Monday, August 21, 2023

It's Only Rock but I Like It.

I don't spend a lot of time reading about sports. In fact, for about the last ten or twenty years, my interest in sports and the time I spend watching sports has decreased by probably one-percent to five-percent a year. Via the magic of compounding, I might actually be un-watching sports back from the time I used to watch sports. Whatever that means.

However, most nights or early mornings, say 3AM, I wrestle with an hour or so of insomnia. When that's the case, I find myself turning to a website called The Athletic, owned by The New York Times. 

I only subscribe to The Athletic because they offered me a 99-cent-a-month rate, and when basketball season is on, I like to read about how badly the Knicks lost. But it also gives me something dopey to read at 3AM, when my brain is too tired to read anything else.

That's how I stumbled upon a story about the winningest coach in National Basketball League history, Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Tucked about 500 words into the too-long story on Popovich was a quotation by 19th Century social reformer Jacob Riis, best-known today for his slum photographs and his notable book, "How the Other Half Lives."

Riis' quotation, it was reported, has been painted on the walls of the Spurs' locker room, and it's been translated into every language spoken by the Spur's diverse group of cagers. 

The quotation reads:

When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.

I've been around advertising my whole life. That means I've been around people my whole life who think, as they hit the hundred and first blow, that no one had struck the rock before them. In other words, people who think they alone are responsible for all progress in the world--and never give thanks, or even any recognition, to all who have hit the rock before them.

I've been around advertising my whole life. For seventy-five years it's been the Tannenbaum family business. Like a tailor shop in West Philadelphia or a tombstone carving emporium.

Uncle Sid opened an agency in Philadelphia just after World War II ended. It grew into Philadelphia's largest--when that moniker wasn't the punchline to an untold joke. My father worked in the advertising department across the river in Camden, for RCA, when that company was the Apple of its day, before moving to New York and rising to become the Chairman of a bland top-twenty agency called Kenyon & Eckhardt.

I wrote words for money for a shoe catalog, for Bloomingdale's department store and along the way for more agencies than there are agencies left in business today. I'm still sowing in the corners of my fields. Still making a living and paying for summer cottages, daughters' condos and maybe, someday, a moment of retirement before I teeter over and blood drips from my mouth like chocolate syrup in an old Western.

I never saw the Jacob Riis quotation before last week. 

But I've been pounding away at the rock since Magma was a pup.

Ask Sisyphus, ask Camus, ask Viktor Frankl, ask Willy Loman, pounding away at the rock is what it means to be a human.

I resent the faux pounders.

I more than resent them.

I hate them.

They can say they did it. 
They can take all the credit.
They can take away my hammer.

They can even send the people who do the hammering into a weary oblivion and claim we're not needed and they can replace us with AI or whatever new alchemy their greed and lust for Mammon devise.

As long as there's a rock,



we'll keep pounding. 

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