A Silver Lining

This past week was a tough one for me. I had a head cold which made my head feel like Barry Bonds must feel like after the steroid use overinflated his noggin.  In addition, my son had some tests done that were stressful. Lastly, there was great frustration (usually just frustration) regarding work this week.  So, by the time the end of the week rolled around, I was anxious for the weekend.  However, there were some silver linings along the way.

Remember the movie Pay it Forward? The movie which was based on a novel came out in 2000.  The premise of the movie was to do kind deeds for others as a way of paying back someone who did something kind for you. So, this way you are paying it forward with the hope that one kind deed will lead to more and make the world a happier place.  A bit corny – maybe – but the basic premise of doing kind things for others without expecting something in return other than them doing something kind for a third person is cool.  While the movie did only mediocre at the box office, the term seems to have lived on.

In fact, the term came to me when I heard a news story last month. Apparently people were paying off the layaway bills of strangers at Kmart stores in a number of states including Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, and Montana.  The disc jockey who noted this story was cynical and thought it was suspicious that it was just Kmart and suspected it was some sort of promotion. Sad – some people can observe kindness and not even recognize it. Anyway, maybe those Secret Santas, as they called themselves, were just paying it forward.

The silver linings in an otherwise dreary week were both examples of kindness to a stranger.  I’ve had multiple dealings with a connection through an acquaintance that I never see.  This woman, who doesn’t know me from Adam, has gone out of her way to assist me in something that has no benefit to her. She emails back in minutes and apologizes for not doing more. I just hope my thank you came off sincerely enough and that I could help her or another in some way. Secondly, while powerwalking through Port Authority Friday morning, my briefcase somehow came open and my computer along with a bunch of papers fell out.  As I stooped down to pick everything up, a man came by, offered assistance, provided it even though I said, “it’s okay,” and said, “happens to all of us, have a good weekend.”  As he walked off – I didn’t even see his face – I was struck by how kind his act was and it made me want to do something nice for someone. I was inspired.

These two random acts of kindness helped save me from one of those weeks. Maybe those people were just paying it forward. Either way, maybe I should continue the kindness – it would be nice to be the highlight of someone else’s week and lift them up.

Give Me Warmth

“Who wants to wipe me,” my younger son yells? If neither my wife nor I instantly appear, he yells again, “Somebody wipe me!”  My older son will walk into my room – does he even know the word knock – and tell me, “You can get me a snack. I want pretzels, cut apple, and juice please.” As soon as his order is placed, he turns on his heels and heads back to his room. Ahh, my children are so good to me.  They are such givers – making me a proud pop.

I know, I know they are at ages (5 & 7) where they only understand things as they relate to them especially when they are watching television. Sample conversation with the children while they are watching television – “Boys I don’t feel well.” Silence. “I have a head ache. I don’t feel well!!!” “Oh,” they respond. “Say feel better,” I instruct. Silence. I raise my voice, “Say it, say it, say feel better.”  They manage to get out a, “feel better.”  Then a commercial comes on and their conversational skills are revived, “What’s for dinner?”  Empathy baby, empathy.

The children suck up money, wake up early, leave a mess around the house, monopoloize the television and computer, and disturb the peace and quiet. Pride and joy man, pride and joy.  Logic question if I may: What are they good for? I don’t mean that they might have to care for me when I am elderly, or mow the lawn/shovel the snow, carry in a package from the grocery store though that would be nice. I mean what are they good for now? I want some return on my time, emotional commitment, and money. I don’t think that is too much to ask for – reasonable actually.

I’ve found something – not quite a Columbus like find, so, no chance for a national holiday with this discovery. However, I believe parents around the world will appreciate this. My children are human heating blankets. They are always warm. So, when my hands or nose are cold, which they often are, I go to my children. I take them in for a hug and make sure to rub my nose on them or stick my hands on their necks.  “Hey, you’re so cold,” they whine. “I know and you’re so warm. I need your warmth. Come here let me hug you one more time.”  I grab them one more time and steal some warmth and make sure to tickle them, so they don’t mind my frigidness all that much.

