Posted by: Andrew | September 27, 2014

Game 162

I just screamed myself hoarse watching the Mariners win game 161.  I’m pretty sure our neighbors heard the eruption of noise on the second to last at bat of the game.  Brad Miller was on second in the bottom of the 11th.  There was one out.  Chris Taylor singled to center and the outfielder bobbled the ball.  I was screaming for Miller to score, but for some reason the 3rd base coach held him at third.  Of course, that was forgotten moments later when Austin Jackson legged out a grounder, turning a double play into a fielder’s chose and allowing Miller to score.

 

Game over.  Mariners live for one more day.

 

This is the time that baseball legends from which baseball legends are crafted.  Across the major leagues, two divisions and a wild card spot will be determined tomorrow. Of course, in the two Central Division races, all four teams will be playing in October.

Not so with the wild card race between the Mariners and the A’s.  Only one of those two teams will be playing baseball in October.

If the Mariners win and if the A’s lose, the two teams meet for a tiebreaker in Seattle on Monday.  In either case, the story will be the same.  Both teams have suffered from unrealized opportunities.  One team will succumb.  The other will overcome.

The Mariner’s have a tough road ahead.  If they win and the A’s lose, the have to win 2 more high pressure games before they can afford the luxury of a loss.  Three elimination games in a row?  It’s a recipe for heartbreak.  Unless…

And that unless is what makes game 162 so critical.  That unless is what baseball is all about. That unless is why the Mariners are still playing.  On paper it should be over.  On paper it should never have been close.  On paper, the Mariners have to beat the best team in baseball while the A’s have to beat one of the worst.  But the games must be played.  The victors must record all 27 outs.  If the A’s win, it’s over, but they have to beat a team that entered the season with high expectations and is left with nothing but the ability to knock a team out of the playoffs.  If the A’s lose, the Mariner’s need to beat the Angels, a tall order.  But they’re giving the ball to their ace, and the Angels are probably more interested in setting up their rotation for the ALDS and resting their starters.

So what story will we be telling on Monday morning. Who is going home, and who is going on?  Who gets to enjoy one more day of summer?

I know it’s not great poetry, and I’ve posted it before, but here ‘s my tribute to autumn baseball.

One More Day

by Andrew Viertel

Spring’s hope long forgotten

Everyday more men fall, succumbing to the inevitable autumn chill

But some remain, playing, nay fighting tooth and nail for survival

Pushing to the limit bodies battered and bruised by the long campaign

Leaving everything on the diamond

In desperate flight from crackling fires and silent snow-shrouded stadia

They fight for glory, to own the diamond, but they also fight to stay alive

Trading rest and comfort for pain and fatigue

Desperately seeking that finite fleeting treasure:

One more day of summer.

#Game162 #GoMariners #refusetolose

Posted by: Andrew | September 22, 2014

Are You Registered ?

Okay, this post is pretty much targeted at U.S. citizens.

In case you haven’t noticed, we have an election coming up in 43 days.  Are you registered to vote?  Voter registration deadlines are coming up, so now is the time to ensure that you are registered.

The United States has shamefully low voter turnout numbers.  I know that part of that is because Americans are increasingly disillusioned with our political system.  With gridlock in Washington and gerrymandered districts designed to block challenges to incumbents and lock in partisan control of a seat, it’s easy to just throw up our hands and feel powerless.  It’s easy to just throw away our hard-won right to vote because we don’t feel like we can make a difference.

That’s what they want you to think.

Who are they?  They are politicians and elites who benefit from public apathy.  They bankroll both parties to the point where their money speaks far more loudly than our votes.

Are you satisfied with your elected officials doing nothing? (I’m looking at you, Congress.)  I’m not.  I want to see change, and robust public debate.  I want to see thoughtful leaders working in the best interest of We the People…real people, not corporations.  This will not happen with the status quo, and the status quo will not change without robust participation on our part.  The only way to make our votes speak louder than the dollars from the moneyed elites is to cast them in huge numbers.

And to cast a vote, in most states you have to register.

