Green Bay and Grey Goose

For those that aren’t aware, my wife and I had the opportunity this past
weekend of attending a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field (Wisconsin),
thanks to my brother. Five of us made the trip, including my father
and my brother’s girlfriend. All in all, it was a lot of fun–especially
with a rowdy 38-7 beatdown handed to the Raiders by the guys in green.

Gametime was about 17 degrees, and suffice it to say that things were a
little on the chilly side. But of course we prepared well, and my wife and I
looked like Mr. and Mrs. Penguin for a few hours (or Dr. and Mr. Penguin,
if you care for that sort of thing). We saw bratwurst, shirtless men,
countless beers, the legendary Brett Favre, a couple of off-field black
people, parking lots full of snow, restaurant workers all wearing Green Bay
uniforms, and best of all the confirmation that my Dad has finally
perfected all of his corny Dad jokes. I’m so proud of him.

My father drove to Green Bay from Wisconsin in his Chevy Silverado, so for
cost/fun purposes we all decided to meet in Chicago and ride together from
there. This seemed like a good idea until winter weather set in, but
miraculously the weather held off on both ends of the trip. We definitely
had the good fortune of having a clear path both ways.

Until the goose happened.

Forty-five minutes into our return trip from Green Bay to Chicago, with
flights that afternoon, we were cruising along in my dad’s truck when an
enormous goose came out of nowhere and violently smashed into the
windshield. One moment all is well, and the next you have a three-inch
concave dent in your windshield, thousands of small cracks spiraling out
from it, and shards of glass everywhere in the front seat of the car.
Looking behind us, I could see various feathers blowing up and down the
interstate, with more still stuck in the cracks of the windshield. Not a
good thing.

We pulled off the road, of course, and the car in front of us did as well.
The truck was perfectly drivable but nothing could be done about the vision
aspect of it. Mostly we just tried to shake it off, drowning out the
lingering echoes of my wife’s blood-curdling scream. When we walked up to the
car ahead (that had stopped to check on us), they asked if we needed a witness, and he
just held up some feathers. That took care of that. Then the knowledge
set in that we were out in the middle of nowhere, about six miles from the
thriving metropolis of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. And that is when the cell
phone calls started.

Using all of the collective charm in the truck and the portable GPS I
fortunately brought along, we got into town only to find that Manitowoc had
no one that could repair the damage. Meanwhile, my poor father is driving
around while sitting at a very crooked angle, trying his best to see
underneath the bottom portion of the windshield that wasn’t completely
smashed. To make a long story short, the best we could find was a shop in
Sheboygan, no less than 27 miles away. And so we drove it as best we
could, knowing all the while that our flights would take off without us.

Of course, we joked about it. My brother kept the feathers as a souvenir for
over an hour until letting them loose in a Starbucks later that afternoon.
We teased my wife about the scream. We blamed my father for special-ordering
his sausage and cheese biscuit at Hardee’s, delaying us just enough to put
us in the path of the goose 45 minutes later. We took pictures and waited
for the actual windshield to cave in on itself with the force of the wind
blowing against it. But it never did.

In Sheboygan, the repair would take nearly three hours, which would leave
us no chance for our flight. So I came up with the idea of renting a car.
We called several rental car companies before finding that Avis had a tiny
agency about two miles away. And thankfully, small-town hospitality
finally came into play…the guy from Avis drove over to pick us up and
rented us a car one-way for only $93 (this was over about 180 miles to
Chicago). And so we took the car and drove off toward the airport, leaving
my father with his poor, injured truck, still picking tiny shards of glass
off of his jacket.

In the end, we made our flight by only ten minutes, thanks to my brother
agreeing to drop off the rental for us (their flight was later). We ended
up exactly where we would have been if nothing had happened, but did we
ever take a crazy route to get there.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the goose.

A Life of Champions

Sports is a craze that has swept through our nation for years, bringing more elation than most mortals would have dreamed possible. Just as men are undeniably mystified when a woman cries over Steel Magnolias for the fourteenth time, many women are absolutely lost when understanding how one can combine big, sweaty men with some sort of ball to create a life and death situation. Thus here, on this blog, I’m going to take a shot at opening this door of mystery.

