Monday, June 28, 2021
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
FLORIDA GOLF, DEEP SEA FISHING, AND POLITICS
I occasionally socialize and play golf with some fellow Granite State legislators who are part of the “Beer Caucus.” (Motto: “We have fun and we get things done!”)
While recently discussing weekend golf options, one of these fun-loving solons suggested playing in Florida, as opposed to New Hampshire.
“It’s flat and warm and there’s no poison ivy,” this brilliant lawmaker pointed out.
So being men of action we booked flights to Fort Lauderdale, rented a BnB, and made reservations for a tee-time at the world-class Trump National Doral Golf Resort.
(“We have fun and we get things done.”)
We viewed the weekend trip as a good-will, fact-finding mission.
Trump Doral was opulent, palatial and jaw-dropping. It actually consisted of several courses. We opted for the Silver Course—which was most affordable. It meant a long, long drive in our golf carts to get out to the first tee, but the weather was fine and spirits were high.
“Do you think there will be a beer cart?” asked one thoughtful legislator.
“Fingers crossed,” replied the chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Agriculture.
The Silver Course indeed had a traveling beer cart, capably managed by Carol, who was advised to regularly find and check-in with our foursome. The libation cost was quite high—perhaps an insight as to why the club owner became a billionaire.
But undaunted and with spirits soaring, we teed off.
We soon discovered that while Trump Doral was flat and warm that there was water everywhere! Some of us soon had to borrow golf balls from the one good golfer amongst us—the former Assistant Minority Floor Leader.
After finishing the front nine, we tallied our scores. Not pretty.
“We’ll do better on the back nine now that we’re warmed up.”
But it was not clear where the tenth tee was.
“I’m a trained land navigator,” explained the Vice-Chair of the House Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs. “I think it’s over that way.”
But ten minutes later we were still driving around searching.
“Where the heck is Carol when we need her?”
We emerged from the wooded golf cart path only to find we were on the 16th fairway.
“Let’s ask those golfers for directions.”
“No. They’ll think we’re idiots.”
“I don’t care.”
But when we explained our predicament the golfers on the 16th tee said they too had gotten lost after nine holes. It took them 30 minutes to find the tenth tee. They pointed us in the right direction and we soon found the tenth tee—where Carol was waiting.
The back nine was fun, although the scoring didn’t improve. Fortunately, we found a few balls while foraging in the rough so we could finish the round.
Despite everything, we had fun, lots of laughs, and were better and wiser for the experience.
“I wish I could vote for you guys,” said Carol.
“Sorry, but out-of-staters can’t vote in New Hampshire.”
We then had to decide what to do the next day before flying north.
“How about deep-sea fishing?” suggested the chair of the House Committee on Fish and Game and Marine Resources.
We agreed that such an excursion would align with our fact-finding good-will mission. We signed on to a fishing boat out of Miami, figuring that having deposited so many golf balls into the water, we might as well take some fish out of the water.
Unfortunately, while the three-hour tour was fun, we returned to shore with only sunburns. But we were better and wiser for the experience.
While we spent plenty of money in Florida, we were enriched by meeting and sharing notes and business cards with interesting people. Networking is important. And the synergy we developed during our public policy discussions yielded some ideas as to good things we might do back in New Hampshire. We all fell asleep on the return flight.
(“We have fun and we get things done!”)
Tim Lang, Mike Moffett, Reed Panasiti, and Howard Pearl
Friday, February 19, 2021
SHOOTERS, SANDERS, AND HOOP MEMORIES
Actor Dennis Hopper played a wonderful character named “Shooter” in the basketball movie Hoosiers, which also starred Gene Hackman and Barbara Hershey. The classic sports flick was inspired by the small town Indiana basketball culture of the early 1950s.
Shooter was the alcoholic father of a player on the Hickory High School team, coached by the Hackman character. Early on, Shooter recollected his moment of potential hoop glory when as a high school senior he had the ball for a last-second shot during the state basketball tournament that would have won the game.
“Around the rim and out,” lamented Shooter as he took another sip on his beer. His missed shot forever haunted him.
We all have our sports stories—mostly boring to others, but precious to us.
Anyone who has ever made a hole-in-one certainly has license to relive their wonderful moment at the 19th Hole. Just not too often.
But special sports memories are sometimes shareable. Especially when you write a sports column and face an approaching deadline.
Which brings me to Tom “Satch” Sanders.
A longtime Boston Celtic whose #16 hangs in the Boston Garden rafters, Sanders and fellow Celtic forward Don Nelson (#19) used to run the Nelson-Sanders Basketball School, which I attended one summer in Manchester with some of my Groveton High School hoop teammates.
The 6-foot-6 Sanders had just completed his 13th and final season with the Celtics, and during a lull in the schedule he was shooting some balls with some campers. I approached the NBA standout and challenged him to play me one-on-one. Sanders laughed and rolled his eyes. He was probably used to young guns challenging him in this fashion.
“All right,” he finally responded. “Let’s do this.”
