We’re wishing our friend T.J. Fetters and all his associates the best today as they host some 300 athletes and coaches for the Northeast Regional Softball Tournament – a Special Olympics event. And we’re wishing all the best to all the athletes, too – have a great day on the diamonds.

There are a lot of reasons to support Special Olympics and a lot of positive things the events provide. Just two:

– Interaction with other folks who might be experiencing some of the same challenges you do and who have lived through some of the same experiences: hanging out with people who understand does anyone’s soul good.

– Positive interaction with a whole lot of folks who wouldn’t necessarily understand that interaction can mean a lot. People want to be nice; but what do you do? You’re never sure what’s appropriate (even when you’re smart enough to know full well that the standards don’t change for the disabled). As a member of the general population, you don’t know what to say ... but when you see a woman with a ribbon and medal around her neck, it gets easier. You admire the medal. You congratulate her. You might ask her what she won. She gets to explain things to you ... it’s all good.

We printed a feature yesterday in advance of the tournament and it presented the idea of inclusivity. Sure, there are cynics who sometimes stupidly confuse the word with pampering or placating or mollycoddling. The idea of inclusivity and providing venues and events especially for people with disabilities is about caring. Inclusivity provides a way for these special Olympians to speak, be heard and seen and applauded. It means they get to compete and do all the things we all have enjoyed doing to some degree – running hard, catching and throwing, being excited and celebrating.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the program. The competition is on from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at Blackburn Talley Sports Complex. Everyone is welcome to stop by and watch the athletes take the field.

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Thumbs Down: For a few days we’d been forewarned that Aretha Franklin was very ill. That’s what was said – she was gravely ill. It was a way of saying she would soon die.

You sort of got used to that idea, but even still, when you turned on a radio and heard her excellent voice coming at you – wonderful lows, beautiful  highs, soft at the right place, belted out in the right place, all the nuance you could expect – you understood that it happened. Aretha Franklin had passed away. And even with the forewarning, it was a bit of a shock.

You are struck, from time to time, with something so momentous and grand and beautiful that you just have to stop and deal with the lump in your throat. Aretha Franklin’s voice was among those things.

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Thumbs Up: I don’t mean to take advantage of my access to this space for the purpose of promoting an event sponsored by a service club I belong to, but ... well, I guess I am.

We’re hoping that the smoky atmosphere rolls back for tonight as the Marysville Kiwanis Club throws one of its two big fundraising shindigs of the year: Hogs & Hulas. The event is tonight, gates opening at 5 p.m., at the Sycamore Ranch day use area (just a short drive east on Hwy. 20). The food is excellent, and the atmosphere – under the grove of trees next to the Yuba River – is beautiful. If you haven’t been, you should give it a try. The club takes the thousands of dollars raised and invests it in local youth programs of all sorts.

Also high on the entertainment list tonight: The Event. The annual concert was started a few years back to give locals a fun night outside listening to quality music. This year, it features rising star Tyler Rich, a hometown hero. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. at Peach Tree Golf & Country Club.

One way or another, have fun tonight. 

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Ugh: A couple went to the wife’s 10-year high school reunion. Everyone was visiting and having a great time, but the husband noticed a guy who was obviously getting drunk and staring at his wife.

“Honey,” the husband said. “Do you know that guy over there that’s having all the drinks?”

She looked over, saw who it was and sighed.

“Yes, that’s my old boyfriend ... he became quite a drinker after I broke up with him and it looks like he hasn’t stopped, yet.”

“Wow,” said the husband. “Ten years ... that’s a long time to celebrate.”

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