FLEM FILE NOTES
As many old school FlemFilers have noted, at different times during the past 12 years the column has contained a sidebar of shorter weekly features that were actually quite popular (who knew?) -- stuff like the FlemFile Mascot, the WHYLO (Who Helped You Log On?) reader e-mail award, The FlemFile Five and This Column Was Written While Listening To. By popular demand this season we've defrosted these from the Page 2 cryogenic chamber and will be bringing them back this season in limited release, which just means some weeks you'll get far more than you wanted and other weeks you'll get much less. So enjoy. Or not.
One of the most interesting conversations I had during the offseason was with Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the world's highest peak. Erik started out by saying, "I'm kinda tired of talking about Mount Everest." Imagine, for a second, the kind of life you'd have to lead to be able to utter that phrase. But in the six years since Erik Weihenmayer scaled Everest, the 38-year-old resident of Golden, Colo., has conquered the Seven Summits -- the highest peaks on each continent -- become a world-renowned advocate for the blind, an award-winning author, speaker and filmmaker, carried the Olympic torch (twice) and even had his likeness recreated on "The Simpsons." (Suddenly, the picket fence I built in my backyard this summer didn't seem so badass anymore.)
Everest might bore him now, but while discussing his second book "The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness" (co-authored with business guru Dr. Paul Stoltz), a self-help book for people who normally hate self-help books, Weihenmayer did get worked up over a recent game of rock, paper, scissors. Weihenmayer, who went blind at 13 from the degenerative disease Retinoschisis, has been working with researchers at BrainPort to develop artificial vision equipment.
A camera mounted on the forehead sends electronic pulses to the tongue, forming shapes and interpreting movements to create a new field of vision. The idea is to one day allow blind people enough "vision" to ski, hike or climb on their own while following a guide. "My message has never been, 'Oh, great, I went blind, yipee!'" says Weihenmayer, who discussed artificial vision, his book and other new technologies at this summer's No Barriers Festival in Squaw Valley, Calif. "It has been about facing that adversity and converting it into fuel to elevate yourself and others."
Eventually. Initially, though, Weihenmayer used his first "taste" of sight in 20 years to challenge his daughter, Emma, and researchers to a game of R-P-S. "They beat me," he laughed. "I forgot I was a little out of practice."
Top Five Offseason Adventures of the FlemFile (that I can still find links for or else I'd include the day I spent at a nudist colony during the Atlanta Olympics learning the No. 1 rule of nudity -- that the people who love being naked are always the ones who most need to be covered up):
5. Vick Diary:
The first installment of my 10,000-word diary on the summer I spent shadowing Mike Vick. It was only 2003 but it seems like a lifetime ago now.
4. (TIE) Being Invincible
: My day working as an extra on the set of Invincible.
AND Donte's Inferno: (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=fleming/050907): A day spent with former Saints receiver Donte' Stallworth at a Hurricane Katrina relief shelter in San Antonio.
3. England's Hallowed Ground
: My visit to the center of the futbol universe: Manchester United's Old Trafford.
2. Crossing Pattern
: My week in the ancient Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende with Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez.
1. Big Ben Cuts The (Swiss) Cheese
: My week touring Switzerland with Steelers QB and fellow Miami University product, Ben Roethlisberger.
ADD IT UP
Mike Singletary + Deion Sanders + "Must Be the Money" + Ving Rhames + Keith Olbermann = new Pats linebacker Adalius Thomas.
FLEM FILE MASCOT
Since old school FlemFilers enjoyed our section on former NFL tight end and all-around cool guy Zeron Flemister so much, I'm pleased to announce that we are currently in negotiations with a new FlemFile mascot who -- fingers crossed -- seems to possess all the very strident prerequisites for this task: a job in pro football, a healthy sense of humor, a phone and, well, the right last name.
• TRAINING CAMP OBSERVATION No. 1: Great insight from a fellow NFL head coach on the ongoing saga involving Andy Reid and his troubled sons: "Being the child of a coach is hard, but being a coach's son is even tougher. The external pressure is constant because the assumptions are always: 'Why are you not a star player? Why don't you love football?' People think this is a sports thing or a football thing, but what most people don't understand is the frustrations a coach has because their son or daughter doesn't have that same drive or passion that they do. I think that might be at work with Andy Reid and his family. And it becomes a big problem, a big divide. Most coaches are so focused and driven, it's hard for that kind of person to understand a typical 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kid who, like most kids, isn't quite sure what they want to do with their life. A supremely driven person, like a coach, would think, 'I don't know that world.' And that creates a lack of empathy on our part. Most coaches have known they always wanted to coach. We latched onto that goal and focus at a much earlier age and it's a very narrow tunnel to look through to appreciate those around us who haven't found their life's work as readily as it came to us."
There's a scene in the second season of "Weeds" in which Mary Louise-Parker daydreams out loud about not having the responsibilities of a parent and it's done with such guilt, torment, confusion, joy and sadness, she deserved a stack of Emmys for that one scene alone.
TCO No. 2: Jags defensive tackle John Henderson spent 200 grand on his wedding in Nashville, Tenn., this summer. And did the guy who gave him some national magazine pub sniff an invite? Nope. I think word got back to Hendie how this summer I sent a wedding present to a friend of mine that was actually engraved with the wrong initials.
TCO No. 3: While discussing the intricate changes he sees in Cover 2 defenses from week to week, Falcons wide receiver Joe Horn stopped in midsentence and said, "It's all ego, man; I think defensive coordinators do all this stuff and add all these twists just so they can say they invented some s---, you know?"
Did you know the chord progression for the "High School Musical 2" song "All For One" is the same as Audioslave's "Doesn't Remind Me?"
TCO No. 4: He's old, but future Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks can still take the heat. Apparently he is the sauna king of the Bucs. "He gets in there, pours a whole bottle of water on the coals, turns it up to, like, 200 degrees and watches all the young guys run for the door," says former teammate Dewayne White.
Did you know that Meatloaf, Dr. Phil and Mean Joe Greene all went to the University of North Texas?
TCO No. 5: This one from a defensive coordinator in the AFC had me rolling on the ground: "Here's what I like, when a head coach gets up on the podium after a loss and he says, 'This one's on me; I take the blame; the buck stops here.' And then he launches into, 'So don't you dare blame the cornerback who gave up that last-second touchdown, or the special teams coach who let that punt get blocked or our running back who fumbled away a sure six points or our GM for not getting me the receivers I needed in the offseason. No sir. This one's on me.'"
The best performance I saw this summer was turned in by my hometown Davidson College women's soccer goalie, Bevin English. A senior from Charleston, S.C., English put on a clinic for 88 minutes in a recent exhibition against nationally ranked Clemson -- diving, leaping, acrobatic saves, impeccable positioning, perfect timing and gutsy challenges on breakaways.
THIS COLUMN WRITTEN WHILE LISTENING TO:
Rilo Kiley's new album: "Under the Blacklight."