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Jack Buck died at the age of 77 on June 18, 2002.

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June 18, 2016

My parents celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary on Sunday. They were married on June 19, 1971, when my father was 22 years old and my mother was 20. They (obviously) hadn’t been dating long. Dad, raised in a military family, signed up for the Air Force and assumed he was headed to Vietnam when he met my mom at a party in her hometown of Moweaqua, Illinois, population 1,831. They obviously enjoyed each other’s company enough to stay in touch during basic training in Virginia, but — and this is the way the story is told to me, which is not necessarily the same thing as saying this is precisely how it happened — Dad split up with her during basic training because he didn’t want her to wait for him when he was in shipped to Vietnam.

(Side note: Apparently my father wrote this to my mother in a letter, explaining that, as far as he knew, he could be going to “Buttfuque, Egypt.” My mother, who was 19 after all, didn’t get the “Buttfuque” joke and spent an afternoon at the library trying to figure out what area of Egypt “Buttfuque” was in.)

The split didn’t last long — considering their age and compressed timeframe, I can’t imagine it was much longer than a week — and they decided that he would come home from Virginia for a long weekend and just get married. Dad came back a day early so that Mom’s older brothers could make sure he was acceptable; apparently they tried to get him drunk but both ended up passed out under a table while Dad kept playing pool. Bryan and Sally were married in Mattoon on Saturday, spent the evening in Effingham and were off to Virginia the next day. Dad never ended up getting shipped out; the Air Force needed him as a mechanic, so he stayed behind and worked on planes. Many of his friends were less fortunate.

My mother is very frank about her decision-making process during her and my father’s truncated courtship. “He looked good in a uniform, he had a cool car ... what more is a 19-year-old equipped to understand? She always says it’s just “good luck” that it turned out that Bryan Leitch was an outstanding guy, a hard worker, someone who was devoted to being a steady and present father. He could have been a jerk. It was just good luck, she says. I’ve always suspected it was a bit more than that.

Three years after their wedding, in August 1974, they would have a son named Keith who would die in childbirth. A little more than a year after that, they had me. Four-and-a-half years later, they had my sister Jill.

(That’s not actually me, that’s my Uncle Sean, but he was a better looking baby than I was.)

Anyway, on Sunday, they will celebrate 45 years together. They will do so by boarding the dog and falling asleep at 6 p.m.: They’re flying to San Francisco on Monday, and Seattle on Thursday, where they will meet me, and we will watch a lot of Cardinals baseball.

Life is difficult and scary and full of things with sharp teeth that want to bite you. I have all sorts of issues that I have to deal with, like everybody else, just trying to make it through without messing up anybody else too much along the way. The hardest part is not knowing all the rules: There are times it feels like the rest of the world has all studied from the same rulebook and you missed class that day. The best advantage you can have as a kid is to have people who love each other and show that they love you by being there, present, constant, on each other’s side and on yours. It’s how I want to be for my children, because that’s what my parents have been that for 45 years. It’s impossible to state how grateful I am for it. That, Mom, is “good luck.”


Also, this person turns two years old on Sunday. It is a busy weekend.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)

1. The USMNT Could Make History in the Copa America, Sports On Earth. This was a hectic, difficult week, for a variety of reasons (many of which have to do with trying to figure out what to do with children over the summer when they are not in school; it’s very hard!), but US Soccer is providing a pleasant background soundtrick. The semifinal on Tuesday night, unfortunately for me, is the same night I’ll be one of the MLB Plus broadcasters for the Cardinals-Cubs game. The Fox Sports Go app better work. I’m a little worried an app that could also stream “All Takes Matter” would somehow give my phone a virus, but it’s a risk I’ll (temporarily) have to take.

2. “Finding Dory.” She Swims to Forget, The New Republic. I saw this at a public screening rather than a private critics screening, and it really bothered some woman in my row that I was seeing a “kids movie” by myself. I’m not sure what she thought I was going to do, but she eyed me nervously throughout. Not for nothing, but the only other time that has happened was when I reviewed “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

3. Sunday Might Be the NBA’s Biggest Game 7 Ever, Sports On Earth. I love the NBA, and I still can’t remember the last time I was this excited about an NBA game.

4. All 15 Pixar Movies Ranked Worst to First, Vulture. This is a re-run piece, with updated rankings for Finding Dory, but it was a solid piece then and it’s a solid piece now.

5. Will Leitch’s Picks for the Home Run Derby, Sports On Earth. It’s disorienting when your name is the headline of a piece you wrote. I’m always a little disappointed. Will Leitch ... Will Leitch did what?! Oh, he just wrote a piece. I thought he won an award or got hit by a truck or something.

6. How Will Game Six of the NBA Finals End? These “previewing something that will happen in five hours” pieces never hold up well in these end-of-the-workweek roundups.

Just one podcast this week. We did tape a Culture Caucus this week, with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine no less, but a technical issue out of our control killed the whole podcast. This was not one of my favorite things that has happened. As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:

The Will Leitch Experience, none, back with Alyson next week.

Grierson & Leitch, this week discussing “Warcraft,” “Menace II Society” and “Being John Malkovich.”

Culture Caucus, seriously, Tom Morello was awesome, trust me..

Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no new episode.

Also, because I have a picture of my mother as a young woman up top, I have to finish this week with one of my dad, at my senior prom. My date and I interrupted him for pictures while he was mowing the lawn.


Have a great weekend, everyone.


Best,
Will