Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 MFL PLAYOFFS---The Conference Championships

New England (-3) @ Denver

Going into last week’s game against KC, the questions we all had about the Patriots concerned their health.  Was Edelman really recovered?  Could Gronkowski play?  Did Brady have any lingering effects from the Miami game?  If New England had finally returned to something approaching full strength, they would probably find a way to beat K.C., but how many working organs did they really have?

We have our answer.  New England is just fine.  With Brady and Gronkowski and Amendola and Edelman all running and jumping and playing football, the Pats are (at this moment), the best football team in the AFC.

As for Denver, I said at the start of the tournament that they did not deserve to be in it, and I saw nothing in the Pittsburgh game to change my mind.  Manning played OK (no interceptions!), but did nothing to suggest he is the Peyton of old.  Roethlisberger actually had slightly better numbers.  Denver won because of their defense, which is still very good, and because Pittsburgh’s coach Mike Tomlin is as savvy about in-game decisions as a box of rocks.  Tomlin is one of those coaches (and he is far from the only one), who never think about game situations in advance and who, faced with a critical decision (punt? call a time out? kick a field goal?), with the clock ticking, simply chooses the first option that pops into his head.

New England’s AYP for the year is 6.8; Denver’s is 4.6.  New England outscored its opponents by more than ten points per game; Denver outscored its opponents by 3 ½.  It is true that Denver’s pass defense is superior, but overall the game lines up as a mere speed bump on New England’s path to yet another Superbowl.  Lay the points.

(Technology note: every time I use the word “superbowl,” my spell-checker tries to correct it to “superb owl.”)

Arizona @ Carolina (-3)

I pretty much told you where I was going on this one in previous posts.  Arizona’s AYP for the season was 7.5, the highest in football.  Carolina’s was 6.0.  Arizona’s point differential was 13.7 per game, which was three points better than the second-best team (Carolina).  I must take the three points here and bet Arizona.

Having said all that, however, you would have to be a fool not to notice what Carolina did to Seattle because it is precisely what a Superbowl champ is supposed to do.  Seattle is a good team.  They were the guys “nobody wanted to play.”  The Panthers, however, forced the Seahawks to disrobe, hoisted the Seattle pantaloons up the stadium flagpole, said bad things about the Seattle players’ mothers, smacked their bottoms with wooden paddles and then, just when they were about to sodomize them, got bored and decided to run out the clock instead.  It is true that Carolina took its foot off the gas pedal once the score was 31 – 0, but it’s hard to blame them for losing interest when the game is basically over with ten minutes left in the first half.  Despite the Seattle “comeback,” they were never really in danger of winning the game.

(By the way….  If you are losing 31 – 0 in the second half, and you score a touchdown, do you calmly line up to kick an extra point, or do you go for two on the theory that you need to try for every point you can possibly get?  Just sayin’.)

And in the other game?  Well, one has to be concerned about the deer-in-the-headlights look of Carson Palmer throughout much of the contest, and Arizona’s inability to dispatch an inferior Packers team until after sixty minutes had elapsed.

A sane man can be forgiven for thinking Carolina, playing in Carolina, is correctly favored in this game, and that they will roll over the Cardinals.  Well, who are you going to believe---my numbers or your lying eyes?


Sunday, January 17, 2016

MLK DAY--An Alternate View

I was thirteen years old when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, and I remember Selma, and Birmingham, and the killing of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, and the march on Washington, and the “I Have a Dream” speech, and all the rest.  There was a wonderful period, that seemed to last about five minutes, when everyone in America agreed that equality under the law was a grand idea and that, finally, everyone could share in the equal protection of our laws.  Then, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered and his legacy and ideals were instantly co-opted and stolen by the race hustlers, welfare activists, reparation-seekers, black nationalists and Marxists who control it to this day.  Martin Luther King Day became a federal holiday in 1986.  I am one of the millions who hate MLK Day because it has never had anything to do with Martin Luther King.

And it’s getting worse, of course.

In 1994, Congress made MLK Day a “National Day of Service.”  Typical.  Only the left would think we need an official federal declaration of when to do a good deed.  This peculiar “day of service” business actually began in Philadelphia, where this year is the “21st Annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.”

I know this because of a press release issued on January 6 by, (a name almost certainly coined by George Orwell), which informs us that this year’s co-chairs are the mayor, the fire and police commissioners, big shots from every major corporation in town (Comcast, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) and, of course, the Superintendent of Schools.  “There will be projects at hundreds of schools in Philadelphia and throughout the region.  Volunteers will beautify dozens of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation facilities.”