I’m going to do more posts encouraging you to vote.  Maybe I haven’t convinced you  yet.  Maybe I’ll write something in late October that pushes you.  More likely, it will be the people and events around you that drive your decision, but to vote you have to lay the groundwork.  To vote you have to register, and the time for that is now.

Please don’t throw away your ability to choose to vote.  Please register.

Today.

Follow this link to the US Election Assistance Commision.  You can register there, or you can find a link to your state’s election officials.

Now is the time to secure your ability to vote.

Posted by: Andrew | September 13, 2014

Twin Ponds Park Revisited

Three years ago, we were introduced to Twin Ponds Park.  At the time, we did not know that this park would become the closest park to our home.  I did not have a camera on me at the time, so I resorted to Haiku to share the beauty of this place.

We were there today, and when the kids ventured into the woods surrounding the pond, I followed them.  I kept my distance, engaging in a little free-range parenting, but stayed close enough to know if I was needed.  But I let them climb trees and play with sticks and chase ducks  and toss rocks into the water.  They had a blast.

Of course, I also had a camera this time.

Children at Play

Children at Play

I posted these poems three years ago, but I thought I’d share them again with pictures.

 

Golden hued sunlight

Daylight’s waning minutes fade

Shine on still waters

Sun-Dappled

Light and water

 

Ducklings and mother

Swim through sun-dappled waters

Beneath verdant leaves.

Ducks at Twin Ponds Park

Ducks at Twin Ponds Park

 

Slanted trunk, strong limbs

Shelter at the water’s edge

Place of summer dreams.

20140913_171803

 

 

Posted by: Andrew | September 9, 2014

From One Crazy Season to Another

Photo by Alissa Viertel

Photo by Alissa Viertel

The leaves are starting to turn, here in the Pacific Northwest.  The mornings are increasingly misty and the days are just a bit cooler.   Whatever hot days may come may slow autumn’s  inexorable advance, but nothing can stop the inevitable. The sun is setting on summer.

Here we are, at the turning of the seasons.  It’s time to wax poetic,   o  observe the contrast between the  carefree days of summer and the hustle and bustle that accompanies the return to school and work and routine of autumn.

Actually, the hustle and bustle tends to infringe on the time one might have to devote to such pursuits as waxing poetic, but I still think the pursuit is a worthy one if you can  swing it.

My summer was not relaxed and carefree.  It started with a flurry of activity: baseball games, parties, ballet recitals and such followed immediately by the start of the kids’ day camp, where they were outside all day and would come home literally covered in dirt.   In other words, they were doing summer right.

In the meantime, Alissa and I had a move to plan.  There was a lot of uncertainty.  We knew the where, but not the when, as we were dependent on a bank approving a short sale to our landlords.

It was hard.  This was to be the last move for a long time, the one that would land us in a situation ripe for the community that we have been craving for the last decade.  There’s a lot more to it; prayer and waiting and ignoring the ticking of the clock in favor of the whisperings of our hearts that told us everything would work, all probability to the contrary.

The clock really didn’t work in our favor.  We ended up moving twice, once to my mom’s (and our stuff to storage) and then to our new home four weeks later.

But, after a frenzied summer getting ready for the move, then  weeks replacing key furniture pieces that we chose to part with (like our bed),  all the while worrying that some piece  of the whole puzzle would fall through, we moved into our new home, just in time for the last week of day camp.

But now, the kids are in school.  It’s odd to say, but sliding back into that school routine is calming if not exactly relaxing.  There’s something about the repetition of reviewing homework and  packing lunches that is normalizing, even when surrounded by boxes.

We’ve got a long way to go before considering ourselves settled.  There’s still work being done on the house.  We spent the weekend without hot water, so that cut into some of our ability to  carry out basic tasks like laundry. But we got our coffee table assembled.  We  found the hardware for Harry’s bed and put his room together.  We got the recliner set  out and listed to give  away. You can  enter our house through the front door and the garage and not risk tripping over a box  along either route: small victories, but victories nonetheless.

So our summer was not relaxing and carefree, but that’s okay because in that stress and chaos, there were good times: evenings in the park  and berry picking in Cashmere and taking a Friday afternoon off to go see the kids in their camp skits and get togethers with our church group while hoards of kids ran through the house and the yard.   We are learning how, against our  (or at least my) nature to find ways to enjoy life even in the midst of difficulty and chaos, and that’s a good thing.

