Stephanie, our dogs and I were enjoying a beautiful day at the lake when suddenly the swimmers in the Bridgewater Channel started screaming and swimming for their very lives. The horrific scene unfolding before our eyes was surreal. Kids were dropping off a stage head-first into the churning white water below and disappearing. Desperate to save their lives, swimmers begin thrashing around in the water. Stephanie began screaming hysterically. Instinctively, I put my arms around her and pulled her close to me while trying to block her from the carnage in the foaming water in front of us. Stephanie’s face was a portrait of wild-eyed terror, reminiscent of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. As I looked back at the violent scene, I noticed the water was beginning to turn blood red as blood bubbled up from underneath the surface. “Cut! Cut! Cut!” the director yelled. “You’re going to have to do better than that .You’re having the happiest day of your life, and then in an instant, it becomes the worst day of your life, that’s the turn! Let’s do it again. I want to see some fear, some terror and some panic.” When the producers of Piranha-3D held the casting calls for this re-make of the 1978 horror movie to be filmed in Lake Havasu, Stephanie and I didn’t bother going to the tryout. They had urged everyone trying out to wear a bikini. We didn’t think we were the demographic they were looking for, bikini-clad spring breakers who were to be eaten alive by the people-eating piranhas. We did get to act in the movie after all. One day as we walked our golden retrievers, Flash and Mac, near the movie shoot along the channel, a director came up to us and said they were going to film the first death scene. He pointed at a camera high above the set saying, “See that camera? You’re going to be in the shot. If you would rather not be in the movie, please move over there. You’re welcome to stay right here, but if you do, we want you to watch and react to the killing of the swimmers.” Stephanie and I weren’t about to go anywhere! We knew this would be our big chance for movie stardom. Some day we would look back on this as the time we got our first big break and the start of our magnificent acting careers. We knew we could look horrified-- after all, we had raised four kids, and experiencing shock and awe was a way of life. This was our big moment. This was going to be our fifteen minutes of fame, and we would be forever immortalized on the silver screen. We were going to milk this for all it was worth. Our friends from high school would be calling us to say they saw us in a movie and would congratulate us on our great acting skills. Our kids would even be calling us, for a change, to see how we were doing and say, “Way to go. You made us proud!” James Lipton from the Actor’s Studio on Bravo would be so impressed with our work that we will be asked to give pointers to aspiring actors. The director continued. “Ramp up the emotions. Remember, you’re watching 30 people being eaten alive! See that girl over there in the bikini? Her legs have just been eaten off!” This was going to be tough because I don’t ever notice any girls in bikinis, let alone look at their legs. But heck, this was acting and I realized I was going to have to pretend to stare at the young girl in the skimpy little swimsuit even though it would go totally against my nature. Actors have to make sacrifices for the sake of their craft, I reasoned. This was one of those times. As hard as it would be, I would have to focus on the girl in the bikini. I would stare at her and pretend to enjoy it. Then I would freak out when her legs got eaten off. That was my plan. Steph and I were ready for the next take. We would be happy one moment and then suddenly terrified, shocked, and horrified at this disaster of catastrophic proportions only feet away from us. The director yelled, “Rolling!” Stephanie and I took our dramatics to the next level. I pointed at the lake and looked over to her with a frightful expression on my face, like I had just seen a ghost. She gasped and screamed and looked at me with an expression that spoke of a fear that was beyond words. We both bent over the water, yelling at the swimmers to go for the shore and swim for their lives. Flash was terrified at all the screaming and picked up his tennis ball and ran off into the crowd. Mac just fell asleep.
Time stood still and it seemed like a half an hour went by while we screamed, gasped, pointed and yelled. Suddenly the director yelled, “Cut, Cut, Cut!!! That’s it, we got it. Thanks.” We were done for the day. Steph and I looked at each other without speaking a word. We were exhausted and emotionally drained. As we staggered towards the parking lot, we found Flash hiding underneath the car, still holding the tennis ball in his mouth. We took Flash and Mac home and decided to go to the Black Bear for dinner. The special on the menu that night was fish and chips. As we munched on our cod, we agreed that this acting stuff sure takes a lot out of you. We also agreed on something else: Fish had never tasted so good.
-- Buck Dopp
Updated on 9.28.2009
I Hated Cats!
I hated cats! Growing up, cats always killed our baby chicks, ducks and bunnies. Then one day, while walking along the Chesapeake/Delaware canal, Stephanie and I saw a wet little kitten that had just crawled out of the cold, salt water. She was shivering and looked like skin and bones. Apparently someone had thrown a litter of kittens in the canal and this one managed to swim to shore.
Stephanie called out to the little kitty, "Come ?ere, little one," and turning to me said, "If it comes to me, I?ll pick it up." The little gray tabby staggered and stumbled over the rocks adjacent to the canal towards Stephanie, who rewarded the brave effort by picking her up. We named the kitten the Little Rascal and called her Rascal for short. We made a warm bed for her and heated up some milk because that?s what we thought kittens drank.
The first snowfall of winter came that night and it blanketed everything in several inches of snow. If we had not been walking and if that kitten hadn't?t approached us at that precise moment, Rascal would have died that night.
