The Grid Beta Has Arrived

Over the next few weeks, the whole content of this website will begin to shift over to the Grid, the innovative Artificial Intelligence website programmer.

I am looking forward to the website evolving with me as I continue to spread the message of the Brotherhood of Olympus, along with the stories of those who have given their all for the cause.

I have patiently waited, to the point where I felt this website was comatose for far too long.  And now I am hopeful that it will be reborn with the support of the Grid.

Stay tuned…

“Here’s a Nickel for the Trolley!” USNT Ready for Rio

Posted April 1, 2016

BY JOHN L. SMITH,  LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

 

2016_Summer_Olympics_logo.svgThis summer in a field outside Rio, an ancient spectacle returns to the pageantry that is the Olympic Games.  Extreme Bocce Ball becomes one of 306 competitions covering 28 sports and the United States National Team has legitimate medal aspirations.  Currently ranked number four in the world by the Fédération Internationale de Bocce (FIB) or the International Federation of Bocce Ball, the unlikely pair from outside Olympia, Washington have skyrocketed up the fledgling international extreme sport circuit.  Teammates Ryan Healy and Guy Simpson, both middle school teachers in a small town called Yelm, Washington, took to the sport like they were reincarnated Roman Gladiators.

“We first got a Bocce Ball set when we were shopping at Ross,” the bearded and stout, six foot-two Healy stated.  “We were coming off of our run as badminton teammates for the London 2012 Olympics, and we felt we needed a change.”

“And we played our first match against the Dinosaur team in Granger,” added the bald, hulking six foot-five Simpson.  “The game just seemed to be a natural fit for us.”

They found themselves entering local Bocce Ball tournaments, often playing for nickels, or assorted loose change, but they always felt like there was something missing from the sport.  “We looked online and found the Extreme Bocce Ball Union and decided to throw our balls into the competition, so to speak,” said Simpson.  Over the next two grueling years of intense practice and dedication to their sport, Healy and Simpson rose up through the national ranks and began competing on the international level.

At the 2015 FIB World Championships, the American middle school teachers took the competition by storm, with their aggressive and unorthodox style of play that harkens back to Roman traditions.

“As educators,” Healy stated.  “We did our homework, and found that the Romans had really elevated the game.”

“For some legionnaires it was it was a natural progression from the gladiator arena to the Bocce court,” Simpson added.  “And we kind of always felt a brotherly bond to each other, and then we elevated our commitment as teammates in this blood sport.”

Simpson’s words seemed eerily true, but had Bocce Ball always been a blood sport?  It has in fact, been evolving for thousands of years. The basics of the game can be traced back to games that were played in Egypt around 5000 BC when people first began settling along the Nile Delta. Records dating to the 3rd century BC also show the popularity of a Bocce-like game with Roman soldiers. As the Roman Empire spread, this game was introduced throughout the European continent, Asia and North Africa.  And for some it was a way out of the gladiator arena, and into the Legions of Rome.

Bocce Ball is one of the oldest of all lawn or yard games. Still best known in Italy, it is gaining popularity in North America since it can be played by people of all ages and on a great variety of surfaces. Bocce is played between two players or two teams of up to four players on a team.

The object of Bocce is to get as many of your bocce (bigger, weighted balls) as close to the pallino (smaller target ball) as possible. If you are successful in getting your bocce closer to the pallino than your opponent, you are awarded points.

2016-03-31 23.04.17_resizedExtreme Bocce Ball isn’t your grandparents Bocce Ball, it is steeped in the traditions from the Roman Army.  The teams take turns being attackers and defenders, defenders can attempt to block the throws of their opponents with their lower legs.  Players wear leg armor to protect their bones.  This is where the American team has shined through their unorthodox play.  Simpson leads FIB in player knock outs, and in penalty points.

“If you hit a defender above their leg armor it’s an automatic one point deduction,” Simpson explained.  “So most players throw underhand and try to avoid the defenders to get a clean shot.”

