Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Morning After

The night was a little colder than I expected.

It felt like a football game from when I was kid. Games where families would huddle under a blanket, or if you were older and too cool to huddle with your family, you might succumb to the frigid temperatures and crowd in closer with your best group of friends. If you were really lucky, you might even find yourself sharing a blanket with a girl you had been awkwardly pursuing for the last few weeks. It felt like one of those games we just don’t seem to have in Arizona anymore.

I enjoyed the opportunity to be at a high school near where my wife and I had lived almost a decade earlier. The field where the game was played was right across the highway from a golf course my friends and I had played dozens of times. It felt a little like going home.

Until we got there.

It’s amazing how much growth can occur in nine years. The traffic that clogs the Hunt Highway is endless. Even when we were attempting to get back on the main thoroughfare at the game’s conclusion, it was so busy we had to stare death in the face to try and shoot a gap between oncoming vehicles. It felt nothing like the isolated little community I remembered from so many years before. It made me a little sad.

But as we pulled into the parking lot of Poston Butte High School, my excitement was building. We had been to the amazing comeback game Thatcher had played in the week before. Could they do it again? Either way, my wife and I and my two boys would be there to see it.

It was incredible to see how much support a community Thatcher’s size could produce for a game in the greater Phoenix area on a Monday night. We filled the visitor’s stands to overflowing a full hour before kickoff. By the time the opening whistle sounded, Thatcher fans not only filled the entire visiting section of the stadium, we had laid claim to half of the home grandstand as well. The excitement was palpable, the expectations overflowing.

And then the game started.

It’s hard to describe the disappointment that can fill your soul when you realize your overmatched. I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen for every person there at the same time. But at some point, the realization dawned on every Thatcher player and every Thatcher fan. What made this situation even more difficult to accept was that our team had beaten this team earlier in the season. I wasn’t at that game. But from what I saw last night, I’m guessing we didn’t get to see all that their offense was capable of in the previous contest.

As I sat there watching touchdown after touchdown being scored by the opposition, it made me wonder which would have been more difficult to swallow. The week before, Thatcher easily could have lost on the last play of the game-inches short of a victory. Had that been the case, every mistake, every missed call by the officials, every if only… would have been analyzed and picked apart. It would have been a very tough loss to accept. It also would have robbed the boys of that team a defining moment of victory that they had earned with selfless play and feisty resolve. I’m glad they didn’t lose that game. Even if it meant experiencing what they did last night.

But that epiphany didn’t make watching what was happning in front of me any easier.

Thatcher has/had a good team. Once they got calmed down at halftime, they came out and showed that they have an offense that can go toe to toe with any defense in the division. But Yuma Catholic’s offense was…for lack of a better phrase, a thing of beauty and in a class all its own. I would have been able to appreciate it more had I not been supporting the boys getting pummeled by it, but it was impossible not to appreciate all that they brought to the table. The first red flags of danger that night went up as we were walking to the stands to take our seats. Yuma Catholic’s quarterback was warming up and it was…Wow!!! He could throw the ball. As the game wore on, he proved that what we had seen in warm ups was no fluke. Sadly, our team could not produce a single stop against their starters the entire night.

Now maybe on a different day with more opportunity to plan, Thatcher could have produced a better result. Maybe they could have even pulled off a win. Who knows? But on this night, the better team won, and we were not the better team.

The scene after the game is one that has played out on thousands of football fields hundreds of thousands of times. But each instance is like a snowflake. No two endings of a season are exactly the same. This was one of the better ones.

The fans respectfully took their place on the track as they waited for the coaches to release their team. The underclassmen lined up near the sideline while the seniors huddled at mid-field with the coaching staff. After a moment was shared that will forever belong to only those few, each coach took the opportunity to hug and cry with each of their seniors before they let them go to be greeted individually by their underclassman teammates.  From my viewpoint in the stands, it was a catch-in-the-throat moment.

Right then was not the time for evaluation. Those young men had left everything they had on the field and come up short. It was a time for consolation and a time for expressions of pride in our boys, because that’s what they have come to be. Our boys. Whether they are actually our sons or not. One of the players is our home teacher. I felt for him. He’ll get another shot next year, but in the moment, that didn’t make last night any easier.

However, now that everyone has had a chance to sleep on it, it’s time for the introspection to begin.

I’m sure over the next few weeks we’ll hear and engage in discussions about how unfair the public vs. private school dynamic of sports in Arizona is. We’ll decry the inherent unfairness of Yuma Catholic’s ability to recruit players. We’ll pat our boys on the back and try to boost them up by reassuring them that they were the state champs of the public schools. (An argument that would hold more water if Round Valley weren’t still part of the equation in the championship game, but…details, details.) In short, we’ll try and reassure ourselves that if all things were fair, the outcome would have been different.

But if these are the only lessons we take from this, we’ll be missing a golden opportunity for these boys and for ourselves.

In truth, life is never fair. At the end of the day, regardless of how well we like the system we’re in or not, it’s the system we have. And in that system, we had to play Yuma Catholic. And last night, Yuma Catholic was better than us…by a long shot.

But that’s okay. Because in life, we’re always going to come up against someone who is just better than we are. At anything we ever try to do. It just is. Failure is part of this gig we call life. It’s what we do with failure that matters.

The cold, hard fact is; some days, your absolute best effort will not be enough. And sometimes, no matter how hard you work, your best effort will never be enough. I don’t tend to get overly religious on this blog very often, but doesn’t that sound familiar?

To my mind, there is no better way to teach the atonement to youth than by capitalizing on those moments of failure like last night. Anyone can explain concepts and anyone can draw up diagrams all day long. But last night, those boys felt pain. They understood what it meant to give it their all for four months and still get run over. To achieve victory, they would have needed help. And a lot of it.

But as I stood in the stands, the chill in the air making me shiver just a bit, I looked at those boys with their heads down as they hugged their team mates, their friends and their families. In a short amount of time, whether it be a matter of months or a matter of years, some of those boys will be missionaries. And they’ll be better missionaries because they not only know what it means to succeed, but they’ll also know what it means to fail. And people who fail are the ones willing to listen to a message of hope.

And when those days come, and in the years and years of life that will follow, football won’t matter a whole lot. At least not until it is their own son playing, and then once again, they’ll get to experience that magical moment that can only be felt on an evening when there is a chill in the air and the lights on the field can be seen for miles. And on that night, they’ll either celebrate a thrilling victory or they’ll commiserate with a boy experiencing the agony of a crushing defeat. But if it is the outcome of defeat, they’ll also know that tomorrow, in the ashes of broken dreams, a valuable lesson will be waiting for everyone.

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What Do You Mean When You Say You’re Having Me For Dinner?

Today feels like a hodge podge day. I’m having trouble focusing and all of the…

See, I don’t even remember where I was going with that sentence when I started it. I’m just all over the board today. So, I’m going to sound off on a few random topics and then finish with a final thought that the title of the post refers to.

– I’m still mourning over Person of Interest last night. I know a lot of fans are taking to the message boards swearing they will never watch the show again, but that’s stupid. It’s a great show. But wow…that one last night was hard to take. Here’s hoping Reese channels his inner Malificent and calls down all the powers of hell on what remains of HR.

-How do some people live with themselves? Thatcher High School’s football team has made it to the semi-final round in the state tournament. Quite an accomplishment. And what do they get for this momentous achievement? They get to play their next opponent on a neutral field for the right to play in the championship game. Their opponent is the private religious school, Yuma Catholic. And the neutral field they will be playing on this Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. is the field at Cibola High School in…wait for it…Yuma, Arizona. A site just a mere six hours away from Thatcher. I’m curious, is the AIA trying to be sensitive to religious needs of their member schools? I mean is there a concern that the Yuma Catholic players need to be able to finish the game and get showered with plenty of time to make it to midnight mass? This is reprehensible. And yet, like just about anything else with a bureaucracy, there is nothing that anyone with a logical mind in their head can do about it. God bless the spirit of fair and spirited competition that’s alive and well in our state high school athletic governing system. Now pardon me while I vomit.