Well, good for them.  But don’t you have to wonder a bit about these “volunteers”?  If every preening nabob in the city, and your boss, and your boss’s boss, and the CEO of your company are all urging you to “volunteer,” at what point does it stop being your idea and start being more of an I’d-better-get-my-ass-down-to-the-homeless-shelter-and-start-painting kind of thing?

Well, stop wondering.  The gloves come off a couple paragraphs later and the answer is revealed: “Participants will include students of all ages from public, private and parochial schools….” (emphasis mine).  And there we are.  Those 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds don’t want to spend their day off from school playing games or watching TV, do they?  No.  They all want to be “volunteers,” you see.  Their desire to spend the day scraping subway-station walls has nothing to do with the fact that their teachers and principals and parents and pastors are all telling them “It’s the right thing to do, Johnny.  And you want to do the right thing, don’t you?”

And thus does MLK Day become a celebration of involuntary servitude.  Martin would have been so proud.


Friday, January 15, 2016


KC @ New England (-5)

The Chiefs and the Pats are the two best teams left in the division, so the winner of this game will be my heavy favorite to win next week as well.

With the five points, it’s extremely tempting to take the Chiefs in this spot.  They have won eleven games in a row, they are second in the AFC with an AYP of 6.4, they appear reasonably healthy (for an NFL team in mid-January), and they crushed Houston in their wildcard game.

(Note: the big win last week has little value as a harbinger.  I looked back about ten years and teams winning a wildcard rout do not routinely win the following weekend.  In fact, it often happens that they are themselves routed by a rested divisional winner.)

On the other side, however, are the Patriots, a team that warrants serious consideration on pedigree alone.  In addition, their passing offense gets the AFC’s top AYP score of 6.8.  AND Edelman and Amendola will both be playing (though Gronkowski remains questionable).  AND nobody ever got rich betting against New England in New England in January.

I have to pass this game.  I expect the Patriots and Belichick will somehow find a way to win, but there is no reason to think KC will fail to give a good account of themselves.  If forced to choose, I would take the points with KC, but I would rather just watch and enjoy this game and save my cheese for the next contest.

Green Bay @ Arizona (-7)

Arizona has the best AYP (7.5) in the NFL, and they are my choice to win the Superbowl.  Their point differential of 13.7 points/game is the highest in the league.  In addition, they have an excellent pass defense (though others may be slightly better).

Last week, I listed Green Bay as a “pretender,” and the fact they beat another pretender (the Washington Ethnic Slurs), does not transform them into a “contender.”  Actually, it’s hard to be terribly impressed with the win.  The game was not decided until the 4th quarter, and Rodgers and Cousins had roughly comparable performances.  Green Bay remains a team that struggled through the last half of the season and a team with the worst AYP (5.4) in the NFC.

Of all the games this weekend, this one appears to be the biggest mismatch.  If Green Bay manages to sustain a running attack as they did against the Slurs, it could be close.  That seems unlikely, however.  On December 27, Arizona beat Green Bay 38 – 8, and there is no reason to expect this result will be substantially different.  Expect a blowout and lay the points.

Seattle @ Carolina (-2)

With the best record in football, Carolina is the rare team that manages to succeed without a great deal of reliance on the big play.  The team’s AYP of 6.0 is not a bad number, but it is fourth in the NFC, and results largely from Cam Newton’s largely error-free season (only ten interceptions) rather than his ability to complete the bomb.  Along with that comes the 2nd-best (first was Buffalo) rushing yards in the league and the best pass defense.

In a sense, Carolina is a test of the hypothesis to which I have dedicated my life and the lives of my eight wives and 36 children in our heavily-fortified Nevada compound.  You can win a lot of games by being the Carolina Panthers, but in the playoffs, there will come a time when you have to score and you have to score now, and you have to be able to do it against anyone.  This is why Michael Jordan and Joe Montana and Reggie Jackson and Wayne Gretsky are revered figures in sports.  It’s also why Barry Sanders never played in a Superbowl.

There are outliers in any data set, of course.  The 1990-91 NY Giants (the team that made Parcells an official “genius”) certainly didn’t fit my mold, and neither did the 2000-01 Ravens.  They don’t disprove the theory but they remind us that these are not science experiments, they are football games, and on a given Sunday….  It goes without saying as well, that I am merely a blowhard and predictor concerning NFL results and not the vehicle of football’s consciousness.

