Controlled by Our Imagination

Controlled by our imagination

Controlled by Our Imagination, is sport and history and inspiration for us all. But more than anything else, it is The Neighborhood Motto.

Those who dream by day
are cognizant of many
things that escape those
who dream only by night.
– Edgar Allen Poe


written & developed by Kendall F. Person

On August 4, 1936, James Cleveland Owens, better known as Jesse, would flirt with disaster. A day removed from winning his first gold medal in the Olympic Games’ showcase event – the 100 meter finals – he had already established himself as the world’s fastest man by pulling away from the world class field at the 50 meter mark, leaving only dust in his wake; he also humbled a nation, that  was beginning to believe in a demagogue’s ideology of their being a master race,  called  Aryans, In fact, it may have been that humility of a people, or at least a person, that served as the catalyst for Jesse Owens to become an Olympic hero and an American legend.

Sixty years later, on July 26, 1996 in the Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia USA, Kerri Strug, a member of the United States Olympic Gymnastic Team – dubbed the Magnificent Seven – would under-rotate her landing on the vault during the final rotation, causing her to fall and badly damage her ankle. With the gold medal in the women’s team competition theirs to lose, and with the Russians, with equal jitters, breathing down their neck, the American team appeared on the verge of  an epic collapse.Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens was attempting to do what no other Track & Field Olympian had ever done before, and would not accomplish again for 48 years: win four gold medals at a single Olympiad. With the eyes of over 100,000 spectators inside of Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Germany upon him, millions more listening on radio around the globe, nerves finally begin to crack, as Jesse Owens would scratch on his first two attempts in the long jump competition.  He would receive only one more try, should he not hit his mark, a failed attempt would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Meanwhile, six decades away, Kerri Strug waited patiently for the Russians to error, and gift the gold to the Americans, without her having to make a second attempt, for it was becoming excruciating to even stand. But as if scripted for maximum drama, it would be the American Dominique Moceanu, who would miss her mark, falling on both attempts, placing the Magnificent Seven’s legacy in the hands of a wounded Strug.

According to Alex Schlegel, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth University, our imagination lies in the human brain’s “mental workplace”, a neural network that coordinates activity across several regions of the brain…allowing us to focus intently and rapidly in order to solve complex problems and think up new ideas.* If the data is to be accepted, it is therefore imagination that separates humans from chimpanzees of which our DNA is 99% identical.** It is the imagination that allowed Paul Nipkow to send images over wires using a rotating metal disc, giving rise to modern day television. It is the imagination that served Dr. Charles Drew when he discovered a way to bank blood, revolutionizing the medical profession.***  And it was the imagination of South Africans  that averted a bloody civil war by investing their hopes and emotions into a united symbol of peace. And it would be the imagination that would launch two Olympians, 60 years apart, into super stardom.Kerri Strug
Rather it was humility he felt that prior day, the spirit of the Olympics or perhaps he was simply  a nice guy, long jump silver medalist, Luz Long, a German both by birth and nationality, and according to Adolf Hitler, a member of the master race, would offer Jesse Owens a tip of valued advice. Jesse’s speed would propel him through the air, but in the competitive sport of long jump, there is a specific mark a jumper must not surpass before taking flight. Jesse missed the white board, located a short distance from the sand pit, on  prior attempts, disqualifying the marks of both jumps. So Luz told him to jump prior to the mark, meaning he would have to fly  a longer distance, but it was chance he had to take. Pressure overwhelming, nerves beginning to crack, Jesse shook it all off, rocked back into position, and like a rocket, blasted off into the orbit of long jumper’s lane.

When Dominique fell, Kerri looked at her coach, knowing what he was going to say, but she was in such pain, she had to ask anyway, “Do we need this?” Without flinching, the legendary gymnastic coach, Bela Karolyi, said, “We need you one more time for the gold.” Attempts to mask her limp failed, as she found her way to vaulters lane. The famed Georgia Dome fell silent and with television now a common technology, hundreds of millions watched from around the world.  I have no idea what was in her mind, when she stood and stared at the vault, that had defeated her on the first try. But she paused for a moment, rocked back in her stance, and with the speed of a gazelle, made haste, moving closer toward the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.