Before I begin, don’t think I’m going to rationalize donating your life to sports. I’ve seen it happen, and the results are always somewhat catastrophic. No one thinks of the phrases “that guy who always paints his ass red on gamedays” and “great use of time” in the same sentence. But it happens nonetheless. So to help understand this, here is a list of the necessary ingredients for every true sports-fan-for-life:

1 – Obligations that are easily shifted. This can include everything from mowing the lawn to all of the facets of childcare. Are there great football games on at noon, 3:30, and 8:00 this Saturday? This is when a seemingly average man can become Bobby Fischer is his ability to manipulate the situations around him. “Didn’t the children have fun at Lucy’s last weekend? I’m sure they’d have more fun there than here.” Or, “If I wash the car today, it will actually be dirtier tomorrow because of the current air quality.” If things get really bad, one can drop in the always-successful, “Didn’t we see people yesterday?” The key here is to shift obligations enough to make the spouse give up on making obligations altogether. It is then that you’ve met your time-honored friend…complete victory.

2 – Find a woman that can be fooled into thinking she likes sports. Stress the companionship of any sports event: you’re together, right? It’s great to care about things, isn’t it? It’s the most efficient form of bonding–investing your life and emotions in something that can be scheduled on TV. And, for the all the ladies out there, I guarantee you that if you can talk knowledgably about a nickel package and various blitzing schemes, you will never have to search long for a date. Never.

3 – Convince yourself you don’t need women. Obviously this quickly comes into play if #2 doesn’t work out so well. Left with only men to bond with, you’re not going to go to a movie, right? You’re not going to share intimate secrets at a coffee shop. But do the rules of transgression allow you to give bear hugs, chest bumps, and shouts of love in the name of sports? You bet they do! Bonding achieved.

4 – Prepare yourself to forget what non-sports people are like. You won’t be talking to them anymore, because: 1) they’re morons, and 2) they think you’re a moron. There is no in-between. It is a divide even bigger than that between your wife and her long-lost dreams of snuggle time.

5 – Get ready for both the highest and lowest feeling in the world. Suffering a crushing defeat can trash even the most promising of weekends, without question. Suffering a horrible season can bring doubt into even the tiniest aspects of your life itself. On the other hand, a huge win makes you feel like God himself is smiling down upon you! The world is beautiful, your marriage is healthy again…and why the hell are the children at Lucy’s? They don’t know what they’re missing.

6 – Pliable children. Speaking of the little ones, it is absolutely essential that your children must also enjoy sports. There is nothing worse than the true sports fan having a son that chooses reading over playing in the county’s six-year-old football league. Once again, though, the key is to have children malleable enough that you can convince them they like sports even if they don’t. With intricate work and carefully chosen timing, you can finally be your child’s biggest fan (and they their own).

Sports are truely the most genuine and easily visible form of competition in the world. There are no scripts, and anything can happen. After all, when Rudy shoves Candice off the raft in Survivor and screams his victory across the island, it’s just not the same. Sports offer the rarest form of drama: a life-and-death competition that no one will remember two years from now. Who wants to think back to that life-and-death competition when you have this weekend’s life-and-death competition to look forward to? It’s the perfect scenario.

So while there are many sports fans out there who enjoy a great game (myself included), few really know what makes a true sports fan. Just like the guys on the field, you have to be able to lay it all on the line for your team. Your marriage, your children, your job, your happiness, everything. And if the worst happens, you’re only staring one thing in the face.

Freedom.

Epiphany

Everything is almost ready. At last. The largest church in the world sits dormant, but only for a a few hours–for this evening the world will experience the very reason for its existence.

Nothing will compare to this.

Entire counties of people will swoon, caught in the exhilaration of what can only be described as the most intense experience of their lives. And as the power consumes them, nothing will stand in their way: marriages will fall, money will be useless, and the logic of reasoning will never be more meaningless. For tonight, oh blessed night, North Carolina will play for a national title.

For a relatively non-involved observer, as this story can only be told, the resulting hysteria is one that the human mind can barely comprehend. Let us go back five months to the beginning of the season…a time so rich with expectations that you feel like you might explode trying to contain all of it. Because even though your team collapsed at the end of last season, you know that these same guys will never let that happen again…but why, you ask? Well, because in between now and then these players have taken an average of five classes each, and there is no way these guys are letting that academic experience go for naught. They have a transcript to protect. But even more than that, you know that these five enormous men are your five enormous men…it’s doubtful that even their own mamas love ’em more than you do. ‘Cause they’re your Tar Heels, baby, and you’ve got more emotion invested in them than anything else in else in your life. You even stopped donating to the American Red Cross each February because you felt the whole experience left you just a little too drained come tournament time. Good thing that is a worry of the past.

But tonight, as the lights click on and the court floods with the buzz of anticipation, you feel like this just might be the year it’s all worth it. That maybe you were right to name your kid Dean. That maybe no one will remember that you graduated from community college, not from the University of North Carolina…because at some point you can earn a degree just on love, right? Of course you can! And most of all, you finally think the world is actually a good place to live, and that God (the bitter Tar Heel fan that he is) has finally broken down and will let the guys win another one. I mean, come on…everyone knows that God is the master of creation, and would never reward a team with the most uncreative name in college basketball: the Illinois Illini.