So maybe Carolina is an outlier.  Certainly, it can win this game.  Carolina can win the Superbowl.  I’m just not picking them to do so.

This is a close game.  Seattle’s AYP is 7.0, a full point higher than Carolina’s, but Carolina’s pass defense is clearly superior to Seattle’s, as is its point differential.  Also, there are a dozen other statistical measures that seem to favor Carolina.  (One that does not is rushing defense---Seattle has the best in football.  Which is nice when you are facing the 2nd best running game in the league.)

Finally, there’s the petulant Marshawn Lynch for the Seahawks to deal with.  Maybe it means nothing when your star running back decides his contract issues are more important than the opportunity to play in a playoff game, but it can’t be a positive for the team.

And all this leaves me---nowhere.  On balance, the only result that would surprise me is a blowout by either side, and that makes it tough to play into a 2-point line.  So I won’t.

Pittsburgh @ Denver (-7)

For all the reasons discussed last week, Denver’s status as a top seed is practically supernatural.  They probably shouldn’t be in the playoffs at all.  Against a contender, they would lose.  Against Pittsburgh?  Well, if we knew Roethlisberger were healthy, I would take Pittsburgh to win outright.  As it is, I will still take the points and the Steelers.

Denver’s AYP for the year is 4.6.  Pittsburgh’s is 6.0.  It is true that Denver has one of the better pass defenses in the playoffs and Pittsburgh has one of the worst, but it is also true that Pittsburgh (a 6 seed) outscored its opponents by 104 points, while Denver outscored its foes by only 59.  For every point that can be cited in Denver’s favor, there is at least one for the Steelers as well.

Peyton Manning may recapture the magic this weekend and throw for five touchdowns, 420 yards and no interceptions, but I’m taking the points here.  As Damon Runyon instructed us, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet."


Thursday, January 7, 2016


It’s that time again---time to analyze the NFL playoffs in terms of, primarily, yards-per-pass, our measure of a team’s ability to make big plays.  The basic number for each team is derived from its passing yards, with a penalty deduction of 50 yards for each interception.  This adjusted passing yards number is then divided by the number of pass attempts.  (The stat, and the method, is not one I invented.)

The Washington Ethnic Slurs, for example, had 4095 passing yards, and we subtract 550 yards from this total to account for the 11 interceptions thrown.  This leaves 3545, which we divide by 555 pass attempts. Our adjusted yards/pass (let’s call it AYP), for the Slurs is thus 6.4.  Over the years, a team’s AYP is highly correlated with its performance in the playoffs.  Other statistical measures (e.g., rushing yards per game, scoring defense, takeaways, etc.), are of no value at all in predicting who will win the championship.  Since it’s easy to do, I also calculate defensive AYP for each of the playoff teams, though I suspect it has no particular meaning independent of the number of interceptions a defense achieves during the season.  I also notice point differential, regular season match-ups of teams that will meet in the playoffs, and important injuries.  Finally, for the past eight years, players on all the teams have graciously provided me with stool samples that I examine under a microscope in my garage before incorporating them into the soil in our front garden where they fertilize our Spring tulips.

If you have ever questioned whether the NFL belongs to quarterbacks, a look at this year’s quarterback ratings should straighten you out.  (The quarterback rating is the mix of completion percentage, TD passes, interceptions and passing yards that has been used by the NFL since 1973 to determine its passing leader.)

This year, there are six QBs in the NFL who had ten or more starts and ratings over 100.  The only one not in the playoffs is Drew Brees.  The others are Russell Wilson (110.1), Andy Dalton (106.3), Carson Palmer (104.6), Tom Brady (102.2) and Kirk Cousins (101.6).

The other playoff QBs mostly have decent numbers as well:
Cam Newton 99.4
A.J. McCarron (Cincy) 97.1
Alex Smith (KC) 95.4
Roethlisberger 94.5
Aaron Rodgers 92.7
Brian Hoyer (Hou) 91.4
Teddy Bridgewater (Minn) 88.7
Osweller (Den) 86.4

And then there’s:
Peyton Manning 67.9


Contenders: Arizona (AYP=7.5), Seattle (7.0), Carolina (6.0)

Pretenders: Washington (6.2), Green Bay (5.4), Minnesota (5.6)

For the past few years, a lot of fans have watched Arizona and Carolina and wondered: what would happen if they got about 5% better and stayed mostly healthy throughout a season?  Well, here it is.  They are both extremely good.  AYP for Arizona, at 7.5, is the best in the league.  Carolina, under Cam Newton, has an AYP of “only” 6.0, but their pass defense is stifling and they had the largest point differential (500-308) in the NFL.

