Wednesday, February 24, 2010

There's a First Time for Everything

      Along with most of the world, I have been watching the Winter Olympics. Seeing the athletes, particularly skiers and snowboarders, flipping, twisting and turning through the air has got me to thinking about the first person to do certain things.
      For example, think about the first person to do a flip, a spin or a twist on skis. He was gutsy enough, but how about the first guy to combine them into one jump. What was he thinking? Would you do it? Neither would one person in a thousand.
      The same applies to the first person to navigate the half-pipe in snowboarding. And the snowboarder to do all those flips, spins and twists for the first time.
      I went to Youtube to review Dick Button’s gold medal performance in 1948. It looks a bit anemic today, but the jumps he performed were firsts for a new era in ice skating.
      Getting away from athletes, think about Alan Shepard, the first American in space. And John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. Or Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin, the first men on the moon.
      More mundane things have firsts too. Many musicians have duplicated Benny Goodman’s clarinet solos, but he was the first.
      Dizzy Gillespie recorded the first bebop solo on Little John Special in 1942.
      And how about Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the forerunner of, for example, the unforgettable Jaws music?
      There are, of course, many firsts closer to home than these public firsts. Remember the first crush you had? How about your first formal dance? Your first kiss? Your first…whatever?
      But you get the idea.

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