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Allison Davis O’Keefe

One Goal

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Grand Forks, North Dakota. Winter. It’s so cold you can barely breathe, and 12,000 people don’t care.

They brave the wind, snow, and negative temperatures to watch their beloved University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey team, and they expect a win — because they don’t hang second place banners in their hundred million dollar arena.

In this town children proudly wear the jerseys of 19-year-old superstars; wait hours to collect the signature of those who are college kids one minute and professionals the next. Families plan their lives around hockey – weddings, vacations, honeymoons – and the most common outfit in Christmas photos is the latest Sioux hockey gear.

Over the course of documenting the team’s 2010-2011 season, I discovered an intrinsic need for people to come together around a common goal – the fans, who support their team with passion, the individual, who commits himself, body and soul, to be a member of the team, and the coach who is a mentor, disciplinarian, and leader.

The goal of every team is to win, but this season the Fighting Sioux seemed destined for glory. They had one goal – to win the national championship. And when, just two games from that goal, they ultimately lost to the University of Michigan at the 2011 Frozen Four tournament, there was shock in their locker room.

It was well past midnight and players couldn’t bring themselves to remove their jerseys or pack up their gear. It was then that I realized this was so much more than a game.

It is about skill, focus, and determination, but also, as I learned, camaraderie, sacrifice, elation, struggle, and, ultimately, a twist of fate, a bounce of the puck.

It is also about relationships, like the one between a father and daughter who never missed a game, even if it meant watching from a hospital bed. Or the relationship between friends who have played together, lived together, and fought together.

This work was published by Burn Magazine as a book entitled One Goal in November 2012.

“(…) One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the look into the otherwise-closed-off life of [Coach] Hakstol. Hakstol is stoic and reserved on the bench and for the media, rarely causing controversy anywhere. But his emotional side exudes throughout, as pictures of him with his fists in the air celebrating a win, or embracing his wife or looking after his kids show a personable side that undoubtedly exists, even if television cameras or column inches in a newspaper don’t show it. And that curiosity perhaps makes Hakstol’s presence in the book an interesting twist” – from Timothy Borger’s review on USCHO.com

“As a Minnesotan I’ve spent many hours watching hockey. My University of Minnesota hockey experiences run from ushering at games as a Boy Scout to photographing the Hockey Gophers when I was at the Minneapolis Tribune. I find the book not only gives an intimate and revealing look at the sport, but also does a great job of communicating the cold and bleakness of winter in North Dakota. Nothing is colder than a windy, snowy, dark night on the prairie. ” – Kent Kobersteen, Former Director of Photography, National Geographic Magazine

 

Bio

Allison Davis O’Keefe is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and the International Center of Photography. Her photography has captured the U.S. landscape in portraits of a cross-country journey, the 2004 & 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns, the apex of power on Capitol Hill, and, most recently, the curiosities of life and sports through the lens of a college hockey team’s season. For nine years, Allison worked for CBS News in New York and Washington, and as part of the team was honored with an Emmy Award for coverage of 9/11 Allison attended the Eddie Adams Workshop in its 25th anniversary year.

 

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Allison Davis O’Keefe

One Goal

 

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The whole "everyone should learn programming" meme has gotten so out of control that the mayor of New York City actually vowed to learn to code in 2012.

Bloomberg-vows-to-code

A noble gesture to garner the NYC tech community vote, for sure, but if the mayor of New York City actually needs to sling JavaScript code to do his job, something is deeply, horribly, terribly wrong with politics in the state of New York. Even if Mr. Bloomberg did "learn to code", with apologies to Adam Vandenberg, I expect we'd end up with this:

10 PRINT "I AM MAYOR"
20 GOTO 10

Fortunately, the odds of this technological flight of fancy happening – even in jest – are zero, and for good reason: the mayor of New York City will hopefully spend his time doing the job taxpayers paid him to do instead. According to the Office of the Mayor home page, that means working on absenteeism programs for schools, public transit improvements, the 2013 city budget, and … do I really need to go on?

To those who argue programming is an essential skill we should be teaching our children, right up there with reading, writing, and arithmetic: can you explain to me how Michael Bloomberg would be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder? It is obvious to me how being a skilled reader, a skilled writer, and at least high school level math are fundamental to performing the job of a politician. Or at any job, for that matter. But understanding variables and functions, pointers and recursion? I can't see it.

Look, I love programming. I also believe programming is important … in the right context, for some people. But so are a lot of skills. I would no more urge everyone to learn programming than I would urge everyone to learn plumbing. That'd be ridiculous, right?

Advice-for-plumbers

The "everyone should learn to code" movement isn't just wrong because it falsely equates coding with essential life skills like reading, writing, and math. I wish. It is wrong in so many other ways.

  • It assumes that more code in the world is an inherently desirable thing. In my thirty year career as a programmer, I have found this … not to be the case. Should you learn to write code? No, I can't get behind that. You should be learning to write as little code as possible. Ideally none.
  • It assumes that coding is the goal. Software developers tend to be software addicts who think their job is to write code. But it's not. Their job is to solve problems. Don't celebrate the creation of code, celebrate the creation of solutions. We have way too many coders addicted to doing just one more line of code already.
  • It puts the method before the problem. Before you go rushing out to learn to code, figure out what your problem actually is. Do you even have a problem? Can you explain it to others in a way they can understand? Have you researched the problem, and its possible solutions, deeply? Does coding solve that problem? Are you sure?
  • It assumes that adding naive, novice, not-even-sure-they-like-this-whole-programming-thing coders to the workforce is a net positive for the world. I guess that's true if you consider that one bad programmer can easily create two new jobs a year. And for that matter, most people who already call themselves programmers can't even code, so please pardon my skepticism of the sentiment that "everyone can learn to code".
  • It implies that there's a thin, easily permeable membrane between learning to program and getting paid to program professionally. Just look at these new programmers who got offered jobs at an average salary of $79k/year after attending a mere two and a half month bootcamp! Maybe you too can teach yourself Perl in 24 hours! While I love that programming is an egalitarian field where degrees and certifications are irrelevant in the face of experience, you still gotta put in your ten thousand hours like the rest of us.

I suppose I can support learning a tiny bit about programming just so you can recognize what code is, and when code might be an appropriate way to approach a problem you have. But I can also recognize plumbing problems when I see them without any particular training in the area. The general populace (and its political leadership) could probably benefit most of all from a basic understanding of how computers, and the Internet, work. Being able to get around on the Internet is becoming a basic life skill, and we should be worried about fixing that first and most of all, before we start jumping all the way into code.

Please don't advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.

These are skills that extend far beyond mere coding and will help you in every aspect of your life.

[advertisement] How are you showing off your awesome? Create a Stack Overflow Careers profile and show off all of your hard work from Stack Overflow, Github, and virtually every other coding site. Who knows, you might even get recruited for a great new position!

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