But here’s the really good news.  In the sacrifice of the carefree nature of this summer, I can see the fruits.  We’re getting to know our neighbors.  Our kids have already made friends.  There was a sense of community in  the neighborhood, before we ever moved  in, and it’s a welcoming  one that we’ve already been able to tap into and  hopefully contribute to.   And that’s the vision, the hope that’s been carrying us through this crazy time in our lives.  Our lives were good in the condo.  They got better in our last house, and I can easily see them getting better once again as we move into  our new house.

That’s an important thing.  We’ve always had it good, even if  there were parts that weren’t ideal, but there’s always room for improvement.  I don’t mean that in a “grass is always greener” sense.  That ‘s a recipe for  constant dissatisfaction.  And I don’t mean that our goal is to move from this house  and neighborhood into a “better” one.

In this case, the improvement is in putting down roots for the long haul and  immersing ourselves in the life of our community, our church, our school.   It’s about  building relationships, friendships with our neighbors.  It’s about opening our home even if there are still dishes  in the sink and a hamper of laundry  waiting to be taken to the garage.    It’s sitting around our table talking to friends after the kids have gone to bed and putting off that grocery run for a day, because friends are more important than groceries.

That’s the improvement this time.  That’s what we want to put into action.  And that vision,  that faith that we’ve been put here, against all reasonable probability, is what has sustained us through a crazy, uncertainty-laden summer.

But now, we’re home. Now we can take the time to build that life that we want for our family, and that’s worth a wild, uncertain summer.

Posted by: Andrew | September 1, 2014

5 Years Later

Five years ago today,  I had stayed home from work with a case of strep throat.  Oddly enough I kind of relished it.  Harry was 3.  Annie had just turned 1.  It was the first time in what had had seemed like a long time that I had been able to stay home sick and take care of only me.

I had pulled the trigger on going to the doctor for strep pretty quickly.  Harry and Alissa had already had it, so at the first indication, I’d made the appointment and gotten myself hooked up with antibiotics.

You see, I needed to get over this quickly.  My dad had just started palliative care for lymphoma the day before, so I wanted to make sure to minimize the period for which I’d be contagious, and therefore unavailable to help 

My mom called in the mid-morning.  She and my aunt had had some difficulty getting my dad into or out of bed.  He’d fallen, and while uninjured, no one could get him back into bed.  They had to call the paramedics.  I talked to the medic, explaining about my strep diagnosis and weighing my dad’s condition and presumed life expectancy against the risk of infecting him.  The medic thought it best if I stayed away until the afternoon…24 hours after my first dose of antibiotics.

He didn’t make it that long.  It wan’t surprising, really.  He was not enamored of the idea of a long convalescence stuck in a hospital bed in his living room.  Living out his days without being able to get outside into nature or see sunlight sparkling off of tranquil waters was just not an existence that he wanted.  And so he let go of life on his own terms. It was peaceful.  He was holding my mom’s hand as he fell asleep and then he was gone.  

Of course, we were all sad.  It’s only natural to grieve when someone you love passes on.  But we were able to take comfort that my father had a long happy life and his suffering at the end was minimal.  I wished my kids could have gotten to know him better, to hear his stories, and to know gentle spirit, his commitment to justice and his awe at the beauty of nature.  

But my kids will get to know those values as they’ve been passed down from my father to me.  It is my job and my pleasure  to pass it on to my kids. To me, this is the ultimate form of remembrance,  a universal form of immortality that transcends any differences we may have in our beliefs about God or the afterlife.  

I think it’s fitting that my dad’s passing is part of what inspired me to  start “Great” Thoughts.  He told stories.  He loved the arts. He was well-versed in history and science and politics.  He was as awed by the great diversity of human experience as he was by the beauty of the natural world and the wealth of stories that could be unearthed in its exploration.  

My dad is gone.  I believe I’ll see him again, and I’m comforted by that.  But in the meantime, I have memories to share and values to pass on.  I can’t bring him back, and that’s okay.  But I can, though remembrance and the passing down that which I knew of my father, make him immortal.

