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Sunday at the Post

Texans need to pass protect, ‘Skins can’t give up big plays. Michael Lombardi

Print This November 29, 2009, 07:37 AM EST

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

“Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

“We all face challenges in our lives. What separates men of character from spineless whiners is the way they face those challenges. In the poem ‘Invictus,’ British poet William Ernest Henley describes how a man should respond to challenges. ‘Invictus’ is Latin for ‘unconquerable.’ Every man should have an unconquerable spirit. When life kicks you in the gut, get back up and kick life’s butt.

“The poet himself had the unconquerable spirit which he wrote about. When he was 12, Henley developed tuberculosis in the bone. He had to have his leg amputated to the knee and doctors told him he would have to have the other one amputated if he were to survive. Henley told the docs that they were full of hogwash and let them amputate just one leg. He ended up keeping the other. He led an active life with one leg and had a successful career as a poet and literary critic. Henley was truly the captain of his soul.”

Invictus is in theaters starting Dec. 11. Here is the Web site…

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. This will be a very brief Sunday at the Post because of the holiday weekend. Make sure to watch my interview with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on NFL Network GameDay Morning today.

GAMES OF THE WEEK…

Indianapolis Colts (10-0) at Houston Texans (5-5)

Peyton Manning and Co. are looking to win at least 11 games for the seventh consecutive year, which would set an NFL record.

The Colts are 5-0 on the road this season and have won nine straight road games — the longest road win streak in franchise history. Also, they have won their last five road games by an average of 17 points.

The Texans have to find a way to build a lead and not have to play catch up in the game. They must set the tempo.

Houston has always had a hard time protecting against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, although Freeney is recovering from an abdominal injury and did not make the trip. The defensive end duo seems to make keys plays that create problems for the Texans, but Mathis will have to do it alone.

Washington Redskins (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-4)

The Eagles have outscored their opponents 174-101 in the first half this season.

Donovan McNabb has 14 TDs, five interceptions, and a 95.9 passer rating. He’s 9-4 in his last 13 starts against the Redskins.

To have a chance, Washington must be close at the half and cannot allow big plays in the game. The ‘Skins must keep the score in the teens.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5)

The Steelers are 3-0 in prime-time games this season and 12-1 in prime time under head coach Mike Tomlin, who has won his last 12 night games.

Tomlin’s squad has won its last four Sunday night games, but with QB Ben Roethlisberger sidelined with a concussion, it will be hard for Pittsburgh to be effective on offense.

Remember when we were describing the Ravens as an offensive team in the first few weeks of the season? Well, over the last three weeks, Baltimore has averaged 12.7 points per game, while QB Joe Flacco has struggled with zero TDs and three interceptions. It’s the longest TD drought of his young career. Flacco is 9-4 career at home as starter.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...

“The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.” — William Safire

Alicia Keys on being a businesswoman

Must read: An Old School Social Network

STORIES TO SHARE...

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” — Henry Adams

Misty Spirit

He was in the first third-grade class I taught at St. Mary's School in Morris, Minn. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. (He was) very neat in appearance but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.

Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving: "Thank you for correcting me, Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.

One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice teacher's mistake. I looked at him and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!"

It wasn't 10 seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.

I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing, he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."

At the end of the year, I was asked to teach junior high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instructions in the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in the third.

One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves — and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."

That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" I heard whispered. "I never knew that meant anything to anyone!" "I didn't know others liked me so much!" No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.

That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip — the weather, my experiences in general. There was a light lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a sideways glance and simply said, "Dad?" My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Eklunds called last night," he began. "Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is."

Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend." To this day, I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark.

I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me. The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water.

I was the last one to bless the coffin. As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as pallbearer came up to me. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. "Mark talked about you a lot," he said.

After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chuck's farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him. "Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it."

Mark's classmates started to gather around us. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home." Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put this in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary." Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said, without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists."

That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.

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