The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Bill Eggert

December 26, 2010

BILL EGGERT | A look in the rearview mirror as 2010 winds down

CRESSON — In the afterglow of Christmas 2010, we segue into the approaching New Year’s Eve, as we bid goodbye to the ‘“old year” in review.

Hope springs eternal for dreams and aspirations for 2011.

One of my Mount Rushmore of comedians, the late Jack Benny, used to do a running skit on his radio show (and later on TV) called “The New Tenant” at the end of each year.

In this skit, he played the outgoing year as an elderly man leaving his domicile, saying goodbye to “Uncle Sam” (played by announcer Don Wilson) and his wife “Columbia” (played by Wilson’s wife), while giving advice to the “New Year” (played by a 6-year-old boy).

The skits were always poignant and touching, played straight and not for the usual laughs.

Everyone gets a bit misty-eyed as we say goodbye not only to the old year, but to family and friends we lost during the past year.

This year Johnstown said goodbye to Congressman John Murtha, and the end of an era.

We also said goodbye to various cultural figures: Bob Feller, J.D. Salinger, Teddy Pendergrass, Lynn Redgrave, Dixie Carter, Fess Parker, John Forsythe and Robert Culp among them.

Many of them touched our lives with their talent and/or their lives. They made their mark in the world in their own unique way.

Each year my friend Shawn had put up a photo section on his Facebook site that he devoted to those who had passed away.  I referred to that to list to write this paragraph. Ironically, Shawn also passed this year; along with Ron, another old friend.

Two seemingly indestructible “brands” took it on the chin this year: Toyota and Tiger Woods.

President Obama admitted he took a “shellacking,” with the Democrats’ stinging defeat in the November election, following his own personal Katrina crisis in the summer – the Gulf oil spill by British Petroleum, which also took one on the chin.

In sports, we had the Big Ben-gate scandal, adding to the baggage (motorcycle accident, etc.) that Roethlisberger continues to bring with him.

While dealt a harsh punishment by the NFL, Roethlisberger seems to be paying a physically painful price by opposing players, who injure Ben with broken noses and various injuries, with relatively little support from either the NFL or his head coach.

Meanwhile, fellow teammate James Harrison is fined exorbitant amounts of money this season for seemingly looking crossways at opposing players.

Head coach Mike Tomlin is becoming as surly as Bill Cowher was at his press conferences.

Tomlin praised dirty teams like the Ravens and Raiders, while not supporting injuries to players like Heath Miller.

Maybe it’s time for Tomlin to be sent packing, as were Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt and Pirate manager John Russell in 2010.

Every New Year’s Eve, I take a moment to remember my childhood idol Roberto Clemente, who died New Year’s Eve 1972 in a plane crash.

The Pirate all-star left his wife and three young children to personally deliver relief supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Can you imagine Tiger Woods or Barry Bonds spending their New Year’s Eve on a mission of mercy?

On a personal level, I suffered a couple of health setbacks this year, but have emerged relatively unscathed.

These wake-up calls made me realize how important (and fragile) health can be, and makes you appreciate that there are people who are worse off, health-wise, than you.

So, as we prepare for our New Year’s Eve parties, let us take a moment to remember our unsung heroes: Our health-care providers, our military, our law-enforcement, firefighters and first responders.

They are the true heroes of this past year – and every year.

And as the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” fill the air, let us all hope and pray for a healthy, happy and safe 2011.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident.

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