But not Simpson.  He throws overhand, like a baseball pitcher, and those weighted bocce’s have knocked out more than a few of the biggest Bocce stars along the American team’s rise to the pinnacle of the game.  Simpson said the hardest part is actually hitting an opponent nearly 70 feet away.

“Not for lack of aim,” Simpson explained. “More so because of the smaller stature of most of the men who play the sport on the international level.  Ryan and I are practically giants every time we take the court compared to most of the teams we play against.”

“They are rather diminutive,” Healy agreed with a grin.

“Hobbit’s mostly, I’d say,” Simpson added with a wry smile.

Healy is one of the best position throwers, or attackers in the sport, and his ability to lean on the pallino target is a remarkable 0.540 ppi, nearly 0.190 ppi higher than anyone else at this level of the sport.

“Because I am so blessed in my ability to score, taking the penalty points during a match has never really hurt,” Healy stated.

“Oh, it hurts,” Simpson added.  “Just not us.”

FIB has begun considering making body armor, and helmets required safety equipment, but that will not come until after the Rio Olympics.  So this August, make sure you catch the United States National Extreme Bocce Ball Team in action as they compete for a medal, in what many call a barbaric version of a classic lawn game, but what true students of the game admire for the purity of the ancient Roman traditions.

Fans of the American team have a chant, “Here’s a nickel for the trolley!” It is raucously shouted out whenever Simpson has drawn a penalty point and knocked out an opponent. After spending some time getting to know the sport and these two quirky players, I think I am going to take my nickel for the trolley and use it to place a wager on their ability to bring home a medal, the first by an American team in this sport.

————–

RJ FILE*** CLINT KARLSEN/REVIEW-JOURNAL John L. Smith column mug photographed in the R-J studio, Thursday, February 28, 2008.

RJ FILE***
CLINT KARLSEN/REVIEW-JOURNAL
John L. Smith column mug photographed in the R-J studio, Thursday, February 28, 2008.

John L. Smith

Writes on topics from human interest to politics. He is working on a book, Extreme Bocce Ball: an Ancient Roman Blood Sport, based on this article. He is returning to Italy this summer to gather material for a follow-up essay, and will be covering the Extreme Bocce Ball competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.

His column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday in the Nevada News section of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Visit the eForums to discuss local news

Ticket to WIN a FREE ebook!!!

The Brotherhood of Olympus and the Tower of Dreams has been entered into the Kindle Scout program for the opportunity to be exclusively published by Amazon as an ebook/audiobook.  Everyone who nominates the book, will win a free copy of the ebook should Amazon decide to publish it–based upon total votes received.

So go log-in with your Amazon.com account, and nominate the book, share the link with your friends, the more who nominate it the better chance everyone has to win!!

Click here to NOMINATE the book!

ebookmaster_ticketXX

WIN a FREE ebook!!!

ToD_CoverKindleScoutThe Brotherhood of Olympus and the Tower of Dreams has been entered into the Kindle Scout program for the opportunity to be exclusively published by Amazon as an ebook/audiobook.  Everyone who nominates the book, will win a free copy of the ebook should Amazon decide to publish it–based upon total votes received.

So go log-in with your Amazon.com account, and nominate the book, share the link with your friends, the more who nominate it the better chance everyone has to win!!

Click here to nominate the book.

Rose City Comicon is a month away, are you ready?

rccc logoFor the third straight year, I will be appearing at the Rose City Comicon, in their Artist Alley.  I will have brand new, pre-release copies of the Brotherhood of Olympus and the Tower of Dreams on hand to autograph and sell to fans.  I will also be wrapping up a promotional ebook campaign through Amazon that ends on September 21st.  Anyone who nominates my book in the Kindle Scout program will win a FREE ebook copy of it when it’s ready for publication through Amazon.  Should my book receive enough nominations, Amazon and I will enter into a publishing contract for the exclusive rights to the Tower of Dreams in ebook and audiobook formats.  Having their marketing clout behind my brand will definitely be an asset.

