Ken Beaton: To my best friend I’ll never forget

What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “grit?” Was Glen Campbell singing, “One day, little girl, the sadness will leave your face,” the title song from the 1969 movie, “True Grit?”

Maybe you read Steven Ambrose’s book, “Band of Brothers,” or the quote from Shakespeare’s “Henry V:” “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

In 1945 three Marine divisions fought entrenched Japanese troops for five weeks to capture the volcanic Japanese island, Iwo Jima. Admiral Chester Nimitz commented, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” During the war in the Pacific, 82 Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines, 22 Medals of Honor (27 percent) were awarded to Marines on Iwo Jima. Five Medals of Honor were awarded to our Navy, one officer and four pharmacy mates, Corpsmen. (The Marines did not have Marine corpsmen. Navy pharmacy mates wore Marine camouflage and served with fighting Marines as corpsmen.)

Were you reminded of Pee Wee, Pop Warner, high school, college, or a National Football League player, when you heard, “grit?” Each year in February, the NFL holds its “Combine” at Lucas Oil Field, the Colts’ football field in Indianapolis, Ind. For several days, over 300 invited college football players representing all positions attempt to run their fastest 40 yards, display their best agility, vertical leap, strong hands and ball skills. Thirty-two NFL general managers with their coaching staff have two months to analyze every player’s Combine report to draft the best players “on paper” during the last weekend of April each year.

Has your favorite NFL team ever drafted a player with one of the best Combine scores only to have that player become a major disappointment to you and their coaches? You are not alone. About 50 percent of the drafted players are studs; the rest are duds.

Think about the following; the NFL demands parity, free agency and salary caps which defies excellent. What team had won five Super Bowls since 2001? Coach Belichick’s New England Patriots.

The following is a quote from Bill Belichick being interviewed by ESPN’s Mike Reiss, “For me, tough, smart, dependable. That’s where I would start. Tough — mentally and physically. Smart — good decisions, good football understanding, high football IQ. Dependable — (in) critical situations, you can count on those players to perform under pressure. You can count on those players to execute what you want to execute as a team. The tougher the game, the more critical the game, the more important the situation, the more I want the tough, smart, dependable player in the game, in the eye of the storm, making a decision that needs to be made for us to win.”

“We all want great players; we all want as many as we can get. But in the end, there’s a cap on that — I don’t care where you are or what program you’re in. We all have some good ones, maybe a few more than others here or there. But in the end, that’s the way most teams are comprised. It’s the bulk of the rest of the players that you need to decide based on your scheme, the style of play you want to be.”

Mike Reiss closed his piece with the following. “This approach explains how the Patriots have managed to remain dominant for nearly two decades in a salary capped league known for its parity. New England can keep its cap in order by chasing ‘tough, smart, dependable’ players rather than chasing the most talented (and expensive) players, who will put up good numbers but may not produce in winning time.”

I played high school football. My teammates had grit. When the lineman next to me said, “Ken, help me block this defensive tackle.” As soon as the ball was snapped, I hit the defensive tackle at his knees and my teammate hit him under his helmet, TIMBER. Our running back ran through the hole we made for him. For the rest of the game that defensive tackle was a pussy cat.

FYI, there is a Grand Canyon of difference between “friends on Facebook” and a friend with grit. I was fortunate. I had a person who would have risked his life to save mine and vice versa.

In 1951 Casey and I were sixth-grade classmates. We joined Boy Scouts’ Troop 13, were football teammates and creative pranksters. If we got caught for every stealth prank, we’d still be behind bars. Casey had grit.

Sunday morning, Dec. 30, 2012, Casey’s wife called me, “Al died this morning at 1:30.” I flew to Massachusetts on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. The following day I delivered Casey’s eulogy. My closing sentence was, “To Friday nights I can’t remember, with my best friend I’ll never forget.”

Ken Beaton of Carson City contributes periodically to the Nevada Appeal.


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