He agreed to play “Make it, take it.” Seven baskets wins. The Celtic star quickly and easily went up 5-0. But then he missed a shot which I rebounded and I dribbled out to the top of the key and sized up my opponent, who was known as a premier NBA defensive forward.
I launched a jumper from 20 feet.
Around the rim and in.
Then I dribbled right and launched another 20 footer, which went in off the backboard. Lucky shot.
Sanders laughed and threw me the ball and came out to swallow me up defensively. I faked another jumper and managed to dart by him for a runner from close in.
A crowd had started to gather, which usually brought out the best in me. I was “in the zone,” suddenly oozing with confidence. I tried another jumper which Sanders partially blocked but I beat him to the loose ball and went in for a layup.
By this time there were many campers watching us and cheering me on. Perfect.
Sanders threw me the ball and I faked left and drove right and launched a running fifteen foot hook shot from the baseline.
Now I had a chance for the winning shot. Full of confidence, “in the zone,” inspired by the growing crowd of onlookers, and visualizing victory, I again drove right and launched another long hook shot.
Off the backboard, around the rim … and IN !
Sanders stared at me, then laughed and just shook his head.
A college basketball coach was watching. He approached me and asked what my post-high school plans were. A golden moment.
Sanders went on to coach at Harvard for a while before returning to the Boston Garden’s parquet floor to coach the Celtics.
Years later, some fraternity brothers and I went to a Celtics-Spurs game at the Garden. Of course we enjoyed a libation or two on the way to Boston. Once inside the Garden one friend and I went down to stand on the historic parquet. We noticed a couple empty press seats at the scorers table. (This was before the Larry Bird era. The Celtics weren’t very good and seats were easy to find.)
We waited for someone to send us away from the table but no one did. So we stayed there with perfect seats for the first half. Sanders was still head coach and at halftime he walked by the scorers table and did a double take when he saw me sitting there.
“Groveton Slim!” said Sanders. “Are you still shooting that hook shot?”
My friend’s jaw dropped. Another golden sports moment.
Shooter would have been proud.
Sunday, January 3, 2021
NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN, MEDIA BIAS, AND CANDLES
Monday, August 24, 2020
LOUDON’S BENAIAH “HURRICANE” HANSON
HOPING TO MAKE SOCCER HISTORY
Loudon is known far and wide for its New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR racing. But someday, perhaps soon, it may also be known as the home of Benaiah Hanson.
Benaiah Hanson. As he’s a 14-year-old soccer player—as opposed to a decades-old racing institution—you probably haven’t heard of him. Not yet. Until now.
Benaiah is presently in Texas, living a soccer dream with the Dallas Texans U15 Boys Academy of the ECNL (Elite Clubs National League), a home to national champions of youth soccer.
So why didn’t Benaiah stay closer to home with Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution Academy? The answer is that he was looking for a career pathway that would not limit him to only U.S. Major League Soccer, but one that could also include international opportunities. And he'd already exhibited his soccer brilliance with the Revolution’s U-13 and U-14 teams on the same Gillette Stadium turf where Tom Brady sought a different football glory.
But Benaiah’s remarkable sports journey is only just beginning—and an inspiring story it is.
The story starts in Africa, where in 2006 baby Benaiah lived at the Home of Hope Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda.
Enter Pete and Heidi Hanson. The Hansons were Concord High graduates, Class of ’89, although they didn’t really know each other then. Pete was a quarterback/defensive back for the Crimson Tide football team and later played at Plymouth State. Heidi was also a sports enthusiast who went on to Endicott College. Their paths crossed at a karaoke night at Concord’s Szechaun Garden Restaurant during Thanksgiving weekend of 1999. They soon wed and in 2000 welcomed their first child into the world—Asia Grace Hanson.
Devout Christians who attend Grace Capital Church in Pembroke, the Hansons sought to help and serve others and so became licensed foster parents. Their first call was for Macie Mae, a three-day old baby whom they fostered in 2004 before adopting her in 2008.
Concurrently, Pete and Heidi learned about African youngsters in desperate need from a missionary couple who visited their church. The Hansons sensed calls for help from Rwanda and so they tried to answer those “calls.” They spoke with a Gilford couple who’d gone through the independent African adoption process and then committed themselves to adopting a needy Rwandan baby.
Actually two. A family friend mentioned the idea of perhaps saving two lives, if they were going to travel all the way to Africa. Figuring there was always room for one more, Pete and Heidi changed their adoption application dossier to reflect their desire to adopt two babies and bring them to America. This required serious fund-raising, lots of paperwork, prayers, and frustrating unanswered phone calls to Kigali. But telephones (and prayers) were eventually answered and arrangements were successfully made. In 2008 the Hansons brought Benaiah and Luke to New Hampshire.
As many folks associate Loudon with NASCAR, so too do many people associate Rwanda with genocide. Almost a million Rwandans died during a horrific 1994 civil war between Hutu and Tutsi factions. Many thought the country would never recover. But a new nation arose from the ashes and bloodshed that inspired and gave hope to the world. The country rebuilt and demonstrated enlightened progress. In 2008, the same year that Benaiah and Luke came to America, Rwanda became the first country in the world to elect a legislature featuring a female majority.
