Tag Archives: death

The Death of The Legend

Where I grew up, we had this huge drainage ditch. Honestly, it rarely worked, our street flooded every time it rained, but back when it was hard to gauge depth and distance because you were a child and didn’t know any better, it was a huge ditch. The neighborhood kids and I would spend countless school nights trying to figure out how to jump it with our bikes. Many tried…none succeeded.

Except one. His name was Blake and he lived around the block. He got a new bike for his birthday and brought it out for Show and Tell. We were out at the ditch attempting the impossible again. Something in the air seemed different that night, when Blake took the turn, picked up speed and steadied his handle bars. It may have been luck, it may have been the bike…but it happened. Blake cleared the ditch, and was the talk of the town the next day and for years to come.

I grew up in a time when daydreams were cluttered with stories of the Paul Bunyans and the Pecos Bills of the world. The kind of folklore that you just can’t believe, but the only confirmation you needed was more than one person saying “that’s what I heard”.  Even if it weren’t remotely close to fact, it still grew to such a tale that it started to seem true.  That’s what legends are made of. I never saw Babe Ruth play, but the stories about his childhood are astounding. Even in the modern day with guys like Albert Pujols. You can’t go 3 miles in Independence without somebody talking about his accomplishments in Youth League ball games.

“You know that ball field in Excelsior? Yeah, I was there when Pujols jacked not one, but two dingers into the forrest past left field..in the SAME INNING. 500 feet easy.”

It’s the awe-struck feeling one gets when they hear that, mixed with the comprehension of how incredibly improbable that feat truly is that makes legendary stories legendary. Entire movies have been made from that feeling (Sandlot, anyone?). Sadly, I feel as if they will soon cease to exist.

I was watching the 30 for 30 documentary the other day on Bo Jackson. The world’s greatest athlete who had his career stripped from him way too early. The beginning of the film touches on all the childhood stories about him: dunking a stick in 8th grade, throwing rocks with both hands for hours on end never getting tired, doing backflips effortlessly…in water. The only footage we have of Bo come from the few years he spent playing in the MLB and NFL. The rest…you just gotta take their word for it.

Sadly, I don’t think this will happen anymore. The Gen X-er’s and all who follow have grown accustomed to stats that back themselves up with evidence that can be found in multiple locations online. “Just Google it” has replaced “that’s what I heard” as the standard for credibility. While having this option has been a blessing in many ways, it’s the Achille’s Heel of legendary stories. I have a tough time believing that kids in the future will listen to their parents tell tales of how John Henry beat a machine and built an entire railroad system on his own, then jumping on their phones to find out if this really happened through a YouTube search. When every fact has been held in check since we’ve all had access to the internet, the term ‘legend’ has slowly started to lose it’s meaning.

I hope we don’t reach that point. What’s the point of legendary tales if not to inspire us to achieve the impossible? “Don’t give up! Johnny Appleseed never gave up when he set out to plant Apple Trees all over the country. If he hadn’t, we never would’ve been able to have that pie tonight!”

That neighborhood from my childhood has disappeared, forever in the hands of city planners trying to find ways to minimize flood zones, but that ditch is still there. To this day, there’s only been one person to successfully jump it. No videos, no podcasts, no official record on hand to document. It’s just what I heard.

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How Bout That Email?

Here’s the thing: this isn’t a post about the demise of e-mail, at least that is not my intention.  I still think email serves a purpose in today’s digital culture (and it better, businesses still charge clients a fair but decent amount of money to be a part of theirs), but really…I don’t know why.  I can’t justify it without some completely reasonable retort, I don’t even claim to be a huge advocate for the medium. I guess I just, do. There’s so many signs that point to the contrary, but like television, radio, and even print (for now) it’s still around.  There are pros to this:

One – Email is still the main source of communication in the workplace.  If you’ve ever seen Office Space, you cringe when you hear the term ‘TPS reports’, or ‘didn’t you get the memo?’  Fact is, these phrases are all but gone thanks to email.  It’s now, ‘did you send that Google doc?’ or ‘did you get cc’d in that last email?’.  My office laughed at me when I didn’t know how to work the fax machine, but they don’t think twice about coming to me with a question on Google Calendars.  Especially now that they’ve found how it integrates into their email.  It’s taken some getting used to, but corporate America is all about email.

Two – Email is still the most trusted way of getting something directly to someone as quick as possible.  Sure some use Facebook messaging, others Tweet it. However, email is the .pdf of the conversation.  Pretty much everyone can open a .pdf, and pretty much everyone has an email.  Not everyone’s on Facebook, whether it be for privacy concerns or sticking it to The Man.  Not everyone is on Twitter, whether it’s lack of time in the day, or ‘not caring what someone is eating for breakfast’.  Everyone has email, and more importantly if someone wants to get something to another person fast, they send it via email.

But here’s the rub: for as many pros, there has to be cons.

One – The next generation will always be a step ahead.  The generation before mine had cellular telephones and fax machines, mine has been baptized in email and smart phones with a dose of social media.  The next generation will have their own thing.  There are a crazy few that try to keep up with the trends, but in the end you just don’t get it man.  I’m really not looking forward to that moment.  Fact is, there are colleges no longer passing out email accounts but rather iPads.  There will come a time when children will read about email on their video feed from their Google Glasses (or whatever those Tron looking things are) and think “man, how did people live back then?”

Two – Social Networks are a competitive bunch.  It’s like a real version of the Michael Jordan v. Mia Hamm Gatorade spot with the tune “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”, except it’s not sports it’s our digital culture and literally billions of dollars.  It’s an app eat app world out there, and only the richest with the most accounts tend to survive.  Case in point: Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram.  Great app (something Facebook doesn’t know much about) so instead of sitting by letting Instagram build a photo sharing empire, they buy it for a sweet price and continue to let it do what it does.  They did it to an up and coming force in the social world, don’t think they can’t do it to email.  There’s constantly rumors of when users can integrate email into their Facebook and just receive everything right in one spot.  It’s just around the corner.

Pros meet cons.  Each of you is valid, but arguments weren’t made to be tied.  10 years ago it was unheard of to say “yeah I got your email, Skype me real quick so we can go over the main points” or “I was about finished with your memo but my battery died”.  It’s amazing how far we’ve come.  Technology is introduced to help better our lives, and with that previously existing tools must die.  I don’t know when, but email will at some point meet it’s fate.  However, I truly think now is not that time.  It’s like religion: I don’t have solid, indisputable facts that email is here and strong, I just believe it is.  I still believe it has a purpose to serve.  I do know this: Go without Facebook for a week and you miss out on a bunch of useless status’, and barrage of time-wasting photos and maybe an invitation to that thing your neighbors are having but they told you about it in person anyway so you knew.  Go without email for a week and you could miss out on a major business opportunity or life changing decision.  For now, that’s power that can’t be bought.