Way back in 1980, the movie The Empire Strikes Back was released. In this movie, Luke Skywalker, at the behest of the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, travels to the planet Dagobah to learn the ways of The Force from the ancient Jedi, Yoda.

After my friends and I saw this movie, we constructed our own Jedi Training Regimen. First thing we did was spend our allowance money on some brooms. See, back then, all brooms had wooden handles. We sawed off the handles and they became our lightsabers. We would have sword fights with them and constantly had bruises all over our bodies from where we had been hit. But as time went on, we learned how each other fought and the bruises lessened (but still happened).

We would also have Deflection Training. This entailed one of us standing there with his lightsaber while the others (up to 5) stood 15-20 feet away and whizzed tennis balls at him. The object for the lone Jedi was to not get hit, either by dodging the balls or deflecting them with the lightsaber/broomstick. That person was “out” when he let himself get hit by 10 tennis balls.

I ended up being particularly good at this. Of all of us, I was the one who could consistently last the longest amount of time dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and deflecting. It’s weird to say, but I was so focused on where those balls were that they seemed to be moving in slow motion. I also began to recognize patterns of how people attacked. Bill would typically throw 2 low balls and then a high, John would alternate high low, etc. Because of all those things, I was able to make educated guesses as to where the balls were headed and whether or not I should deflect or avoid.

There were other trainings that we did, but they don’t have any impact on what the late Paul Harvey would call…“the rest of the story.”

A few years ago, I was heavily involved in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We were 15 matches into the 17-match “season” and I hadn’t won a single game. By the way, 1 match = 3 games. Yeah, I was losing a lot. They’d been pretty decisive losses, too, with scores like 15-2, 15-0, 15-4, blah blah blah. I just wasn’t able to “read” where the ball was going and whenever I COULD get to the ball, it was all I can do to just keep it in play…nevermind being able to control where I might want it to go. I kept a decent attitude about the whole thing, opting for the “At least I’m getting a lot of exercise” take on the whole issue. And it was true. I’d would be exhausted from running all over the place trying to get to the ball.

It just so happened that one weekend during this time, Cinemax aired (can you call it “aired” if it’s cable?) all six Star Wars movies back to back to back to back to back to back…for the ENTIRE weekend. It began at midnight Friday night/Saturday morning and ended Monday morning at 7:40am. Because my wife and daughters were on a Girl Scout campout that weekend, my son and I were able to watch all of the movies. Despite being a huge Star Wars geek, there was no way I was going to be able to watch all six straight through, so we watched Episodes 1, 2, and 3 on one day and Episodes 4, 5 and 6 the next day. The whole weekend we lived and breathed Star Wars…the movies, video games, legos, comic books….it was all Star Wars.

So, Monday night at racquetball, Star Wars was still fresh in my mind. As I stood there waiting for my opponent to serve, I decided to treat this as a Jedi training session…just to have fun a relive a little bit of my childhood.

Wow, what a difference!

I wasn’t out of position, I wasn’t rushing to get to the ball, I had more time to decide how and where I was going to hit the ball instead of smacking at it out of desperation and at the end I was less tired. I still lost all three games, but the scores were 15-12, 15-13, 15-13.

Since then, I’ve played many more games. As it goes with games, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. But my losses have never been as epic as before.


Have you ever seen anyone overreact to the performance of a magician? I’m not talking about a typical response of “Wow! That was a really good trick!” or even a “Ok, THAT was cool!” I’m talking about the kind of reaction where someone maybe screams or runs away or starts crying.

I’ve always loved watching magicians. I much prefer the close-up kind of magic and sleight of hand stuff as opposed to the big spectacle of disappearing tigers or national monuments. My fascination with magicians was big enough at one point for my mom to take me to a magic store so that I could get the tricks and perform them myself. That was utter disaster. I quickly found out that being able to do the trick immeasurably paled to experiencing the trick. I didn’t want to KNOW how to do it. I wanted to watch it and be amazed, even though I know it’s not really “magic.”

So it amazes me when I see someone freak out over some magician making a coin disappear or “magically” know which card you picked out of a deck. A while back, there was this guy in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We’ll call him Walt. Seemed like a good guy. Funny, bright, easy to talk with. Well, one evening while hanging around in the hall waiting for our court times, one of the other league guys (Ed) brought up the fact that he knew a wizard. A wizard who he could call on the phone and who would be able to tell what someone what card they were thinking of. Of course, everyone demanded proof. So Ed asks Walt to say the name of a card. Walt picked one, let’s say the 6 of hearts. Ed borrowed a cell phone, put on the loudspeaker so we all could hear and called The Wizard. He made some small talk, saying where he was and asking if the Wizard had heard from some sort of mutual friend yada yada yada. Then he went ahead and told The Wizard that he had a guy there who was thinking of a card and no one believed that The Wizard could guess it. The Wizard said, “Well, I’ll prove it. 6 of hearts.”

That was pretty fucking awesome. Everyone registered the amount of shock and surprise you would expect them to show at how such a spontaneous and unplanned event played out. It was fun and of course there were the questions. “How’d you do that?” “Oh come on, really! What’s the trick?” and so forth. But Walt was stunned.

Now, it just so happened that Walt was the guy I was scheduled to play that night. Our time came and we went into the court. As soon as the door closed, Walt said, “How did he do that?” I was smiling (cuz it was a good trick) and told him I didn’t know. Well, because I was smiling, Walt didn’t believe me. He started getting angry. “Don’t tell me that! You know! Tell me, please!” I assured him that I didn’t know and that there was certainly some trick to it. That’s when Walt said, “Things like that are unnatural. Black forces like that can cause big problems.” He was visibly shaken.

So at this point I was thinking, “Cray-zee.” But I told him that there was obviously some kind of code in the small talk or something that Ed said to tip off “The Wizard.” Walt wanted to know what that code was, because he sure didn’t hear any code. So I explained, “That’s the whole point of HAVING a code. What fun would it be if the code was blatantly obvious?” Walt didn’t want to hear any of it.

It ended up with Walt quitting halfway through the fist of what was supposed to be 3 games. He said that he was dropping out of the league and would not rejoin if Ed was going to be in it. He didn’t want to risk being around that kind of stuff. And he never came back.

Now that’s something I just don’t get. I mean, really. In the 21st century, how can anyone honestly believe that mystical, dark forces were invoked and psychic abilities were called into play just to tell someone which card they were thinking of?