I will also have LotR style maps of the settings of the first two books for sale–these were a very HOT item at the Emerald City Comic Con in March.  Some illustration prints, and a few older t-shirts for sale…  my merchandise line is still in its infancy, but gaining some traction.

So come on out to Rose City Comicon and be one of the first to get a copy of the Brotherhood of Olympus and the Tower of Dreams.

Site Update

Some of you may have noticed that my website has grown rather  static this year.  I apologize for that, much has been happening behind the scenes, and at this point of my author career, I cannot afford a web master to update my website, nor can I hire any content managers or producers, or even have a minion or two to just add content.

theGridBack at the start of 2015, I stumbled upon the Grid.  It was promoted as the first AI website development and management tool.  I looked at it as a possible godsend, since my website updates were getting so few and far between.  So on January 23, 2015, I became a founding member of the Grid.  The promotional video and support materials talked of a spring 2015 roll out, which meant to me at the time–lets just wait on website content, for the time being–once the Grid is up and running, then I will jump into it and get it all rolling again.

Well it is now nearly fall 2015, and the beta test of the Grid is still going on, they keep adding new beta testers, but I am founding member 18,791, so I still have some time before they include me in the beta I am afraid.

I am still fully committed to the Grid, and look forward to having an AI webmaster sometime soon, but until then, I need to get back to adding some content on here.

So…  there are some new and exciting things that I will be adding over the next few days.

Keep your eye out…

2015 Emerald City Comicon

 

eccc logoI will be appearing once again, at the Emerald City Comicon, March 27-29, at the Washington State Convention Center, in downtown Seattle Washington.

Come by and see me at Z-09 on the main floor this year, not in the bowels of the building like last year…

Content Update

So it has been over a year since I have updated my site, and much has happened.

I am not going to make any excuses for the lack of new content, but sometimes life can be busy.  Now fortunately, I took the invitation to become a founding member of the Grid…  [click here to see the exciting concept of what the Grid has to offer busy professionals]  So I am anticipating having a fully AI website sometime in the near future, and it shall be named Ultron…

 

 

Super Bowl XLVIII

I have many thoughts about the just concluded Super Bowl that have clouded my mind for the last few months.  Back in August when the Denver Broncos came to Seattle to play the Seahawks during the preseason, many prognosticators touted it as a possible Super Bowl match up.  Both teams took it that way too, they played this game more like a regular season game, in fact the starters played longer in this game then they would normally have–Peyton Manning played most of the first half, and was behind 27-7 when he left.  The Seahawks continued to dominate the game of reserves after that, closing out a 40-10 victory.

Let me go back a bit further in time.  The year 1974, when the city of Seattle was awarded an expansion franchise to join the NFL in the 1976 season–the American Bicentennial.  The rumored team names waffled back and forth between the Kings–in honor of King County which was also the name of the first home of the team, the concrete behemoth known as the Kingdome, and the Pioneers.  The Kings became the front-runner, and my brothers and I, along with our neighborhood friends formed our own team–the North Bank Kings.  We lived in the neighborhood around North Bank Road in rural Central Park outside Aberdeen, Washington.  We played seven man, old school, backyard-tackle football against all comers, on our home field, the massive grassy yard of my distant cousins the Hilliard’s.  We won the Fifth Championship of Central Park, 77-63 over the aptly named Central Park Champs that hailed from across the highway in the Deer Park neighborhood.  That game was a mismatch, we were the plucky underdogs in our homemade reddish-pink outlined,  green numbered, white t-shirt uniforms, and they were the larger, faster, more experienced and older team.  I recall at halftime, as we trailed by two touchdowns, that it would be a good time for our parents to call for us to come home, forcing an end to the soon-to-be rout.  But during our short halftime, we found resolve in each other and pulled out the improbable come from behind win.

