Monday, September 20, 2010
I CAN AND I WILL
Dad in rear center. Coaches Frank Defelice and Dick Lynch in rear with him. Front left is Mike Lynch, now sportscaster in Boston on WCVB.Right is co-captain James Carone. (1970)
The Salem News recently ran an article about my father, who passed away eight years ago but is still remembered in the area quite well:
Coincidentally to that article running, I had just found a web site about Swampscott High School football run by head coach Stephen Dembowski with most of the pictures in that article:
I was water-boy when he was at SHS. I was in elementary and junior high school, and was usually in the locker room for Dad's speeches. Even when he left for Bishop Fenwick, I was often there for the speeches as well. They played on Sundays so I was able to be an assistant trainer for the team early in high school until I became too busy in our band.
His speeches were very motivational. I wish I had inherited some of those skills. Dad had a way of making a performance out of every speech, where he would start small and personal, and slowly get bigger and bigger until reached a fiery climax, riling up the team and sending them charging out to field feeling like they were Titans who could beat anybody.
I don't remember the text of a lot of the speeches but I do remember a couple of things he said. One I remember very well because I was there when he wrote it. Dad was a very popular public speaker at conventions, athletic conferences and football camps. Sometimes he would bring me along, especially at summer camps. One summer we went to a camp, I can't remember which one, and I can't remember how old I was either. I think I was probably about 10 years old.
Anyway, he had a speech prepared, and it was to be given at an outdoor stage, and we walked in and above the stage were written the words I CAN AND I WILL in huge block letters. I have no idea whether this was the title of a play that was going to be put on there, or whether it was just a motivational phrase someone at the camp came up with, and I know my dad had no idea either, but when he saw it, he looked at me, said "I'm giving a whole different speech." He walked on stage and improvised one of the most exciting and motivational speeches I had ever seen, ending with those words in a big climax, and convincing the kids listening that they could do anything. (I can't watch the movie EMPIRE STRIKES BACK without thinking of that speech when Yoda tells Luke "Do, or do not. There is no 'try.'") Dad's speech worked so well that I CAN AND I WILL became a catch phrase for him and he used it many times subsequently in other speeches. I said those words many times to myself when I was recovering form a life-threatening illness a few years ago.
Years later, when I went to MIT, I took some filmmaking classes with Ricky Leacock, a noted documentary filmmaker. I decided to make docs about the two most influential men in my life, Herb Pomeroy (whom I have written about before here) and my dad. I have them on VHS somewhere. Maybe I can transfer them to disc and post portions of them on my blog. Anyway, in fall of 1984 when he was back at SHS, I got some footage of one of Dad's speeches. He said two things in the speech that I will always remember. One was "I CAN AND I WILL." The other was:
"I know why your parents love you, because I do too."