Annie with Grandpa Tom, Christmas 2008

Annie with Grandpa Tom, Christmas 2008

 

Posted by: Andrew | August 7, 2014

Reboot

Well I seem to have fallen down on the blogging front. I could make all sorts of excuses about having gone through a season of transition, a season of change and a season of very active waiting.  But I won’t.
I’m realizing that it’s not about excuses or anything of the sort.  It’s about having been in a season that failed to lend itself to writing. The funny thing is that the past few months have given me lots to consider,  and the musings that occur over such a period are fodder for “Great” Thoughts.

I guess you could say that my musings are something of a Muse.

Of course, transition isn’t instantaneous, but the clouds of uncertainty are parting.

What’s changed? Well, I don’t want to use all my material here, but the changes we, meaning my family, are going through represent something of a reboot, a new beginning.

And what of “Great” Thoughts? I have to confess that the blogging bug had left me for a while in favor of longer term writing projects. I even considered formally ending this blog.

Then I remembered how much fun I had when I was blogging regularly. I remembered how much I enjoyed having regular readers and commenters.

I’m really happy to say that I didn’t give into the impulse to hang it up and that I’m not going to any time soon.

There may come a day when the time is right to close this book, but today is not that day. No. Today is a day to say yes:
yes to blogging; yes to other writing. It’s a day to work to find the balance between the two.

So I guess I’m sort of rebooting “Great” Thoughts. Don’t look for a new look, at least in the short term. But definitely look for more posts.

And, as always, please join the conversation. It’s the best part of c the whole exercise.

Posted by: Andrew | April 30, 2014

Happy Birthday!!!

Harry is 8 years old today.  This afternoon, he’ll take the field in his Wolves uniform, but until then he’s flying Mariners colors.  Happy birthday to a great kid!

 

8 Years Old

8 Years Old

Posted by: Andrew | March 29, 2014

God, Cosmos and Everything

It was nearly 25 years ago, on the night of my 16th birthday. To celebrate, I had invited a number of my buddies over for a role playing game. Clearly, we were party animals. I had set up a scenario that was supposed to play out as the characters in a desperate battle for survival against an overwhelming alien strike force. I miscalculated. The aliens were obliterated in one volley of missiles. Seriously…one. In retrospect, I can think of a whole bunch of ways to fix that scenario, but that’s not why we’re traveling down memory lane.

Somewhere along the way, we did presents and cake or some such thing. One guy, the youngest of our number had a few too many sodas and got on an obnoxious sugar and caffeine high. Hours later, a bunch of us, many of my oldest friends, then and now, sat around on the retaining wall under a sky that was uncharacteristically clear for July in Los Angeles.

We sat. We talked. We joked. We pontificated.

Somehow, the conversation turned to the universe, the infinite universe. We began speculating on the notion that in a truly infinite universe, every scenario that does not violate the laws of science must exist somewhere in spacetime. Somewhere, there was an Andrew that grew up to play first base for the Dodgers, or became a paleontologist or a fighter pilot. Somewhere, there was a world where, for good or for ill, I, or a parallel me, made, not just one decision differently, but every decision that I ever made differently in every way possible. And it wasn’t true for just me, but for every being in the universe.

Because that’s what sixteen year-olds do on a Saturday night, right?

Oh, and we weren’t high. Aside from the afore-mentioned caffeine, there were no drugs involved.

At some point in this discussion of the fabric of reality, I turned my eyes skyward to that clear night sky with stars, those visible in L.A. staring back down at me. At that moment, the universe seemed very big and earth felt like little more that a tiny rock floating in space. It was pretty mind blowing.

Now, I’m not here to put my vision of an infinite universe or multiverse or whatever, up for scientific analysis. I know it wouldn’t hold up…probability, randomness, all that good stuff. I bring it up as a prelude to the infinite universe concept resurfacing in a wonderful way.

I almost missed it. We’d gotten the kids to bed and were debating what to watch when I saw that we could catch the last few minutes of the premier of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I quickly saw Neil deGrasse Tyson walking though a magnificent forest making reference to global warming. Then he was on a cosmic calendar talking about how, when the whole of time was scaled to 1 year, recorded history did not start until 14 seconds before midnight on New Year’s Eve. He shared about his meeting, at the age of 17, with Carl Sagan and how he had been inspired to not just pursue science, but inspire others to do the same.