To the crowds, their runs must have seemed like slow motion, but it took less than five seconds until they were forced to jump. They soared through the air, in Berlin, there was no flag raised, Jesse had hit his mark. In Atlanta, Kerri hit hers too, but while his problem was in the beginning, hers would come at the end. Jesse soared like an eagle, moving his legs as if he were propelling himself to fly. Kerri dove toward the vault, then somersaulted off, into thin air. And as gravity took hold, the Olympians began their descent. And in the tiny fractions of a second, in which they had to plan their escape, it was not prowess of an athlete, that initiated their go-to plan, but it was the mind’s imagination that shifted into high gear, devising a plan and transmitted signals to all parts of the body – in a neurological chorus of song  – places, everyone take their places, as they were needed to deliver a once in a lifetime performance.

A few inches was no match for James Cleveland Owens, as he had willed himself far enough to stay in the hunt of what began as an unimaginable quest, but would end, in herculean success: quadruple gold. The imagination’s plan for Kerri was to land on one ankle, the good one, and hold her breath. She hit the floor, posed long enough to satisfy the judges, and while her body collapsed in pure agony, her heart, soul and mind, reveled in gold.

referenced media
**Mail Online
*** Inventors

57 Comments on “Controlled by Our Imagination

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  9. will and determination, all other forces difficult for me to ‘imagine.’ Sheer joy in remembrance! Holding my breath in anticipation all those years ago and again reading your amazing words, Kendall. Well done, as always.:)

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. I read this not because I needed instruction or direction; I read it for the pure joy and inspiration. And, as expected, I wasn’t disappointed. Beautifully told Kendall. I remember that day when she landed that vault. I’ve seen it replayed dozens of times. It still makes me tear up every time. The sheer determination and bravery it took. And thanks to your post and its thoughtful juxtaposition with Owens’ momentous achievement 60 years earlier, I will now think of another element their accomplishments — through the eyes of imagination…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ned – Controlled by Our Imagination, I consider The Neighborhood’s ‘motto show’ (if you will, I am sure there is a better word) because it reminds me that whenever I hit a stopper, if I just use my imagination, there is someway to go around it (like landing on one foot or jumping before you have to). I am so glad that you not only found its meaning, but have interpreted for yourself. You are appreciated Funny Man. Very much. – KP

      Liked by 2 people

      • My father always told me here are no road blocks — only detours. And it’s on the detours that new trails are blazed. I’ve never forgotten that. He may not have ever landed on one foot before a crowd of millions, but his personal feats are memories I have called upon a million times when I needed to see the detour instead of the road block 😉

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  16. Great story, but you fail to mention that Jesse Owens was never allowed to compete after Berlin, when he declined a trip to Sweden and evoked the wrath of the USOC

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great article my friend. As a skeptic, I know I have to be optimistic no matter what. Thank you for the follow and for the good articles as well my my man!

    Liked by 1 person

    • it took me nearly 2 decades to comprehend what your last sentence actually meant, and upon an understanding of both the craft of writing and the power of the written word, and of course beautiful words like yours, I accept and take the blessing to heart. Welcome to The Neighborhood.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Talk about keeping me on the edge of my seat!

    I thoroughly enjoyed the framing of each athlete’s story as separate, then meshed.

    Fantastic technique!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Controlled by Our Imagination was one of those rare things, that when you are done, you wonder how did you do that, then chuckling to yourself and hope for another. {big smile}. Thank you for commenting on the technique and welcome to The Neighborhood.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Fantastic read. Imagination is so important and I believe the best way to exercise and grow that imagination is to read and write, express yourself through blogs or words, to watch films that challenge you and even to play games that stimulate your mind and make you think.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great piece! Really enjoyed it even when I am not an American. I can imagine the intensity of emotions for those who are 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Your site just keeps me coming back for more, man. Sorry I haven’t responded much, though I do read regularly! Been a bit of a chaotic month for me – in a good way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I do read regularly!” The Neighborhood has ‘season-pass’holders, who never miss a show. There are frequent visitors, and readers who support as often as they can. But those 4 words put together, I do not think I have ever seen them in speaking of thepublicblogger. I cannot stop staring. Thank you, alanjryland, I look forward to introducing your music to The Neighborhood, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I held my breath to the end, even knowing the outcome because your writing was THAT good! Such a terrific post, Kendall. Each and every time I learn something new from you, or a flicker within comes back to life for me. As always, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kim – I am laughing to myself, because when I hit publish, I am generally sure that The Neighborhood has put its best foot forward. Every now and then, I have no idea how my words will be received. But Controlled by Our Imagination, was one of those Performances, that I knew neighbors, visitors and guests would enjoy. Thank you, Kim. You are well award, if not, you are now, that your beautiful, meaningful comments about my work inspire me to do more. To try harder…. until I hit the sun.


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