Our roster was:

1    Gary Campbell, our center and defensive tackle–biggest guy on our team.

10  Mike Daniels, our quarterback.

18  Ray Simpson, our back-up quarterback and receiver.

54  Guy Simpson (me), offensive line and defensive end, also the youngest player on the team.

77  Randy Simpson, our most explosive offensive player and hardest tackler.

80  Lynden Cooper, our second receiver and defensive back.

99  Norman Cooper, the oldest player on the team and jack-of-all-trades player.

That win was a highlight of my early life.  We would follow it up with a 63-12 victory in the Hoquiam Championship played in historic Olympic Stadium against the N Street Hawks.  By July of 1975, the official name of the expansion team was revealed and the Seattle Seahawks were born.

They played their inaugural year in the old NFC West that included the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, and San Francisco 49ers.  They finished the year with a 2-12 record, but I loved them despite finishing last.  The Seahawks gave me a bond with my father, a man who could be gruff and difficult, quick to anger, and hard on his boys.  We found common ground watching the Seahawks play, and together we rooted for “our” team as father and son.   The Seahawks switched conferences after that first year, joining the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and Oakland Raiders in the AFC West.  The closest our team came to the Super Bowl in those early years was in 1983 when they lost in the AFC Championship game to the Los Angeles Raiders.  Those were good years, and some of the last I  spent watching the team with my father.  I moved out in 1982, and my parents moved away by 1983 back to Western Washington.  My father and I didn’t watch more than a few games together after that.

He died in February 2004, two years before the Seahawks would make their first appearance in the Super Bowl.  I have never spent a day without thinking about my father.  I would not be the man I am today without him, or the influence he had on me as a youngster.  We didn’t win the Super Bowl, and it took a lot to heal from that wound.

But during the last four years I have seen something growing in the Northwest, a fever for the team of my youth–no, not the North Bank Kings, the Seattle Seahawks.  I believed they could make it to the Super Bowl in the 2012-13 season, but they fell short in Atlanta–never score too quickly and let Matt Ryan have an opportunity to win.  But in the off-season the team made some excellent moves, enhancing the defensive line, and bringing in the multi-talented Percy Harvin.  I looked at this team as one of destiny.  I watched what they did to the Broncos in the preseason and was reassured that it was all possible.

When the season played out, that destiny seemed to be coming to fruition.  My lovely wife and I attended the NFC Championship game and celebrated the Seahawks victory over the 49ers, I cried tears of joy for the history of the moment shared with the love of my life, and I cried tears of sadness for the man who I used to sit on the couch and watch this team with all those years ago.  I so miss my father.

I immediately went back to that game in August, that score defined the outcome I foresaw.  I could not see the Broncos getting more than 14 points, and saw the Seahawks scoring somewhere in the 40’s for a similar spread.  Though few agreed with me.  Prior to the game, I donned my stinky Earl Thomas jersey that I wore all season–I never washed it because the mojo was working, and I talked to my father.  This time, this one was going to be ours.

The game began with the safety, the ninth in Super Bowl history, and third during the last three games.  The Seahawks dominated on defense, holding the greatest offense in the history of the NFL to no first downs in the first quarter.  They opened a 5-0 lead, and I recalled the 5-0 lead the Seahawks had opened on the 49ers earlier in the season, and the outcome of that game.  Now, some have said that opening safety made the Broncos off their game.  But if you watched the NFC Championship, you saw the Seahawks fumble on the first play of the game and give up a  field goal to the 49ers.  But rather than crumble they slowly, methodically climbed back in that game and eventually took it over–that’s what champions do.

