a funny thing happened on the way to my life….

It Really is HOW You Play the Game….

Let me begin with this:  I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.  So, for many, I have absolutely no cred when it comes to talking about sports of any kind.  That’s okay, I don’t mind talking about it anyway 🙂  In fact, it’s not so much the sports aspect that caught my eye this weekend…it’s more the human reaction to it.  Look, they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can pretty much get the gist of it by reading a chapter.  Satire, mystery, fiction, inspiration…you get the point.  And if the old adage also holds true—“you only get one chance to make a first impression”…then we all might want to check ourselves before, well…you know.

Anna&Kids

Flashback photo…Raising little Kansas Jayhawk fans.

So, here goes nothing.  Like most people, I’m a sports fan.  My favorite team in this great, big, wonderful world is the Kansas Jayhawks (for a myriad of reasons, but we’ll save that for later date.)  But I also  enjoy many different types of sports and follow several other teams as well.  In my community, circle of friends and in my family for that matter there’s a wide variety of sports fans.  Some of us live for football, hockey, and tennis.  Others can’t get enough NBA, golf and volleyball.  Personally, I’m a college basketball and baseball fan and thanks to my  kiddos, I have a great appreciation for soccer.  Different strokes  for different folks.  Amen, right?  Still, one of the things that always strikes me about some fans is their (my) deep, die-hard passion for our sport of choice.  We not only follow our designated tribe, but we support it with our time, energy and often, our money.  No judgement here…I’m right with you.

Where things get tricky, though, is when we start to dis each other and personally belittle our perceived opponents.  I can hear the groans and comments already…“this is why girls shouldn’t watch sports, you’re ruining the industry, this is how the game is played, if you don’t like it–don’t watch it.”  I hear you and I understand.  But it still begs the question, do we really accomplish anything when we put down our foes?  What does it prove?  Especially, if we’re on the winning end.  I’m asking….  It seems that anytime you give your heart over to something…there’s going to be passion and intensity.  Just like any relationship there will be huge highs and deep lows in fanhood.  And since our teams foster a family like comradery…things can get personal fast.  And not only do they get personal, but they can also get ugly.

This morning everyone is talking about the NFC Championship game and some of the post game antics.  It was a hard-fought game.  Can we agree on that?  Depending upon who you were rooting for (and for the sake of disclosure I will tell you that my team lost), you were either right there with this (now notorious) cornerback, Richard Sherman, or you’ve reactively thrown your support behind a man who many describe as THE  All-American quarterback, Peyton Manning.  It doesn’t take but a second to scroll through any number of social media outlets to see the reactions and commentary.  It’s been less than 24 hours since the hoopla aired, and arguments have been made on both sides.  Some have tried to rationalize and excuse the behavior by calling on player intensity and testosterone.  Others have written him off as classless and a thug.  We’re all entitled to our opinion, it’s how we choose to express it that matters.  In fact, I’ve been sort of surprised to see which side fans, sports gurus and radio personalities have signed on to.  It’s also been equally interesting to see where my own circle of friends stand on these events.

Personally, my heart hurts for Richard Sherman.  I saw his post game interview live like many other football fans.  His moment on national television, the replay of his butt slap, choking gestures and trash talk against Michael Crabtree were truly baffling to me.  Here was a man who had just demonstrated that he’s at the top of his game.  He played a key role in his team moving on to the Super Bowl.  I think the whole world expected him to be excited and amped up (and does it really matter who started it?) but using his airtime to disrespect an opponent…well it doesn’t add up, especially now that countless reports have come out about Sherman’s educational accolades, his communications degree from Stanford and blog writing/interviewing abilities.  In a world where image is everything and first impressions are lasting impressions,  Richard Sherman just cast himself as a football villain and in the hearts of many that role will last a lifetime.  Football players often live and die in the moment.  Whether it’s a consequence of personality or just the nature of the athletes who play the game, he has just categorized himself in a less than ideal light and he may spend his career (and life) trying to undo the damage of a few seconds on national television.

Unfortunately, fanhood means that we’ll never know the hearts and minds of those sports figures we idolize, but let this be a lesson to all of us.  The way you play the game…your game, my game…will be noted.  The world keeps records, it profiles and categorizes, and is not always gracious in forgiving our wrongdoings.  How much more important does it become for each of us to live our lives more thoughtfully.  Our words and actions are and will be judged.  That’s a fact.  If you don’t care, more power to you.  Still most of us, if we truly examine our hearts, want to know that we have lived life well.  As a sports fan, as part of a sports family and as a human being I want to live a life without regret.  We all have our moments…where we wish we had done things, said things, differently.  We can make amends and there are roads to reconciliation and redemption.  Thank God for that.  But wouldn’t it be better if we could just be better people?  If what spills out in our words and actions really reflect our heart wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t look and sound like self-centered, entitled, thoughtless, rude men and women?