The next night, we watched the whole episode, and four nights later, with nary a debate, we showed it to our kids as a Friday night movie.

I could wax poetic about the wonder of seeing my children watching, devouring this show, but that would imply that I did not feel that same wonder, even with 40 years of a reasonable understanding of science under my belt.

I was a little young for the original Cosmos, but I remember watching Jacque Cousteau with my dad. It was back before science programming was relegated to cable channels that, in turn, threw science under the bus in favor of such sensationalism as Ancient Aliens and Doomsday Preppers.

This is needed programming. In an age where science is under attack because it is telling us things that we don’t want to hear or that don’t match up with some religious views, we need Tyson’s full throated advocacy of the scientific method and the findings derived there from.

Tyson is right to include the history of science and the history or persecution of scientists in Cosmos. He’s right to talk about evolution and climate change, even though it upsets some people.

I read an article about creationists demanding equal time on this science program. They don’t deserve equal time because creationism is not science. I am yet to see a creationist interpretation of the origin of the universe that can be reached through the scientific method.

Here’s why.

Let’s use an example from the second episode, where Tyson explores evolution. He describes the process of random mutations in DNA strands that lead to, for example, a bear being born with white fur instead of brown. In the right environment, say the arctic, that fur becomes an advantage. The animal with the advantage reproduces more, spreading that useful DNA at the expense of its brown-furred brother. Generations later, you have polar bears.

Now, in describing the process, Tyson calls the mutations exactly as science calls them. Absent a pattern or discernible catalyst, the mutations appear random, and that’s how science perceives them. Is science right? Are they truly random? Maybe there’s a process or catalyst that causes mutations that science has not yet discovered. Maybe some mutations have causes…radiation? pollution? Gamma Rays?… that can, ultimately be observed while others don’t.

Now, looking at mutations from a faith perspective is a different story. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a person of faith, a Christian, so I see the same story of genetic mutations, and at least in the positive ones I see what could be the hand of God. I see a creator at work, trying stuff out, thinking through improvements, taking joy in the creative process. Now, some people would say that this violates the idea of an omniscient God because it suggests things like trial and error and a creation that is less than perfect. I reject that reasoning, because, once we get past the first two books of Genesis, we see a whole lot of imperfection.

Think about it. Adam and Eve sin. Cain kills Abel. Every human that is God’s creation, which is to say all of us, according to my belief, is imperfect and trying to get better.

Now, I fully admit, that I’ve filled in a lot of gaps here. I’ve taken the unexplained and filled in a narrative that is consistent with my personal faith. I can envision God in the role, among other roles, of a joyful tinkerer in His heavenly workshop experimenting with His creations and trying to make them better. But, I can’t prove it. I can’t record it. I can’t demonstrate it in a way that another person could repeat and verify. I can’t prove it scientifically. It’s what I believe. It’s what I have faith in, but it’s not scientifically provable, and therefore does not belong in a science narrative.

Some people have objections to this approach to reconciling faith and science. I’ve heard the term “God of the gaps.” It suggests that, by allowing God to fill in the gaps that exist in scientific knowledge, the advancement of knowledge and subsequent diminishment of those gaps also diminishes God.

I reject that notion. Let me illustrate.

Have you ever wanted to cook a large roast? The larger the roast, the longer it takes to cook. If you want or need it to cook faster, you cut in half or quarters. This increases the surface area through which heat can be absorbed into the roast and thus reduces the cooking time.

Likewise, when our knowledge allows us to stop looking at a rock as just a rock and lets us see it as a collection of molecules and atoms and subatomic particles, we have expanded the surface area through which God can impact the universe. Likewise, as we look to the heavens and realize that we are one planet of many orbiting one star of many in one galaxy of many in one supercluster or many in one vast observable universe of, possibly many, we can look at creation as so much more vast and grand than our one little world. Suddenly, God is a being who can exist among the tiniest of subatomic particles and can shape the vastness of the observable universe, and, at least from a Christian perspective, wants a loving relationship with each life He creates.. When you look at it that way, it’s kind of hard to say that science diminishes God.