Over the course of the Super Bowl, I was so cautious not to celebrate the outcome until deep in the fourth quarter when the Lombardi trophy was being carried over to the Seahawks side of the field.  The scar of the 2005 season, and the stigma of watching something so dear be taken from you by blown calls, and an apparent agenda by the league to send one of its all time greatest players–Jerome Bettis–out on top, made me so tempRM1_2779--nfl_mezz_1280_1024leery of this game.  Time and time again, the Seahawks would bust a big run, and it would be called back on a holding call mostly against pro-bowler Russell Okung, while on the other side, the Bronco linemen where literally tackling the Seattle defensive linemen, laying on them to keep them from Manning.  The officiating was not balanced, but like I tell the teams I coach, “You cannot rely on the officials to do you any favors or call anything right, in fact you need to be prepared to overcome bad calls, you must play well enough to not let the outcome be in doubt.”  Win it so big that the officials cannot alter the outcome.  The Seahawks did that, 43-8.  For part of the 4th quarter I thought they might be able to eclipse the record 55 point performance by the 49ers, but Coach Caroll let up on the accelerator and even put in the second string to finish the game.  He did not run up the score, even though he could have quite easily.

For all of those who aren’t fans of the sport, or sports in general, I give you this quoted dialogue from the 1985 movie Vision Quest, one of the best sports movies of all time:

Louden (Matthew Modine): “I was at the hotel, they told me you took the night off. Thought you were sick or something.”
Elmo (J.C. Quinn): “Of course I took the night off, dummy, isn’t this the night you wrestle Shute?”
Louden: “You took the night off for that?”
Elmo: “Yeah, shaved, got a haircut and everything.”
Louden: “You never took the night off to see me wrestle before, they’ll dock you for that.”
Elmo: “Hey kid, money ain’t everything.”
Louden: “It’s not that big a deal, I mean it’s six lousy minutes on the mat. If that.”
Elmo: “Ever hear of Pelé?”
Louden: “Yeah, he’s a soccer player.”
Elmo: “A very famous soccer player. I was in the room here one day. I’m watching the Mexican channel on TV. I don’t know nothing about Pelé. I’m watching what this guy can do with a ball and his feet. The next thing I know he jumps up in the air and flips into a somersault and kicks the ball in, upside down and backwards. I mean, the goddamn goalie never knew what the fuck hit him. (laughs) And Pelé gets excited and he rips off his jersey and starts running around the stadium waving it around over his head. Everybody’s screaming in Spanish. I’m here, sitting alone in my room. I start crying, yeah that’s right, I start crying. There’s another human being, a species which I happen to belong to, can kick a ball, and LIFT himself and the rest of us sad-ass human beings up to a better place to be, if only for a minute. Let me tell you kid, it was pretty goddamn glorious.  It ain’t the six minutes… it’s what happens in that six minutes.”

tempRM2_8998--nfl_mezz_1280_1024It was more than a game.  It was the match-up of the best offense in the history of the league against the number one defense of the season.  The Seahawks victory was the most watched Super Bowl, or television event, in its 48 year history, Twitter witnessed some of its highest traffic ever during the 12 second, 87 yard Percy Harvin kick-off return for a touchdown, and I cannot help but think Elmo would have said, something about it being, “pretty goddamn glorious.”

The victory brought solace to me, my family, and the spirit of my father.  I cried tears of joy, and only tears of joy, for on this day, my father celebrated the crowning of the new kings of professional football, the Seattle Seahawks, with me, my wife, and my children.

 

Been a While Since I Last Wrote Something Here…

I have been so busy recently, with the holidays, school, family, working on edits and doing illustrations for the Brotherhood of Olympus and the Tower of Dreams, planning for a state leadership conference, planning for my upcoming appearance at the Emerald City Comicon, planning for our second Love Assembly with my amazing colleagues–Ryan Healy and Sarah Mulkey–that includes filming and editing a couple videos, making a full color poster and clothing that will be available for sale afterwards that emblazon our message, and preparing to coach my basketball team (today was the first day of practice), that I have completely fallen off the wagon of doing my blog posts.

So I am making a pledge to fix this.  And fix it I will…