So, these children actually do have something to offer. Some day they will be self-sufficient, and one day further down the line may have to take care of me. However, for now I’ll take their warmth and be happy for the heat.

A Champion in a Day

So you’ve got big New Year’s eve plans – a crazy party, going to watch the ball drop, find someone to kiss, mumble the words to “Auld Lang Syne” (I had to look up the title). I hope it will be memorable in a good way. Me – I’m just excited for the next day Jan.1 . I am ready to watch some college football – some great games going on with the final game deciding the championship. Wait a minute. It’s January 8th – New Year’s eve is long gone. So, who is the national champion? The game takes place on Monday, January 9th – huh?

Of course I knew it all along. It’s just that I miss the old format.  It was exciting to watch the January 1st college bowl games – Outback, Sugar, Cotton, Fiesta, and Orange – throughout the day.  You knew the top teams with their storied programs – Notre Dame, Miami, Michigan, Texas, Nebraska, USC, Penn State, Alabama, etc. – would be there and the quality of play would be supreme.  This year on January 1st (well the 2nd actually as the first was a Sunday and therefore dedicated to the NFL), there were six games played and some big name programs were competing and a few of the games were competitive. Yet, they had no bearing on the National Championship.  Of course, these days, with the BCS system setting up a game between number one and number two, there is only one game that has any true bearing on the National Championship. 

I simply miss having the big name teams and meaningful games on one day. When all the games were on one day, it was fun to spend one day flipping the channels watching college football because you knew at the end of the day (night actually) there would be a national champion. My wife tells the story of how one New Year’s day she watched nine hours of college football. Her mother walked in at one point and noted she was watching football. She came in a few hours later and asked, “How come they changed uniforms?” By the time she came in a third time and saw still more uniforms, she was completely confused.

Now, the NCAA strings the season along with games nearly every day from the first till the big game a week or so later. Not only that but the games are often between mediocre teams. In fact, there was a contest on Saturday between two teams whose respective records were 6-6 and 7-5.  Other than alumni, who cares?  Get to the point – bring on the national championship game. By the time it is finally game night, either you’ve watched the earlier games and overdosed on college football or you’ve skipped them all together. I don’t even care about the game at this point as it seems anticlimactic.

I hope those of you who have a strong rooting interest enjoy the Allstate BCS Championship Game. I cannot name one player on either LSU or Alabama and have no intention of watching the game.  College football is over for me. My season ends on January 1st.

The Love of Sports

This past weekend was the Winter Classic. For those who are unfamiliar with what the classic is, let me explain. It is a hockey game that takes place on New Year’s Day or just after. What makes it special is that it is the only game of the NHL season that is played outdoors. This year was the fifth classic. It generates a lot of excitement amongst hockey fans and is one of hockey’s premier events. This year the classic took place in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Flyers have a passionate following in the city. The fans long for another Stanley Cup, as it has been over 35 years since the Flyers won the coveted trophy. That championship team, affectionately referred to as the Broad Street Bullies, actually won back to back cups with the second following the 1974 -75 season. While I am too young to remember the team, the car horns honking in the streets in celebration is one of my earliest memories.  Anyway, part of the Winter Classic, there was an alumni game with a number of players who played on those championship teams on the ice (the oldest was 68).  The fans went crazy for these players as well as the more recent alumni. I wonder why they were so interested. The game does not count towards the standings, it was hardly going to be top notch hockey, and the tickets were expensive. I say they, but I admit I was interested as well. While I neither attended nor watched the game, I read a number of articles about the game and was excited to read the details surrounding the event. 

We, the fans, feel an attachment to the players we rooted for especially those who won. They represent us and bring civic pride. Most of all the players and sports in general bind us fans together. We debate and discuss, enjoy and simmer, and remember and smile. Yes, sports fandom is about emotion. Drop the tough guy stuff. The biggest fans have the least control of their emotions. They are crazed – why else go shirtless in the freezing temperatures, or paint your face and scream yourself horse, or spend hours watching.  We fans, or fanatics, lose control. Those players who reward our craziness by their spectacular play have our neverending affection. So, the alumni game, while meaningless in the standings, is meaningful in much more important ways – it reminds us why we love sports.