I’m going to begin my return to HCKBlog on a very personal note. I talk a lot about filmmaking and video games here, touching on my past and what spurred my interest and informed me on what has become my career and hobby; but I don’t really touch on what came before that.
Really, there was a catalyst to where I am today, creatively; a spark to what started my fire. And that spark came from a match provided by a teacher.
Before I get into things too much, I want to say that I come from a family of teachers. My grandfather on my father’s side was a teacher. My grandmother on my mother’s side was a teacher. My mother was a teacher for 9 million years, and her 4 siblings were also teachers (my aunt is a minister, and if that’s not a teacher, I don’t know what is). In fact, I have cousins that are, or have been, teachers as well. You could accurately say that teaching is in my family blood.
Interestingly enough, I don’t have many fond memories of the actual teachers who taught me, especially once I got on into my later years in school. I had a rough time of it, and I didn’t exactly help myself out. To say that I was disinterested in school would be a massive understatement. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in learning; but I had such a great aversion to going through motions and wasting my time on things that I deemed inapplicable to my adult life that I began avoiding it at every cost. School became less a dear friend that I spent the majority of my weekday time with, and more a rival for my time that I occasionally passed by and waved at out of obligation. Eventually, I was told by my high school vice principal that my school would “be better off if I wasn’t there” (a direct quote, actually) so I dropped out and moved on.
But in that in-between time, a teacher did interact with me in a way that would prove to have a massive effect on my life.
It was during gym class. I was shooting hoops with my friend Tony Wilkes and Steve Dykstra. I distinctly remember that day because the REM song “Shiny Happy People” had been released, and Tony had wonderfully mistaken the refrain to be “Chinese Happy People…” which Steve and I thought was a wonderfully hilarious thing. I began to do play-by-play, coloring our attempts at B-ball greatness in an overly exaggerated announcer kind of voice, and the school’s head coach, Bob Sadek, overheard me. After class, he approached and ask if I would be interested in taking up the job as announcer for the school’s baseball team. I accepted.
I worked with Steve Dykstra as my technical assistant because he was good with electronics and I wasn’t as handy. Steve also had the job of filming the games for post game review and posterity’s sake. Sometimes, Tony would show up as well. I have no idea what he did… I think he was just there. We would trudge out all this heavy equipment an hour or so before every home game, and set it up. If memory serves, this consisted of a folding table, two giant speakers, a giant mixing board, a CD player, and a microphone and table stand. Looking back it seemed as if everything weighed 16-tons.
I would do my shtick during the game, announcing the home and opposing batters as they approached the plate, as well as calling on field position changes, substations, and hollering about home runs. During long pauses, I would play a predetermined list of approved songs selected by Mr Sadek. I really got into it. I even took it upon my self to do a seventh inning stretch, leading our meager crowds in horrible renditions of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It was grating, but Mr. Sadek let me continue. In fact, one of my fondest high school moments came about because of that, and almost went unnoticed. I have no idea who we were playing, but the local cable access channel was there filming the game. After everything was finished, one of the camera guys approached me and said he had something he thought I should hear. He backed up his tape and handed me his headphones. He had captured some audio from the dugout… there was a moment during my screeching of the National Pastime’s official song where one of the players had approached the coach and pleaded with him to make me stop. Mr Sadek’s reply would stick with me and provide the foundations of one of my core beliefs: If you want something enough and work hard at it, you can achieve it. What he said, quite angrily in fact, was:
“If you guys had the enthusiasm he does, we’d be winning the game!”
Eventually, I would quit the announcing gig. It had actually led to a job offer for the same local cable access channel to be their on air color commentator for high school football; but I knew nothing about football, so I passed. Really, I quit for the pettiest of reasons: the “managers” of the team, two girls from school whose job it was to keep score and count pitches, had been given high school baseball jackets at the end of the season for their hard work. Steve and I had just received the school’s hearty thanks. I felt slighted.
Later, Mr Sadek would tap me again for work on our high school video yearbook. This was another Bob Sadek, Steve Dykstra, and me project. It was my first introduction into film editing. My school had an AV lab with, what was then, a state-of-the-art editing facility. It was a behemoth. All analog, you had to cue up in-and-out point on tapes and make manual edits. It has some very cheesy built in early 90’s video effects (the kind that were waaaaaay overused in pornographic films of the day, not that I’d know) a full sound board, and other switches and knobs and doohickeys. Long hours were spent in that room with Mr. Sadek, Steve, and me. Somehow I ended up with the key and I would use the equipment on weekends when no one else was around, experiment making anime music videos… editing together scenes from the landfill of tapes I had collected and laying my selections over the audio of Japanese punk pop band Shonen Knife’s tunes. I would practice timing and fast edits, and it helped form the strong bond I have between music cues and visual action.
I can honestly say that without Bob Sadek’s influence in my life, I would not be where I am today. It seems like such a little thing. I mean, it wasn’t like in the movies where he’s showing up at my house, kindling my imagination and spurring me onto higher education. But if it wasn’t for his interest in me and my then unnoticed talents, I never would have gotten my military broadcasting gig that built upon the foundation he laid so many years before. Without Mr Sadek, the odds of me having ever come to Japan would be slim to none.
I have a picture that was taken for my sophomore yearbook. It’s of the baseball team, Mr Sadek, Steve Dykstra, Tony Wilkes, and me. The school was going to toss it, but I saved it from the burn bin. It’s been tucked away in a file in a closet for some time. I’m going to find that picture, frame it, and hang it on my wall as a reminder of the truly important life-lesson that Bob Sadek taught me:
Even the smallest of kindnesses can leave a lasting and remarkable impact on someone’s life.
Bob Sadek, passed on today. He was greatly loved by many, and he will be missed.