Science is a tool, a powerful one. We can use it to try and kill God, but that would be an improper and futile use. Likewise, we can use it to prove God, but that would be, at best, a waste of time. Science, true science that stays true to the scientific method can do neither. It’s agnostic. There will always be a far horizon of knowledge, beyond which lies faith. There will always be a smaller subatomic particle waiting to be discovered. Those are the limits of knowledge, and science allows us to expand the universe encompassed by those limits, but science will never, ever have all the answers. Science will never prove nor disprove the existence of God.

Which brings us back to Cosmos…

There are some creationists who criticize the show as disrespectful to people of faith. They’re wrong about that. Tyson acknowledges the controversies and even some of the arguments of creationists, and he does so respectfully. He does not give them any scientific ground or equal time. He dismisses the idea that something is too complex to be natural, and the fact that science does not have all the answers yet (and never will) as outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

The reason is quite simple. When you say, something like “It’s too complex to be random, therefore it must be God,” or “Science hasn’t provided an answer, so it must be God,” you are shutting down further inquiry. You stop asking questions and science never, ever stops asking questions. It shouldn’t. We shouldn’t.

Now, you may want to call me out on the fact that, mere paragraphs ago, I envisioned God as that happy tinkerer, tweaking His creation through those “random” genetic mutations. Is that not precisely what science precludes?

It would be if I were treating that as a scientific conclusion. It’s not. It’s a faith-based conclusion. Science sees randomness and keeps looking. Faith can go where science cannot. It can go to that which is unobservable. And what of the “keeps looking” part? Well, I suppose it depends on one’s individual approach to faith. I for one want science to keep looking, to keep searching for answers. That search does not threaten my faith.

I started out saying that Cosmos is a show that we need right now. I believe this because we need an understanding of science and the scientific method.  We don’t all need to be scientists, but with the number of pressing issues in our world that are scientific in nature, it is critically important, in our roles as citizens and decision makers, that we understand the rigorous nature of science so we can apply those findings in an intelligent and informed way.

When it comes down to it, the origins debate takes nothing from Jesus’ command that I love God and love my neighbor.  It does not change His advocacy for the poor and marginalized.  However, scientific research can inform my ideas and actions in furtherance of my efforts to carry out His commands.

Whether through an evolutionary process or through instantaneous creation, God gave us senses to take in the world and brains to process the information we take in.  Let’s use those gifts to learn about the vastness and intricacy of creation, and to do so in the faith that God is not endangered by what we learn.

Posted by: Andrew | February 14, 2014

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since that sunny Valentine’s Day when I fell in love. I’ve told the story before. It might be the one post I’ve ever re-posted. But it’s still hard to believe how the world can change so quickly.

I’d been jealous before. I don’t think it’s possible to grow up without experiencing some form of romantic jealousy. Maybe it’s seeing her with another guy. Maybe it’s seeing him looking at someone else the way he should be looking at you. Maybe it’s hearing a story that translates to you as a missed opportunity or worse, betrayal. It doesn’t matter. In one way or another, we’ve all been there.

I’d also fallen in love before. Once it was an idealistic vision of something that I was utterly clueless about. Once it was a resigned acceptance of that which I knew wasn’t going to happen. In both cases, I reached for the star. I tried. But it wasn’t to be. Again, chances are we’ve all been there or will face it someday, in some form. .

I thought the jealousy came first, but I was wrong. The jealously revealed what was already there, even if I hadn’t admitted it to anyone, least of all myself.

A day and a half later, as I sat in my dark living room, it all became clear. I had no need to be jealous, or, for that matter lonely or searching.

I’d had a dream, not long before. It was my wedding day. My family and friends were joyfully greeting me in a parking lot. But my bride was nowhere to be found. I was not concerned. I watched a white van drive past, and I knew she was in there, whoever she was.

In that living room, in the dark, the identity of that woman became crystal clear. It was Alissa. It was always Alissa. I’d felt an attraction to her in our first email communications before we’d ever met. We’d both had to grow up a lot, and travel our individual journeys, our paths intersecting and paralleling each other before merging.
But our paths did merge, fifteen years ago with flare of the best kind of jealousy.