So you get the trash talk lines ready (all of which are variations of something you originally heard in high school), electric with excitement and ready to paint the town blue. This is your night, baby! You change into your weakest pair of jeans, knowing that when the final horn sounds and Sean May bearhugs Jawad Williams, and it seems like they’re almost there, in your living room with you, you will leap off the couch and tear those jeans all the way down the back. And then you can laugh maniacally, hang them in the living room, and tell everyone who comes over that, “Yeah, see those pants right there? That was when we won it all, and I tore a crack in my ass I was so happy.” That story just never gets old. Never.

As for me, well, I wish I were part of this inner circle of 4.5 million Tar Heel fans (Georgia, by comparison, has 11 thousand nationwide). If only I could feel the joy of knowing a love greater than the world itself! Because even my love for Jack Bauer, felt as I watch him terminate people on “24”, just doesn’t feel enough on this night. I feel like an athiest at the most emotionally draining Pat Robertson speech ever.

But wait…an idea slowly creeps into the back of my mind. Yes…of course! Didn’t I just say that you can earn a degree based solely on love? Don’t I have a pair of blue jeans somewhere around here, just barely held together at the seams? And as the initial jump ball rises into the air–beautiful Jawad soaring toward it–I desperately beg God to help me decide what to do with this life he’s given me.

And as I wait and wait, I suddenly realize…of course he’s not listening. He’s already watching his boys play ball.

Guys Night Out

Have you ever had one of those weeks that felt insanely busy, only to turn it around with a pathetically lazy weekend?

Come on, I know you have.

For me, that’s what this weekend felt like…although I’m not sure if I was actually lazy or not. Perhaps I just felt like I was lazy. Or maybe I’m just watching my cat’s life and thinking that she and I saw far too much of each other this weekend.

Part of the reason for this is that my wife decided to participate in a Girls Night Out (this phrase must always be capitalized) with  two of her former classmates from grad school. This even sounded like fun to me at first, but my energetic notions of hanging out with beautiful women to the tune of Matrix: Revolutions were not well received. Actually, I’m not sure the suggestion even made it into the receiving area; it’s amazing how fine-tuned a fiancé’s selective hearing skills are. So I was rejected quickly and decisively, a turn of events which left me with not only an open Saturday night but also a million thoughts to ponder.

For one, why isn’t there a such thing as a Guys Night Out anymore? I think we all believe that there is such a thing, but it doesn’t ever actually happen. You just won’t drop by a thirty-year-old guy’s apartment and find dudes draped all over the couch watching Predator. ‘Cause once you get to a certain age, I think there comes a prerequisite that women have to be present at all social events. It’s a strange phenomenon. Ultimately the reason for this is not so obvious, but can be seen via the following scenario:

“Hey, Jim, how ’bout those Dawgs! You know, I was thinking of having some guys over to watch a movie tonight.”

“Oh…uh, okay. What movie?”

All Hell Breaks Loose 3! Have you seen it? It’s gotta be great. There’s even a poster of Anna Kournikova in it.”

“Yeah, I heard! Can’t wait to see it. My little cousin got thrown out of a movie theater trying to get in, and he’s sixteen. It must really be good.”

“So what do you say?”

This becomes the point of death in any such request. If ol’ Jim says yes, then immediately he’s placed himself in a situation where two dudes are watching a movie, with no women present, and no way for either to conclusively prove he’s not gay. That situation is never going to happen, and he must immediately illustrate that it’s never going to happen. Thus he’s left with the only safe response:

“Who else is gonna be there?”

“Well, I haven’t asked anyone else yet.”

Repeat this scenario for each guy, and on Saturday night you’ll somehow still end up with six guys watching ESPN Classic on six different sofas.

Girls, on the other hand, pile on together and count the success of the night by how many collective tears they shed. If Rachel can’t quite get the tear ducts flowing, there’s always Amanda to step in and make up the difference. Let there be no doubt–Amanda will earn her MVP honors on this night. And so it goes. It’s bonding, it’s emotional, and for women it’s just downright effective. Yet it’s absolutely, 100% unimaginable to anyone with a Y chromosome.

My personal theory is that women are from Venus, but guys have competitively taken over every other planet in the solar system. Seriously, just Mars? Are you kidding me? Yet somewhere on each planet there’s a lone guy on his sofa, looking fearfully for other guys while broadcasting to anyone that will listen why his planet is the best planet. And every once in a while, a lady will stroll by, but she never stops on her journey towards Venus. Because there, my friends, on an enormous big screen TV, is the thirty-eighth showing of Steel Magnolias.