see its body drawn up on the shore, where all may look and be assured it will destroy no more.

The death of the boy and youth and the injury to the other youngster were due to the refusal of almost every one to believe that sharks would ever enter the shoal waters where clamdiggers work at low tide. As long ago as Sunday, Frank Slater saw the shark and told it everywhere. He stopped repeating the tale when every one laughed him to scorn.

News of the tragedies here spread rapidly through neighboring towns, and from Morgan’s Beach, a few miles away, came a report that two sharks had been killed there in the morning by lifeguards. One was said to be twelve feet long.

Persons who saw the shark when it grabbed Fisher said they thought the fish was about nine feet long.

Stories about sharks attacking humans are news because it doesn’t happen that often. On this Fourth of July, remember that you’re more likely to be killed by fireworks than by a shark. Be careful out there.

 

Please follow and like us:

Historical Weather Records

I’m on vacation in Spokane, Washington this week for my niece’s wedding, so today, rather than a full post, I’m going to give you some facts.

The Great Northern Railway Depot clock tower and United States Pavillion in Spokane's Riverfront Park. Photo: Mark Wagner (User:Carnildo) via Wikimedia Commons

The Great Northern Railway Depot clock tower and United States Pavillion in Spokane’s Riverfront Park. Photo: Mark Wagner (User:Carnildo) via Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday it was 95 degrees, breaking the previous record for this date, which had stood since 1882.

Today it was 96 degrees, breaking the previous record for this date, which was set in 1970.

Tomorrow may or may not beat the record set in 1931.

So happy for air conditioning!

Please follow and like us:

Today, Remember Why You Can Have a Barbecue

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, the day we honor and remember those who died in service to our country. Most of them died during war, either declared or undeclared.

Although large numbers are often difficult to grasp, each of the numbers below represents a human being with a life story.

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (Aug. 24, 2007) - Honor guard members from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command prepare to conduct a homecoming ceremony for U.S. service members lost during the Vietnam War and World War II and recovered by recovery teams last month in Vietman, Laos and Austria. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charity Barrett via Wikimedia Commons

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii (Aug. 24, 2007) – Honor guard members from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command prepare to conduct a homecoming ceremony for U.S. service members lost during the Vietnam War and World War II and recovered by recovery teams last month in Vietman, Laos and Austria. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Charity Barrett via Wikimedia Commons

According to a PBS story using the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs as its source, the number of United States military deaths during war time are as follows:

  • Revolutionary War – 4,435
  • War of 1812 – 2,260
  • Indian Wars – 1,000
  • Mexican War – 13,283
  • Civil War – 498,332
  • Spanish-American War – 2,446
  • World War I – 116,516
  • World War II – 405,399
  • Korean War – 54,246
  • Vietnam War – 90,220
  • Persian Gulf War – 1,565
  • Global War on Terror – 6,852

So today, please take a moment to remember those who died in service to our country and made your barbecue possible.

US war casualties in a C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base This photo and 361 others have been released by the Air Force due to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Memory Hole, and can also be found at this site. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

US war casualties in a C-17 Globemaster III at Dover Air Force Base
This photo and 361 others have been released by the Air Force due to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Memory Hole, and can also be found at this site. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Please follow and like us:

Foxes Never Quit – The Best Reason to Love Soccer Today

Sometimes the events that make history are a surprise and we don’t realize their historical impact until much later. But sometimes we see the historic potential of events before they happen. This is often the case in elections and sports, where daily results are constantly monitored. The news today about Leicester City Football Club ( the Foxes) clinching the English Premier League title is an event 132 years in the making, although it’s the last two years that I want to talk about.

King Power Stadium. Photo: Pioeb via Wikimedia Commons

King Power Stadium. Photo: Pioeb via Wikimedia Commons

The most exciting sports history events are the long shots. We love to love the underdog, to believe that anything is possible. Since many of my readers are American, not a country known for our love of soccer, let me give you a little background on how this works.

England has had professional soccer leagues for over a hundred years. The current top flight, the Barclay’s Premier League, began in 1992 and, until today, only five teams have won the league title. Since one of those teams won only once, we have four teams passing the trophy around in 22 years.

The Premier League has 20 teams. During the August to May season, each team plays every other team twice, at home and away, for a total of 38 league matches. The system runs on points and teams get three points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. If teams are tied on points, then goal differential, the difference between the number of goals your team scored and the number that other teams scored against you, is used to decide who has a higher rating.

At the end of each season, the three teams with the lowest scores are relegated to the league below, and three teams from the lower league are promoted to the Premier League. Since all the professional leagues work this way, theoretically any team in the lower leagues can work their way up through the various leagues to get to the top. But realistically, remember five teams in 23 years.

Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League in the 2014-2015 season. That’s the year I discovered that NBC were airing all Premier League matches, so I could finally watch enough games to get to know the teams. I watched all the teams play the first few games so I could pick my favorite, the team I wanted to support. I liked Leicester City because they always played flat out, chased every ball and never gave up.

Unfortunately, that didn’t mean they always won. Actually, they spent most of the season in dead last, 20th place. But then they won seven of their last nine matches, enough to boost them up to 14th place, safe to play in the big league for another year. And that was a huge story, lauded as the great escape, unbelievable after all the time they spent in last place.

Then over the summer they had a mini scandal, sacked the manager, lost some players, hired some new players and hired a new manager. And before the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, analysts tagged Leicester City as one of the teams sure to be relegated this season. They also said the new manager, Claudio Ranieri, would be the first manager to be sacked this season. The odds of them winning the title were placed at 5,000 to 1. But I’m an optimist and they were my team.

And then the new season started. And they won. And they won again. And again. Throughout the season the analysts kept saying this was going to end soon. They scoffed at the idea that Leicester City could win the title. And I would remember the reason I chose them as the team I wanted to support in the first place, and of the sign at King Power Stadium that says “Foxes Never Quit”.

One by one, the analysts started to admit that this actually might happen. There are two games left in the season and Leicester City have clinched the title. This is history, folks. The team that spent most of last season in the cellar has won it all. One Christmas they were bottom of the league, the next Christmas they were top of the league. This isn’t the result of one lucky match. In 36 matches they have 22 wins, 11 draws and only 3 losses.

Today an internet search will show you any number of articles where you can read more about the manager, the team and the individual players. You can find analyses about how they won the league. They’ll be discussing this for years, because this is historical. And I love that so many other teams will now believe this is possible for them to have their own Leicester City moment.

From this fan to Claudio and his lads, my thanks for an entertaining season that made us all believe.

***You may also have heard of Leicester because that’s where they uncovered the bones of King Richard III in a parking lot. His bones were reinterred in Leicester in 2015. Coincidence?

Please follow and like us: