Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Adversity

Happy 2012 everyone. I think we are all anxious to see what this new year will bring to all of us. After all, it might be our last, right?

My Monday started out as many of them do. I donned my Duck Hawaiian shirt and my Duck Jake's hat as I headed out to the diner to start the day. One never knows what the business will be like on a day like today. The weather is suppose to be good, the day is suppose to be a holiday as banks and government are closed, and it is the last school holiday before classes go back on Tuesday.

I had worked late on Sunday to insure that Casey had all that he needed to get payroll ready to be sent and had promised to meet him early to get that ready to go. I met Casey at a quiet diner and had breakfast with a good friend, Ernie while I waited for the rest of the crew to arrive.

At 9, I had more crew than I did customers. My two bussers were just standing around, so I found 'things' for them to do which I think irritated them a bit. The wait staff busied themselves getting ready for what they hoped to be a strong day. The warmer the day got, the more I knew this would not be the case. I have found out from years past that warm weather is a bane to restaurants, especially this time of year. By 11, I was sending half of the crew home and myself was in the car now getting ready for the biggest part of the day......The Rose Bowl.

I stopped at a store to pick up some goodies for the game and slipped into a newly opened line to advantage as all of the other lines were long with other guys doing the same. The man behind me spied my junk food and quipped, "So, are these the secret ingredients for Jake's?". I smiled and countered with one word that most men understand so intimately......"Gameday!".

Driving back to the house, I checked up at the diner to ensure my presence was not needed there and arriving at the house, I began taking advantage of the warm weather myself by taking down the Christmas ornaments from the outer part of the house. As I boxed and loaded up for storage, the rest of my 'Gameday' crew arrived.....Carrie and Jay and then Frank and Jason.

I quickly took down and boxed the tree, capitalizing on the fact that Frank could help me put this largest box to sleep for the year. By the time I had finished and joined them in the room, however, nearly all of the pizza was gone. I was glad for the half sandwich that I had downed before leaving the diner as I now snacked on one of the remaining pieces while we all waited for the kick off.

Carrie quipped that their certainly seemed to be a whole lot of red in the stadium. "Must be quite a few USC fans there", I returned. As the Ducks came running out on the field, their shiny chrome hats glittered in the sun, their mirrored effect sparkling like stars.

The beginning of the game showed what most people expected. The Ducks did not seem to be able to stop the Badgers and the Badgers could not stop the Ducks. They matched each other evenly for both of the first two quarters to set a new Rose Bowl record of points in the first half of the game. I remember that announcers commenting as the Duck punter came out towards the end of the half on one of the rare stops that it was a rare sight to behold......a punter in the game.

Towards the end of the first half, the Badgers much touted running back who now had over 150 yards under his belt, tried to jump over a Duck defender. The replay looked like something that might be used over and over on the highlight reels as he landed straddled on the helmet of the defender. We all laughed and commented on whether on how high his voice must be after such a hit. Jay got a kick out of running the play back and forth on my DVR. Carrie noticed something and asked him to run it back one more time. She told us all to be quiet and listen closely to the speakers. As his groin once more landed on the solid helmet, someone clearly stated 'Ouch' in one of the speakers which brought immediate laughter to the room.

As the sun began to set, the shiny hats of the Ducks seemed to be even brighter. The men calling the game commented that they were having a hard time reading to numbers on the jerseys from the brightness of the helmets. "I think I have a play", I commented to the room. "One of our linemen just stands and rolls his head until the sun shines into the eyes of the quarterback blinding him while allowing the others to reach him for the sack.". I wondered if this would cause a new rule change.....no mirrored helmets.

The second half of the game was much like the first with the score going back and forth. We all hoped this would be to the Ducks advantage as they are usually very much a second half team and true to form, they shut down the Badgers in the 4th quarter and earned themselves the first Rose Bowls win in 95 years.

We watched the jubilant Ducks as they celebrated their win but could not miss the disappointment of the Wisconsin team and faithful. The coach was short with the handshake and the mike picked up the Badger quarterback as he fained off an interview telling them that he was just too emotional to comment right then. While I was happy that the Ducks had finally won a BCS bowl game, I certainly felt for the many fans and teammates who had gone so many miles to lose at the end of the game.

As the game finished, I jumped into the car and headed down to the diner to run the weekly poker tourney for Habitat. I ate a quick supper while the players arrived and made ready for this popular weekly game. We have now gone over $30,000 raised in this donation game that helps build houses for people who would generally not be able to afford one.

We started off with two tables and I got off quickly winning the first hand and garnering a good quick stack of chips with a full house right out of the gate. As the end of the first set of the game, I was by far the chip leader. The next hand was the last hand to rebuy and I had a King and Queen of hearts in my pocket. Two players went all in expecting to rebuy and I just could not see myself to fold this hand. As I matched their chips and flipped over my cards, I smiled as I matched up against a 10 4 and a King Jack. But then came the flop and a 10. The turn brought a Jack and the river brought another 10. My pair now last, I lost most of my stack of chip to the other two who now had healthy chip stacks leaving me with next to nothing. I was soon out of the competition and begged myself out so I could go home and watch the other big bowl game.

I watched as the other game seemed to be almost a carbon copy of our earlier one with the two teams deadlocked at the half just as ours was. With the score tied in the waning seconds of the game, the Stanford team being so close to the goal went away from their norm and just set up for the winning chip shot field goal. The camera swept down to a young man who was down on one knee preparing for what was to be a defining moment of his life.....the chance at less than 20 years old to win a BCS bowl game for his team. I could see the weight that the young man was carrying as he stepped out onto the field. The Oklahoma State coach called his last time out and I took note the tightness of the young man as he attempted to casually walk off his jitters. I openly wondered why they had not just let him kick through as the other team called time as I had seen others in the past calm themselves by kicking this free but seemingly meaningless kick. My fears were validated as the young man pushed the kick off to the left sending the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Stanford team seemed to do the same as they had at the end of the game, running the ball instead of using their greatest asset, the skill of their quarterback who had rode the team on its back all year, losing only to our beloved Ducks. The shook up young man trotted back out on the field and while closer, still missed the goal again to the left. All OSU needed to do was kick its own field goal and win the game of which they did. As the earlier game, the OSU fans and team were jubilant. The camera caught it all, however, as the young man.....not even 20 years old sat on the sidelines, his head in his hands.

My heart went out to this young man as I watched him. This highly touted and highly recruited youngster who had just had his life crushed. I imagined how he must have felt.....probably feeling that he had just let down his family, his team, and his community.

My adversities of the day and that of the Wisconsin faithful seemed so light as I compared them to the overwhelmed young man who sat alone, his shoulders dropped and his head only held up by hands propped up by elbows sitting on his knees.

I realize that he is just a freshman and he has three more years to redeem himself but right here right now, he probably is at his lowest part of his young career. They say that adversity builds character and it will be interesting to see what happens to this boy in his coming years. I know it is just a game but to that young man, it is the start of his career and I certainly hope that one day, I will see him kick that winning field goal in a future Super Bowl or something of that caliber. It will be interesting to follow his career.

Happy New Year everyone.....and Go Ducks!
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