From that day on, Rascal lived on our property, electing to spend the night inside only during blizzards and freezing rain. When they thought we weren't looking, Rascal and our golden retriever Mac would cuddle together with Rascal using Mac as a pillow. We never had a problem with mice and rats after Rascal came on board.
We tried to take Rascal with us when we moved, but she chose to live out her days on the land she grew up on and loved. Now, whenever I see a cat, I think of Rascal.
Rascal taught me to love cats.
My Grampa Was a Famous Man
My Grampa was a famous man. Well, I thought he was, anyway. When I was growing up in Des Moines, Iowa and just a few feet tall, I was absolutely convinced that my Grampa was a famous man. I'll tell you why.
Grampa frequently visited our home and when it was time for him to leave he would bring my sister, brother and I out to his car and say the same thing every time: "Let's see what Grampa has in his trunk for you." With that comment, Grampa would, with a flourish, fling open the trunk of his car to reveal box loads of candy! All kinds of candy! Baby Ruths, Butterfingers, Snickers, Mars bars, Milky Ways, hard candy, soft candy, candy sticks and my favorite: BRACHS MINTS!
God must have made BRACHS MINTS on the sixth day when he was getting good at making stuff. They had a white, menthol-mint center covered with milk chocolate on the outside. There were two of these large chocolate mints in each bar which was then covered with a green aluminum wrapper: because you couldn't have just one! They were oval shaped so you could either gulp them down in one bite, all at once, or savor them as I did--by letting them just get absorbed into the roof of your mouth --where the sweetness could quickly do its work and send you into that glorious sugar high.
But I digress--not only did my Grampa have a trunk load of candy all the time, his trunks were big too! Nothing small about Grampa's cars, he had the old fashioned gas guzzlers, like his midnight green Pontiac Catalina---which seemed more like an aircraft carrier on wheels than a car. It had a cavernous trunk and it was full-- jam packed full--of candy. That gave me bragging rights with my friends and I kept them spellbound with stories that got ever richer in detail about my famous Grampa and his big car filled with candy.
When I was about seven, I went to work with Grampa. It didn't seem like work to me though. Grampa just drove around Des Moines, Iowa, visiting his friends--pulling his goodies from that big trunk, box loads at times--and giving them to his friends. Then they would talk about sports and have a smoke together while I stood there and watched. Sometimes they had a cup of coffee and I had a pop while they talked. Then he would go to the next friend's place and do the same thing. It was only much later I learned that these friends were really customers and he was doing business. But to Grampa they WERE his friends.
His clients trusted him to stock their shelves with the right kinds and amounts of candy. Not too much so the candy would go unsold and get stale and not too little so they would lose out on sales. His customers signed for delivery without even checking what he put on their shelves because they trusted my Grampa. They knew he was an honest man. Grampa's customers never left him and Grampa never left them.
Grampa was not big on talk or giving advice to anyone. He was not much of a public speaker to say the least. But one time I did press him to give me some advice on business. He said very simply that the main thing was to be honest with people, be a man of integrity. I learned that lesson from Grampa by watching him, not because he bragged about doing it.
In my own 27 year business career, not a day went by that I didn't remember what Grampa taught me: that profit is only a by-product of trusting relationships by people who deliver service or quality products to others.
So what does this story have to do with Spring anyway? Today is Easter. Do you realize that Easter is like the Super Bowl for candy salesmen? Easter eggs, jelly beans and those chocolate bunnies! Those things always remind me of my Grampa and to me he was, and will always be, famous.
Buck Dopp Easter Sunday 4.4.2010
Grampa and Grandma Dopp. 1954
An American Miracle
Sports Illustrated called it "the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century." In the excitement of the game, Sportscaster Al Michaels, who did the play by play, coined the phrase "Do you believe in miracles?"On February 22, 1980, at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, a determined team of American college students defeated professional hockey players from the Soviet Union. That hockey game will be forever known as "The Miracle on Ice."
I remember quite vividly my frame of mind, and situation in life, in February 1980. I was 29 years old, married with three small children. Although I was a college graduate, I couldn't get a job in Sioux Falls, South Dakota so I worked for a temporary agency. My regular assignment was to empty the garbage in the dorms at a local college for about $4.00 per hour. It was demeaning and especially so because I was being bossed around all day by a guy younger than me, a high school drop-out, who drove the truck. I felt like a failure and I was embarrassed by my circumstances. I daily fought off the fear that I wouldn't be able to pay my bills, make the rent or even feed my family.
America's image as a Super Power had been diminished in the eyes of the world when our government seemed weak in response to the taking of 52 hostages by Iran. Inflation was out of control and Americans were dealing with the rising cost of gas and unemployment. It seemed that our country was humiliated and mocked by the rest of the world and that our best days were behind us.
I felt an emotion of gloom in our country and my own household continued to struggle with too much month left over at the end of the money. My wife worked full-time, also with a temp agency, but most of her earnings were wiped out by daycare expenses. We seemed to be in an abyss with no way out. A friend had recently told me, "The American Dream is Dead." I didn't want to believe that but it was getting harder, with each passing day, to believe in the American Dream and that it was attainable for me.
I had a dream for my life and had been hopeful that my wife and I could make it come true. But in February 1980, I was discouraged. It seemed to me that no one would give me a chance to show what I could do. All I wanted was an opportunity to prove myself. I began reading about the U.S. Olympic hockey team and followed their early victories. It was refreshing to read some good news about America and to get my mind off my own problems. Watching the young Olympians succeed started to give me hope in America and just as importantly, hope in myself.
I had played some intramural hockey in my senior year of college but the only memorable things about my hockey career were two late-night trips to the emergency room to stitch up gashes above my right eye caused by errant hockey sticks. We didn't use helmets.
In 1980, the Soviets were considered the greatest hockey team in the world, superior even to the teams of the National Hockey League. They had won every Olympic hockey gold medal since 1956 except for one. They were the unassailable, defending, world champions. Only thirteen days before, this same American team, was trounced by the Soviets in an exhibition game by a score of 10-3.New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote: "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."
So, how did these young college students beat the well-seasoned, Soviet professionals? According to freelance, hockey journalist, Jamie Fitzpatrick, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Coach, Herb Brooks held numerous tryout camps for several hundred players which even included psychological testing before he picked his final roster. Brooks emphasized speed, conditioning and discipline. Coach Brooks told his players, "Gentlemen, you don?t have enough talent to win on talent alone," which meant they had to play as a team, skate fast and hustle. He brought together the New England and Midwestern players as a team, despite their different personalities, styles, and backgrounds by making himself their common enemy.
Playing as a team also meant that each individual had to accept responsibility for his specific role. When the situation got tough, there was always a player who stepped up to save the day. In their first official Olympic competition, Team USA was behind by one goal against Sweden. With 41 seconds left in the game, Coach Brooks pulled the goalie for the extra attacker and forward, Bill Baker tied the score by scoring a goal with twenty-seven seconds left in the game. If Baker hadn't scored that goal, the Americans would not have even qualified for the medal round.
In the game against the Soviets it was Team Captain, Mike Eruzione who got the game winning goal. With ten minutes left in the game, Eruzione fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle that beat Soviet Goalie, Vladimir Myshkin. As the game winning goal, Eruzione's is the most celebrated.But if Mark Johnson hadn't scored two clutch goals to tie the game at 2-2 and later at 3-3, Eruzione wouldn't have had the game winner. It was a team effort and individuals were stepping up to the challenge.
Goalie, Jim Craig was charged with the monumental task of tending goal for the US. After Eruzione's goal put The US ahead 4-3, the fans, the team and a nation in need of a hero, watched as the 21 year old college student blocked one shot after another. Some of his saves that night were phenomenal. The US only took 16 shots on the Soviet's net while they took 39 shots on the US goal. Craig blocked 36 of them.
After defeating the Soviets, America still had to play one more game against Finland for the gold medal. In that game they also trailed for a time, but ultimately prevailed 4-2.
I will never forget the iconic image of Jim Craig in 1980 being mobbed by his team, draped with the American flag. Coach Brooks said of Jim Craig, "He was a tower of strength for us."When I watched that game, I was filled with excitement and hope for my country. I will never forget the emotions it aroused. Once again, I was proud to be an American and I was glad that someone was not ashamed to wave Old Glory. Their victory gave me confidence that I could succeed too.
In 2001, I had the opportunity to meet Jim Craig and shake his hand. He was in Philadelphia to promote a youth hockey clinic and a reunion game to be played the following year. I never thought I would ever get to meet him. I was as excited as a kid meeting Santa Claus for the first time and too nervous to say much. Jim was soft spoken and polite to everyone. He gave me the impression that he wasn't there as a sports hero, but simply as a guy who wanted to promote the game he loves. He was a gentleman and a class act.
The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center had fallen about three months earlier by terrorists wanting to destroy America. Our country was again faced with serious challenges and Americans felt a sense of unity that I had not seen before. This historical context made Jim's visit all the more significant and aroused the same emotions in me that the American victory inspired in 1980: pride in America and hope for my future. By 2001, I had achieved a successful professional career in management for a top corporation. I was still proud of America and Jim Craig but now I was also proud of myself and my career. A lot had changed for me since 1980.
I watched as he gave a five minute interview about "The Miracle on Ice."Jim talked about how Coach Brooks chose the players for the team. There were better players he might have picked but Brooks wanted team chemistry and players with the moral values to put team goals ahead of individual goals. He also spoke of his admiration for his teammates who were willing to take the risks necessary in order to win.
Not once did Craig talk about himself or his own accomplishments. He didn't mention his 36 saves against the 39 shots on goal on that historic night. What he did talk about was his respect for the Soviet team and how the Americans knew they were underdogs but still believed they could beat the world?s best. Jim was still the consummate team player and reminded me again that if you have faith, anything is possible.
Before leaving the studio that day, Jim autographed a picture in a newspaper clipping which was taken just after the US had defeated Finland. He's holding his stick and the American flag. He wrote, "To Buck, all the best, Jim Craig, 1980 Gold."
The newspaper article is yellow now but I still get tears in my eyes when I read it, just as