That Benaiah (Tutsi) and Luke (Hutu) would become brothers underscored Rwanda’s post-genocidal progress while providing hope for so many seeking inspiration.
So in the fall of 2008 Benaiah Hurricane Hanson and Luke Washington Hanson came to Loudon, joining Macie Mae and Asia Grace in Pete and Heidi’s growing family
Another foster baby, born in 2008, would join the family permanently in 2012—Jacob Maverick Hanson.
To the Soccer Pitch
At age 7 Benaiah began playing on Loudon Freedom's U-9 Club team. Already demonstrating blazing speed, “Hurricane” Hanson helped the team go undefeated. He soon attracted the attention of the Seacoast Express United Club and eventually settled into his natural position of striker.
Benaiah’s parents home-schooled their children, stressing character, coachability and fitness. So it was no surprise that “Hurricane” quickly became popular with teammates and coaches—for both his talent and his “team-first” mindset. He became well-known in New Hampshire’s youth soccer world and in the fall of 2017, at the age of eleven, moved up to play for Seacoast Development Academy team out of Epping. Not intimidated by more polished players (none were faster), Benaiah scored five goals in his second game for his new team. Then four goals in his third game. Then four goals in fourth game. After moving up to the Academy’s “A” team he scored four goals against Valeo FC, a feeder team to the New England Revolution. This put the young Loudoner on the MLS radar screen.
In April of 2018, at the age of 12, Benaiah was invited to Gillette Stadium for a workout sponsored by the Revolution. The Hansons were euphoric. They admittedly didn’t understand everything that was happening but knew something special was unfolding. But four days before the Foxborough workout a major setback occurred. Benaiah broke his leg during a home game in Epping.
“We prayed about it,” explained Heidi. “We told the Revolution about the injury but they said to come anyway.”
It turned out that surgery was unnecessary and the leg was set. The Hansons made the long drive to Foxborough while Benaiah agonized about the missed opportunity to show the Revolution what he could do. Pete, Heidi, and “Hurricane” expected a pro forma discussion with the soccer officials and then a long ride back to Loudon. But they were stunned when a team official offered Benaiah a spot on the organization’s 18-member Development Academy U-13 roster for the fall.
“Don’t worry about not being able to work out for us today,” said the official. “We’re very aware of Benaiah’s abilities.”
The ride back to Loudon turned out to be a happy one. Benaiah did everything he was supposed to do to recover, eventually working out with Phil Tuttle’s Elite Player Performance Soccer organization in Concord during that summer. That fall he’d score nine goals in nine games, which included his first action on the Gillette Stadium field.
When winter came, “Hurricane” continued to play indoors, to include a game against an English team sponsored by the legendary Manchester United organization. Despite being double-teamed by bigger Brits, Benaiah scored a goal in a 5-4 loss before a huge crowd.
On to Texas
In 2019 Benaiah played on the Revs’ U-14 team as a 13-year-old and even moved up to U-15 for three games, scoring a goal. During his fall season he was invited to do independent training with The Pro Project, out of Massachusetts, which became instrumental in his continued rapid development this past year. There he trained with older, faster, bigger and more skilled players on a regular basis. Film analysis helped him to view the sport strategically
2020 beckoned as a break-through year. And then …
The pandemic that turned the sports-world upside down also disrupted “Hurricane Hanson’s” world. New England soccer plans and schedules were modified or cancelled. Benaiah suffered extreme 2020 sports frustration—along with countless others in this year of the Coronavirus.
The Hansons prayed on things and then, as in 2018, a surprise opportunity manifested itself. After hearing about the Dallas Texans soccer organization from a friend, Pete and Heidi reached out to a Dallas coach. The ECNL’s Texans U15 Boys Academy based out of Farmers Branch, Texas, offered Benaiah a roster spot. So Pete, Heidi and Hurricane traveled to the Lone Star State on August 2 and learned that the organization already had a preseason slate of “friendlies” scheduled. The team favors a fast-paced European style of soccer—well-suited to Benaiah’s skills. That the club plays outdoors on grass year-round was another plus.
“The organization was wonderful to Pete, Benaiah and me,” explained Heidi. “They knew we faced a tough decision, dealing with many pros and cons. We all love New England. But because we were friends with a family with a son on the team, we finally decided that Texas was the place for Benaiah to continue his journey.”
Articulate and well-read, Benaiah is a thinker and dreamer who is already working on a book with mythological inspiration. He appears to be a major home-schooling success story, a young man that almost any university would love to enroll. His eyes sparkle as he describes his favorite soccer moments, including a “meg” against Manchester United—where he pushed a ball between an opponent’s legs and then outraced him to the ball.
That 2008 plane ticket that brought “Hurricane Hanson” to America from a Rwandan orphanage has led to a soccer ticket that just might take Benaiah anywhere. He admits to dreaming about a spot on the American Men’s National Team someday.
It was pointed out to “Hurricane” that he’d only be 16 years old when the next World Cup competition takes place in Qatar in 2022.
“That’s correct” replied Benaiah with a big smile, and that soccer sparkle in his eye.