Thursday, November 11, 2010

Playing For Keeps

If professional football is a sport you follow, then you most assuredly have a favorite team. For as long as I can remember I have rooted passionately for the New York Giants. Kara and I were in the building when Joe Pisarcik fumbled away a certain victory against the Eagles. Russ and I were there when Flipper Anderson caught the game-winning TD in overtime for the Rams in the playoffs, ending yet another Giants season prematurely. I was also there for the Divisional Playoff Game the year they won their first Super Bowl when Jim Burt hit Joe Montana so hard that they needed a spatula to remove poor Montana from the playing surface. And I was there with Mike way back when - in LT's rookie season - when on a frigid Saturday in December the Giants had to beat Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys just to have a shot to earn a wild-card playoff slot and they did, making the Cowboys wear the blue jerseys they hated so much, when Joe Danelo nailed one from long range in OT. When you are a football fan you root for your team through good times and through bad. As a Giants fan, I have seen more than my share of both and I am certain that countless more examples of both ends of the spectrum shall follow.

I have never been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. I do not root against the Vikings although I find their quarterback to be equal parts egomaniac and charlatan and I root hard against him with every fiber of my being. I know that their coach is Brad Childress. Coach Childress is a man who I must confess until Monday evening I most readily associated with being the fellow who each summer for the past two has been Favre's driver when the Lord of the Bayou decides to un-retire and play NFL football for "just one more season". Since no one who cashes a check written on one of the Vikings' accounts seems to mind that Favre's epiphany occurs annually on the day that the team concludes its pre-season training camp, then decency demands that I not fake giving a rat's ass either.

Monday night I was flipping around the dial and I came across a story on one of the ESPN channels that totally caused me to rethink the manner in which I think about Brad Childress. Coach Childress is something far more significant than an NFL coach. He is the father of one of our United States Marines currently serving this nation in Afghanistan. His son - who is all of 21 - is the "Point" for his unit. According to the piece that means that Andrew Childress spends a lot of his time as the first guy in the group on foot patrols charged with the responsibility of checking for Improvised Explosive Devices (known as an "IED" to those who it is designed to maim and to kill). The piece on ESPN focused on two remarkable men: Childress father and son - and a simply incredible meeting that the pair had when Coach Childress was part of a group of coaches who went to Afghanistan this past summer as part of a USO tour.

The few moments you spend today watching the video of this story will do nothing to you or for you. Nothing except perhaps warm your heart a bit. Nothing except make your chest swell with pride when you see the type of men and women who serve in this nation's armed forces. Nothing except make your eyes well up with tears when you get to sneak a glimpse at the bond between a young man who is a hero and his father who is equal parts proud of him and terrified for him. You might spend time better today than the several minutes you spend watching this piece. But then again, you most likely shall not. And you know what? There is nothing in the world wrong with you if you do not.

Watching it on Monday night reminded me of a poem that was read aloud at the Race honoring Lt. Dennis Zilinski II on Sunday morning. It is a poem entitled, "The Veteran":

It is the VETERAN, not the preacher
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
who has given us the freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN who salutes the Flag.

It is the VETERAN who serves under the Flag.

And all of us are all the better for their service, for which we owe them our gratitude not simply today but every day. Thanks to my brother Bill, to Margaret's Uncle Andy Bozzomo, whose name appears on the list of names at the World War II Memorial of those who served, to Margaret's Great Uncle Pat Barbato, whose name appears on the list of names at the World War II Memorial of those who died in combat, to my Uncle John who fought in Korea, to my Uncle Jim who guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, to Jill and Joe's great friend from college "Hanklin" Gonzales, to my law school classmate Tom Roughneen, to my law partner George Hanley, to my paralegal Ron Quinlan, to Doc Levine and to all who served with all of them. Thanks as well to all who serve today. Each of you is a remarkable human being, whether or not you realize it. Perhaps recognition of that fact rests not with you but with the rest of us.

And perhaps if we have not yet done so previously, then doing so starting today seems to me to be a damn fine idea.

-AK

4 comments:

dweeb said...

Adds a whole dimension to the coach of the Vikings and gives me pause when thinking about his son, and all the sons, daughters, fathers, uncles, aunts, brother and sisters whose sacrifice (from the Revolutionary War until today) have allowed us the luxury to be here, now. Thanks!

evanh said...

Well stated; you overlooked a family member who also served our country with honor, your niece Heather. She was in the Middle East with her tank batallion. We never dreamed that those delicate hands would be perfectly proportioned for tank repair and kissed every finger when she came home in 1 piece, a much wiser and sadder child than when she deployed.

Adam Kenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Kenny said...

Heather - no slight intended. I was unaware of your service. In my mind's eye, you are not yet old enough to drive. As pleased as I am to learn of your service, I am far more happy to read the report of your safe return. Thanks.