Seattle, with an AYP of 7.0, is clearly alive in the hunt, and not only because of Russell Wilson.  The team gave up the fewest points (277) of anyone, and after starting the season 4-4, went 6-2 the rest of the way.  In addition, now that we are in the playoffs, the Seahawks secondary will again be permitted, without penalty, to tackle any opposing receiver as he comes off the line of scrimmage.  (There was some indication that the no-flags-for-Seahawks rule was already in effect for the final regular-season game.)

In the regular season, Seattle’s pass defense was inferior to both Arizona’s and Carolina’s.  In addition, Seattle is a # 6 seed in the NFC so they will not get a home game.  It’s a rough path to the Superbowl for the Seahawks and they will probably have to beat both Arizona and Carolina on the road to get there.  They’re dangerous, they’re on the rise, but I still don’t like their chances.


Contenders:  Cincinnati (AYP=7.0), New England (6.8), KC (6.4)

Pretenders: Pittsburgh (6.0), Denver (4.6), Houston (5.3)

Denver is the #1 seed.  They get a bye week, and they will get two home games in a stadium with an atmospheric home field advantage that other teams can only dream of.  It’s extremely tempting, for those reasons alone, to list them as a contender.  In fact, if I knew Osweller would be starting for the Broncos, I probably would have.  Peyton Manning, however, will be healthy enough to play, and he almost certainly will.  I mean, he’s Peyton Freakin’ Manning!  How can you not start the guy if he can walk?

His numbers are terrible.  In ten starts, he had 17 passes intercepted and an AYP of 4.2.  His QB rating of 67.9 is twenty points below that of the mediocre QB’s who got lucky this year and get to start a playoff game (Teddy Bridgewater of Minnesota has a QB rating of 88.7; Brian Hoyer of Houston is 91.4).  I am a Peyton Manning fan and I will be rooting for him to find the magic once again, but the Denver story this year is just a fairy tale.  They scored 355 points and gave up 296 for a point differential of less than 4 points per game---with those numbers, a record of 12-4 is almost impossible.  Normally, a differential like this gets you a 9-7 record, or perhaps 10-6.  They were extremely lucky to make the playoffs, and yet they somehow find themselves a #1 seed.

After a 10-0 start, the injuries finally caught up with New England, which lost four of its final six games.  The only thing holding this team together was Brady, along with a competent defense.  Now Brady has a high-ankle sprain sustained in the loss to Miami (thanks, Mr. Suh!), and while he will almost certainly play on the weekend of 1-16 and 1-17, we cannot know how effective he will be.  Edelman is also expected to return (finally).  New England cannot be counted out, but unlike the NFC where the top seeds appear to be two teams awakening into greatness, the AFC’s #1 and #2, Denver and New England, are struggling to hang on to their past  glories.

Cincinnati seems a more realistic choice, though their path to the Superbowl must go through New England and possibly Denver too.  But they can win, largely because A.J. McCarron has been close to brilliant in filling in for Andy Dalton (who seems very unlikely to play in the playoffs).  In seven games, McCarron has completed 79 of 119 passes for 854 yards, with only two interceptions.  This translates to a 97.1 QB rating and a 6.3 AYP.  He is not Dalton, but he may be good enough in a damaged AFC field.

Then there is KC, which is third in the NFL in scoring defense and has a good (but not scary) offense led by Alex Smith.  As a #5 seed, KC will have to win three games on the road to get to Superbowl (don’t call me “L”) 50, and while they should not be huge underdogs in any of those games, it’s still a lot to ask.


I don’t think we’ve ever seen four home dogs on Wild Card Weekend.

KC (-3) @ Houston.   KC has a better offense, a better defense, a better record, a better QB, a much better point differential.  KC has a (small) chance to win it all; Houston has none.  I lay the points with no regrets.

Pitt (-3) @ Cincinnati.  Hard to understand this line.  Maybe it’s the mystique of the Steelers or the legend of Roethlisberger, but I see no area of the game where Pittsburgh is superior to the Bengals.  “Experience” maybe---playoff experience.  I suppose I’m not looking for Cincinnati to romp in this spot, but they are better than the Steelers both offensively and defensively and the game is in Cincinnati.  The wrong team is favored.  Take the Bengals.

