Thursday, February 3, 2011

Classic Sports Thursday

Perhaps this is stretching the definition of "sports" a bit, but on the other hand the logo in the upper right clearly says "ESPN Classic,"* so I consider myself justified!

*I'm not positive, but this may well have been one of the last times ESPN had anything "classic" on.

And speaking of classic, what could be more classic than Jack LaLanne?

When Jack LaLanne died last week at the age of 96, a co-worker of mine said, in obvious reference to the "Total Gym," that she'd always thought of Jack as the "Eternal Gym." And who could argue with that? It seemed unlikely that he'd ever die; more likely, in fact, that he'd come back any day with some new exercise show. I met someone once, a person who exercised frequently, who had no idea who Jack LaLanne was. Age was no excuse; she wasn't that much younger than I was. Nor was she a stupid woman. No, the only thing that could be said was that she was ignorant, and before you jump on me for using that word I use it more in sympathy than in scorn.

Imagine not knowing who Jack LaLanne is! The man who brought exercise to the masses, five days a week in the comfort of their own living room. The man who transcended mere jumping jacks (no pun intended) to show that fitness was holistic, a matter of mind and soul as well as body. Watch that video up there again. It's not just strong muscles that Jack worked for - he was a believer in the health of the total person. Eating right, thinking right, living right - the physical exercise was only part of the whole package. Richard Simmons made a big deal out of this years ago, but Jack LaLanne was first. Shows like "The Biggest Loser" could only hope to make the impession that Jack did. Every workout show on TV since the late 50s owes something to Jack LaLanne, who crossed over to shows as diverse as the detective drama Peter Gunn (playing himself) and Groucho Marx' game show You Bet Your Life.

Not know who Jack LaLanne was? What about Happy, the big white dog that would frequently nose around the set during his show? Or his wife Elaine, who would join him in a later version of his series? (The "New" Jack LaLanne show, as I recall.) And the corny organ music that somehow seemed to fit right in to an era when the organ was the musical accompaniment for soap operas. Or his trademark closing theme, sung to the tune of "It's Now or Never"? Not know who Jack LaLanne was? Anyone who didn't know about Jack LaLanne was missing an entire chunk of the pop culture of the 50s, 60s, 70s - heck, you can walk into most stores and buy his Power Juicer, with his picture right there on the side of the box - looking as if he could probably still do 100 one-handed pushups. Or at least more than I could.

I'm old enough to remember the Jack LaLanne show when it was in first-run (on Channel 9 here in the Twin Cities), but I was fortunate enough to see the show again when it ran on ESPN Classic a few years back. Hopefully, that woman who'd never heard of him might have run across one of those shows, perhaps stopped for a few minutes to watch and listen to what he had to say. She might have thought the exercise routines were simplistic, the jokes corny, the motivational talk over the top. But, then again, she might have found herself surprised by how relevant his ideas still were, how far ahead of his time he really was in his thinking, and how much fun the show really was to watch.

In that spirit, one can only suspect that God is in much better shape today than He was a couple of weeks ago, and that St. Peter is doing two or three laps around the Pearly Gates every morning before breakfast.
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