We don’t consider Valentine’s Day our anniversary, but it certainly represents a critical moment for us because that is when everything changed. That’s when I knew I wasn’t alone, and the world never looked the same after that day. I was not just me. I was half of us.

So what else is there to say to Alissa, my love, who challenges me and supports me and makes me a better man?

Alissa, fifteen years ago, I realized that I was in love with you. I still am. Thank you for being all that you are to me. Thank you for taking my hand and journeying with me through life. I love you.
Happy Valentine’s Day.

And Happy Valentine’s Day to my reader’s as well.

Posted by: Andrew | January 17, 2014

On the Seahawks Bandwagon

I’m not a football fan in any sense that would do justice to a true fan. I’ll watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I might watch the Rose Bowl, or a regular season game for that matter, if there’s nothing better to divert my attention. I did go to the games in high school and college and had fun with my friends. If “my” team is doing well, I’ll watch more than if they are struggling. I’ll readily admit to hopping on and off football bandwagons.

But boy, this year, I’m having a lot of fun watching football. Of course I’m in Seattle, and the Seahawks are just flat out fun to watch this year, as they were last year. The Seahawks’ performance has managed to create a shared sense of excitement in this highly diverse community, and that’s what sports do at their best. That’s what makes fandom fun.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not limited to sports. On a smaller scale, I remember a lot of school and community-wide excitement when my high school went all out to put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof. I remember watching from afar the shared pride and nostalgia that the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final homecoming brought to L.A.

Great achievement can bring together communities, whether in the arts or sports or even science and technology.

But there’s something more here, and it’s something that goes beyond Seahawks nation to the NFL at large.

No matter what happens in the next few week, no matter who goes to the Super Bowl, there is an incredibly powerful narrative arc going on in the NFL, and it’s a story as old as time, and I’m not talking about a romance involving Marshawn Lynch and a beautiful woman.

See what I did there?

Let’s look at the two Conference championship games. Over in the AFC, we have a showdown between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos, led by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, respectively. They have been two of the NFL’s most dominant quarterbacks over the last decade. Both having played their entire careers in the AFC, they haven’t faced each other in the Super Bowl, but they have faced each other 3 times in the post season (Brady’s Patriots have the series edge of Manning’s Colts, 2-1) and 14 times over all (10-4, Brady).

The AFC championship game will be the latest chapter in this individual rivalry that has been compared to that between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird among others.

So that’s the AFC narrative: two great rivals clashing once again with a championship on the line.

Then there’s the NFC game. The 2012 NFL season was marked by the debuts of several promising young quarterbacks. Two that had not gotten much attention going into the season were Russell Wilson of the Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. Kaepernick led his team to the Super Bowl. Were it not for some lackluster clock management, he could very well have faced off with Wilson for the privilege. None of the other, more highly regarded rookies went as far as these two.
As luck would have it, they play for two teams that have a heated division rivalry. They have split the season series, each winning on their home field and will meet in Seattle on Sunday for a rubber game with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

If the AFC narrative is one of two great veterans with more playing years behind then than ahead, the NFC one is of a next generation rivalry that could very well define the next decade of football.

And that brings us to the Super Bowl. The AFC will send a team led by one of the game’s greatest and most respected quarterbacks. The NFC will send one led by a quarterback that could be the Peyton Manning or Tom Brady of 2024.
Will the torch be passed to this new generation of young quarterbacks, or will the veterans remain dominant? That’s yet another classic storyline.

And that’s why we watch. There are awesome stories being played out over the remaining three games of the NFC season, and when it comes down to it, they are stories that go beyond sports. They’re stories that take place in business and music and theater and science and politics and religion and literature.

Whatever the discipline, or the setting, you can find storylines that parallel those being played out on the field. That’s the beauty of a good story. It transcends obvious boundaries to reflect the human condition in a way that lets us see that story in our own lives.

Of course, I could be over thinking the whole thing. In any case, I’m looking forward to some football.

And of course…

GO HAWKS!!!

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