Seattle (-5) @ Minnesota.  On December 6, Seattle went to Minnesota and beat the Vikings 38-7.  The Vikings then lost a close game to Arizona and finished with three strong performances over Chicago, NY and Green Bay (in Green Bay), so arguably Minnesota is a better team now.  But so is Seattle, which is superior on both sides of the ball.  Also, Russell Wilson is a superstar and Teddy Bridgewater is a mutt.  A nice mutt, but a mutt nonetheless.  This is not my favorite game of the weekend, and I don’t like laying five points.  But I will lay them.

Green Bay (-1) @ Washington.  Neither of these teams will survive the next round of the tournament but one of them will win this game.  I don’t know which one.  Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, of course, but he has had a bad year and Kirk Cousins has had a great one.  The Packer defense is superior to Washington’s, but the Ethnic Slurs have steadily improved this season while Green Bay has clearly gone backward.  If I had to choose, I suppose I would take Green Bay but with no enthusiasm.  I pass.


Saturday, January 2, 2016


A while back, I started asking friends and family members about their first memories.  It’s a subject that has always interested me, perhaps because I have several odd ones myself, and I’ve wondered why certain early events stick in the head and others don’t.  I can’t give you the complete answer to that question, and nobody else can either, though the topic has been studied for many years.  Even Freud (remember him?), had something to say about it.

My go-to guy on brain matters is a saxophone player named Dr. Richard Harner, who claims he once studied brains and operated on them at the University of Pennsylvania.  (I know he still has a prescription pad, so maybe he’s telling the truth.)  He told me about Wilder Penfield, who was often described as being “so damn smart you can’t believe he’s Canadian.”  Penfield was not only Princeton’s football coach, but was also the first doc who operated on people’s brains while they were awake, and had conversations with them as he electrically stimulated the neocortex bits (much as Bill Belichick does today).  One of the things that happened when he did this was that people started remembering things that had happened decades before, which led him to theorize that all of our experiences are stored away somewhere and that “forgetting” is simply a matter of not knowing where to look.  There’s no way to prove this, of course, partly because there is no way to prove that the tales Penfield pulled forth with his electrical probes were actual memories rather than dream-like concoctions.

An example?  OK.  I have a vivid childhood memory of a trip to Alexandria, Virginia with my mother, to visit my Aunt Lorraine and my cousin, Patrick.  I may have been four years old and Pat may have been five.  Pat and I spent most of an afternoon outside playing with his friends, culminating in a fight when, from our “fort” in a wooded area, we threw rocks at the other boys and they returned fire.  The fight ended abruptly when one of the other boys took a high hard one right on the noggin.  Pat and I ran home, uncertain as to exactly what had occurred, but scared witless.

An hour later, a policeman showed up at the apartment and questioned my mother and my aunt about the incident where a boy, we now learned, had been killed.  (We had told them nothing about our adventure.)  The policeman then took Pat and me outside, questioned us separately, and we managed to convince him we had come back home long before the war started and knew nothing about it.

For 35 years, I walked around with this in my head, convinced I had been part of a rock-throwing war and was guilty of homicide.  Then one day, having dinner with Pat after a twenty-year separation, I asked him about the incident.  He looked at me like I was insane, or joking, and then assured me that nothing of the sort had ever occurred.  To this day, I remember what our fort looked like.  I could even identify the policeman---I could pick him out of a police line-up.  But it just never happened.  No fort, no rocks, no dead kid, no cop.  But just because there are things in your head (or, at least, my head), that never happened doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of real memories from long, long ago.

For a long time it was believed that very little children, under the age of four or five, simply did not have the brain architecture to form enduring memories.  This has been shown to be not quite accurate.  Memories do form very early, and a six-year-old can often remember events that happened when he was only a year old.  At the age of seven or eight, however, a phenomenon called “childhood amnesia” overtakes us and we forget almost all of those earliest experiences.  (No one seems quite sure why this happens.)  Often there will be one or two fragments that remain, however, and stay with us into adulthood.  These are the stories you get when you ask for someone’s “first memory.”

I learned two things in my amateur research project.  First, not everybody has an identifiable “first memory,” meaning a specific event, and when you ask them for it, you will get something (usually traumatic), that occurred when they were ten.  If you then ask for something earlier, you will get a vague response like, “Well, I remember the kids in the neighborhood when I was little.”  My only other observation is that first memories tend to have a powerful emotional content, usually a negative one.  Kids don’t remember the routine trip to the grocery store; they remember terror.