I don’t mind telling you that I won’t be rooting for the Seahawks on Super Bowl Sunday.  In the same breath I can tell you that I also won’t be cheering on the Broncos either (I’m a Chiefs fan, and therefore diametrically opposed, you understand.)  Chances are, however, that as sports fans we’ll be checking in on the game, rating the commercials, and eating more than we should.  I’m going to keep Michael Sherman in my prayers and hope that he and all the other athletes on the field play their hearts out, take in and savor their moment in the national spotlight and finally, make good choices…because the whole world is watching (and I’m trying to raise sports fans.)

You have to learn the rules of the game.  And then you have to play better than anyone else.  –Albert Einstein

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My World According to George Strait

I’m usually in the mood right after dinner.  Something about a full belly, a mountain of dishes, left overs sealed in GladWare, and disinfecting the counter tops seems to put me in a George Strait state of mind.  There’s nothing like classic George when you feel like singing at the top of your lungs while your heart breaks into a thousand pieces as you simultaneously two-step with a broom…the occasional teardrop running down your cheek.  Good times 🙂

imaginary george fan photo

My imaginary fan meet up with George Strait. Hope Martina doesn’t mind that I inserted my face over hers in this photo!

I don’t think anyone would classify me as a country music fan…although there were a few years in the mid-nineties where I “walked the line.”  Okay, I’ll confess—I had a hat at the time, but it was just for the Little Texas concert at the county fair!  My get-up was technically faux cowgirl…you know, trendy “booties” instead of real ropers, but I never went as far as having a belt buckle or Wrangler jeans.  I did have a few radio presets dedicated to the local country music station at age 18, but all of it faded away just as quickly as it set in.  Yet somehow, I managed to fall (and stay) in love with George Strait.  And back in the day, I would have donned all that western wear, moved to Texas and developed a real southern drawl just for him.  I mean, if I was ever going to go for a cowboy…it would have had to have been him—because if you’re gonna love a cowboy, why not love one who can sing?

While clearing the kitchen table and belting out a little George, the thought occurred to me—almost every song reminds me of a place in time.  Memories, days gone by, people who I know and have known.  It appears that several of his tunes have served as the soundtrack to many different seasons in my life.  Crushes, first love, long drives, adventure, good times and bad.  Right or Wrong, Fool Hearted Memory, A Fire I Can’t Put Out…seem to speak to times of young love and the intense feelings that often come with those first break ups and let downs.  It was like George was the only one in the world who knew exactly how I felt!  Then there were catchy tunes like The Fireman that remind me of KU and driving home with my roommate Sara in her hot, little red car.  You Can’t Make a Heart Love Somebody, Easy Come, Easy Go, and Write This Down mark times where I learned important lessons about moving on and trusting God’s plan in both life and relationships.  Twangy feel good music like Am I Blue always make me want to dance the day away.  And two of my favorites–The Chair and All My Ex’s Live in Texas remind me of my parents–especially my dad’s band and concerts in the park downtown on summer evenings.

Unlike my other music phases, my George fanaticism began at a young age.  I remember hearing George in the background while I learned to sew at my Grandma’s house.  His songs seemed to play non-stop the first time I visited the great state of Texas (not to mention every time that I’ve ever stepped foot there.)  George rode shot-gun with my best friend, Amy and I on our great Tulia, TX adventure in college.  Later, his music again played on the radio appropriately setting the stage for a trip to Nashville.  And it was George who traveled with me when I moved from Kansas to California.  He was my cowboy companion as I cruised the interstate…thank goodness for a cassette player with auto-reverse!  I laughed out loud while listening to Ocean Front Property in Arizona…scoping the horizon for his imaginary piece of real estate as I neared Phoenix.  One song after another served as the backdrop to beautiful countryside and endless highway.  And it was Heartland that later satisfied my soul when I found myself homesick for family and friends back in the Midwest.  Other songs like Carrying Your Love with Me and I Cross My Heart remind me of true love, family values, and faith in God.

I know I’m not the only one with memories like these.  And it’s been equally as fun to introduce my children to George’s music.  His CD 50 Number Ones was on our vacation playlist as we traveled through Denver, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Lake Tahoe and finally into the San Francisco Bay area a few summers ago.  They claim not to like him…but one glance in the rear view mirror and it’s hard not to notice them singing along.  Just tonight my son belted out three songs in a row as he wandered into the kitchen asking aloud, “How do I know every single word?”  My daughter rolls her eyes when I bust out a little George in the car on the way home from basketball games.  Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday George Strait makes his way onto their playlists.  I imagine them sheepishly trying explain to their friends that these songs remind them of their mom and childhood!  Better yet, I’d love to hear their take on the little ditty I call my “ultimate George Strait life song”—Ace in the Hole.  They frequently give me the oddest looks when I tell them that there’s a life lesson in that song that will serve them well…if they just pay attention.  Sure, Mom…sure.

While my radio presets today run the gamut from News Talk and Christian contemporary to Pop and Top 40, modern technology makes it easy enough to find George when and wherever the mood strikes.  I don’t have any crazy aspirations of ever meeting George Strait.  In fact, it’s probably better this way.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him in concert twice and I’m good with that.  As for me, our occasional kitchen-after-dinner meet-ups will continue to suffice, especially since they’ve been going on for years.  Besides…who would two-step with the broom if George and I  didn’t have these now and again country rendezvous?

Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.  —Plato