Friday, November 13, 2015

Destination Unknown

Life is a Journey,
not a Destination.
-Sam O'Herlihy

Life is indeed a forward-moving exercise.  We enter at a fixed point.  We travel a journey of indeterminate length.  Upon the completion of the journey, we exit at a fixed point.  

But irrespective of the direction in which Life flows, for many of us there is not simply one starting point and one corresponding finish line.  Rather, there are countless "firsts" and, of course, countless "last time ever" moments.  These events appear at different points in the narrative for each of us. These events are, also, unique to us.  We experience them as only we can and our experience - even if we are experiencing an event at exactly the same time as someone else - is uniquely our own.  

I love sports.  In high school, I played a number of competitive sports, with varying degrees of success. Well, except for wrestling at which I was utterly dreadful.  Had I not had the good fortune of encountering the only two souls more poorly suited for wrestling than was I during the 1981-82 season, I would have retired from the sport without ever having had my hand raised in triumph.  On the bright side, I possess to this day a Rain Man-esque ability to identify high school gymnasiums in central and northern New Jersey simply by looking at photographs of their ceilings.  Of course, I look at the photographs while lying on my back since that is the position from which I initially made my acquaintance with them. 

The sport I enjoyed playing the most in high school was soccer.  I played on W-H's Junior Varsity team as a freshman and a sophomore and, thereafter, on the Varsity as a junior and as a senior.  To the extent that I displayed any athletic prowess at all as a teenager, it was on the soccer field.  I am a decidedly average-sized person but being rather "sturdily built" (EUPHEMISM ALERT!), relatively bright, and the possessor of a very strong left leg (with which I could strike a soccer ball a considerable distance), I was well-suited to the soccer field.  

The most profound disappointment I have ever experienced in an athletic competition, even worse than being passed by an 80-plus year-old man in the final quarter mile of a 10-mile road race in Freehold Township several years ago (TRUE STORY!), was our loss to Morristown-Beard School in the State playoffs, which occurred in late October, 1984.  We had defeated Mo-Beard about ten days earlier - at Homecoming - but were nevertheless sent on the road to play them in the States.  The seeding committee's decision was ratified when they defeated us, which they did by a 2-0 score.  We had failed to qualify for the State playoffs in my junior season.  Thus, the sum total of my post-season soccer experience was one game.  One lousy, losing effort.  Nothing more.  

The late, great Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it best, "I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don't know that the world is going to break your heart eventually."  My seventeen-year-old heart, if not broken, was damn close to it on that October afternoon.  I knew that not only had the game been lost but that the door on that part of my life, which was exceedingly important to me as a boy of seventeen, had swung shut forever.  Irrespective of what I might achieve - or not achieve - from that moment forward and for however long I might live, I would never pass that way again.  

Tonight, in Boulder, Colorado, fifteen members of the University of Colorado football team will follow the most wonderfully hostile American Bison in these United States out onto Folsom Field for their final home game as Buffaloes.  Among them is at least one or two whose football-playing days shall likely continue beyond college, including wide receiver Nelson Spruce.  However, for the majority of the fifteen, tonight will be the final time that they shall play a game that most of them have played since childhood in front of their home crowd.  

As a happy and proud CU alum, I have little doubt that their college careers have not followed the trajectory that each had envisioned for himself prior to putting on his Colorado uniform for the first time.  To say that the Buffaloes have struggled for this past decade is to grotesquely misuse the word "struggle".  Brighter days may indeed be on the horizon, which days - should they indeed arrive - will have been made possible in no small part by the contribution of the kids who came, who played, and who stayed to finish what each of them had started.  May each of them find success and - more importantly - peace as they close this chapter of their lives and prepare to dive headlong into the next one.  

Enjoy the journey, gentlemen.  You shall only pass this way but once.  Take the time necessary to soak it all in. 

Shoulder to Shoulder...



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