R. M.---“I was under two years old, not sure exact age, could've been 6 months, could've been 20 months. I fell out of a high chair into the edge of a radiator. I took a nasty gash in the eye area; any closer to the eye would have resulted in permanent serious injury to the eye. I was rushed to Wills Eye, treated, bandaged and sent home. I don't remember any of it! What I do remember vividly is laying in my crib later that day or night in the middle bedroom on Pickwick St. and out of the corner of I guess my good eye, seeing my father, who wasn't present when the incident happened, emerging from the top of the steps, entering the bedroom, and looking down at me with the big bandage over my eye.

P.W.---“My first memory is of being a toddler on a bridge at Maxwell Army base near Montgomery Alabama. My mother and I are on a bridge over a small river and she sets me down for a minute while talking to someone else. I must have waddled off a ways and was in danger of falling off the bridge as I remember a uniformed army guy (a private maybe) running to me, scooping me up and handing me back to my hysterical mother. I also remember the very fragrant magnolia blossoms. They were everywhere.

Note in these and other tales that often, a horrific event is not itself the center of the experience; rather, it is a parent’s reaction that sears it in the memory.

J.V.---"Mom was crying by the washing machine.  President Kennedy had just died.”  (This is a rarity---a first memory we can date precisely: November 22, 1963.)

L.B.---“I remember desperately crying at the front door, trying to block my dad from going to work and leaving me alone with my mom.

J.W.---“I was three years old and had to have my adenoids taken out, and I remember being in the operating room and having the nurse put the mask on my face to put me under anesthesia.  I remember the bright lights and the rubber mask and my fear that I wouldn’t fall asleep and I would be awake while they operated on me.

J.S.---“I was in the station wagon, which was packed with boxes and siblings.  We were moving to a new house and I was looking out the back window as our old house got further and further away.

S.P.---“I was sitting on the floor in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room, playing with a box of kitchen matches I had pulled off the table.  When my mother saw I was trying to light one, she flew out of a chair about ten feet away and grabbed it away from me.”   

L.M.---“When I was little, we moved to a big house, but the second floor wasn’t finished so we lived downstairs.  There were construction materials all over the yard.  One night, my mother was throwing a party and I climbed in behind a piece of wood that was leaning up against a wall.  When I heard people were looking for me, I decided it would be fun to hide until someone found me.  What I didn’t know is that my mother was extremely upset and thought I had been kidnapped.  One reason I remember it is because she kept reminding me of it when I was a child.  She still talks about it and how worried she was.

D.F.---“Getting spanked by my mother.  That’s probably my first ten memories.

C.H.---“I was having my diaper changed and my grandma lifted me up to the kitchen sink and started pumping the water to clean me up.  It was cold!

J.M.---“In a crib.  I remember the bars.

S.M.---“Standing up in a playpen, wanting to get out.

And finally, for sheer childhood terror, here’s my personal favorite:

J.G.---“We moved to Kenya when I was an infant, and I remember us being ‘on safari’ in one of the game parks.  My sister and I had to stand in some tall grass in the middle of the plains for a photograph and I remember being certain a lion was going to jump out any second and eat us.  We had to stand there for what seemed like forever and all I wanted to do was get back in the van.

The unusual memories are the happy ones, and while they are rare, they do exist.

S.S.---“It’s very mundane, and very peaceful.  I was in a train riding to Wichita Falls, Texas when I was two years old, and I was looking out at the fields going by and I was looking at my mother and father, who were in the train compartment with me.  And that is probably why I remember it---my parents were already divorced by then and the three of us never did anything together, but there we were on the train.

N.A.---“I was age three or four, and I was just old enough to go across the street to the Oreland ball field with an older neighbor girl.  She showed me how to pick honeysuckle flowers and split them to suck the juice out.

B.P.---“I was two, and I visited Honduras (where my mom is from) for the first and last time.  I was floating in the ocean in my Minnie Mouse floaty thing and the sun was setting and it was really beautiful.  My mom was on the beach looking at me and laughing and my Uncle Raoul was swimming underneath me.  He touched my toes, and I knew he was pretending to be a shark, but I felt very smart because I wasn’t fooled one bit.

And then finally, there's this first memory, which doesn't seem to fit in any category:

It was nighttime, raining, somewhere in the late 1940’s. I was about 50 years old and I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance because I had been in a car accident.  Then it all goes black for a while until I realize I am inside my mother and I am about to emerge and be born.  I know this is going to happen, and then it does, and there are bright lights and people running around and lots of noise and I start getting annoyed at all the commotion.  That’s my first memory---in this life, at least.  I was pissed off that everybody was making such a huge deal about me being born.