-How are we doing on Obamacare? Well, the president is very sorry. Just listen to him, he’ll tell you how sorry he is. Nevermind that he has pledged to veto a bill that would allow people to retain the plans they had originally before they were cancelled because of his law. He would rather promise the same thing unilaterally from the executive branch with no legal precedent allowing him to do so. And by they way? A poll taken this week showed that if the election were held today, Mitt Romney would be president. Maybe that’s because everything he said is turning out to be true while everything the president swore to during the election is turning out to be the equivalent of the dog crap I scraped off my shoe this morning after not looking where I was walking. My favorite jab at the president so far comes courtesy of Jon Stewart from the Comedy Channel. The clip lasts for nine minutes, but the portion dealing with the president is only 3 minutes. It contains the word a– three times and I have no idea if anything else offensive occures after the three-minute mark. But I’m still linking to it because I love the Pobody’s Nerfect sign.

-Teenagers make me tired and give me stress. This is mainly due to the fact that I have no idea what to do with them. Is this how God feels when he’s dealing with me? Probably.

-I have one thought for every local business in the town where I live that is getting ready to make their best argument that I should shop local this holiday season. It is this: Make me feel like you care about my business and that I, as a customer, am important to you. If you don’t, I have no desire to hear your guilt-inducing diatribe about money leaving this valley. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

-I like the cooler weather, but I am sick to death of listening to the chorus of phlegm expulsion that echoes through our house each morning as our entire family tries to clear their throats from all the sickness and germs infesting our lives. Noxious weeds? Try noxious snot.

Finally, I want to say a word or two about the opportunity I have tomorrow night to meet with a local book club about THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER. For me, this is really exciting. As I may have said before, one of the things I regret is that I don’t have an opportunity to have a dialogue with people who have read my book. If they liked it, I want to know what they liked. If they hated it, why did they hate it. It has been so interesting to read reviews because of the range they cover. I have had some reviewers say how much Dr. Schenk, the therapist in the story, is their favorite character. I have had other reviewers state emphatically how much they hate that arrogant SOB. But I don’t get to talk to these people and find out why.

And for that reason alone, I am so excited for tomorrow night.

However, I must admit to a little bit of anxiety. Originally, I was told that I should show up about 8:30 and we would discuss the book. Yesterday, I was informed the format had changed and that I should show up around 7:00 so that I could be there for dinner.

Hmmm….

I can’t help but wonder. Did I just become the main course?

I’m only joking…I think. I am so grateful to the ladies of this book club who are providing this opportunity and am also grateful that they are including my wife. Now Shannon and I did come up with a possible ulterior motive for her invitation which includes the fact that we will have to bring our two month old daughter whom we will probably not see again during the course of the evening. Something about women and holding babies. I don’t get it, but I accept that it is.

Anyway, we are so looking forward to tomorrow night and hope that the women involved feel the same way. And if they are waiting to unload with both barrels, here’s hoping I’m up to the challenge.

THE RELUCTANT BLOGGER is still available wherever LDS books are sold and on Deseretbook.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon in both softcover and Kindle editions. Have someone that’s hard to shop for this holiday season? This is the perfect gift. If they enjoy reading, you’ve given them a book they can treasure forever. If they hate reading, then they’ll get a better idea of how hard they are to shop for and will do better at giving you a list of preferred items ahead of time.

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The Whole System Is Breaking Down

This has been a tough week for me. As I have documented previously, my transition of becoming a Thatcher Eagle’s fan has been harrowing and brutal on my psyche. With each step in the progression it feels as if a little bit of my soul is being chipped away and fed to the hounds of hell. But I have carried on and tried to maintain some bit of my humanity. But each time, it gets a little harder. Well, yesterday, I had to take possibly the hardest step yet.

The Thatcher Spirit Line is competing in qualifiers for state this weekend and my wife and I will be traveling to Goodyear to support our eldest daughter. So far through this, her freshman year, I have been able to get by with wearing either color neutral clothing or else a Celtics t-shirt I have in my closet. But for this event where we are going to support her directly as she competes, that Garnett jersey tee just didn’t seem enough. And so yesterday, I had to spend my hard earned money on…(gulp)…Thatcher Eagles gear. FOR MYSELF!!! Ugh!!! My heart feels just a little bit blacker today.

Anyway, that is not the end of it. To make yesterday even worse, I found myself holding a sleeping child in my recliner waiting for the best show on television to start.

(Okay, just a bit of an aside here. If you aren’t watching Person of Interest, start. No, scratch that. You would be lost. Get the DVD’s through Netflix or Blockbuster or do whatever you have to in order to watch that show from the beginning. It’s amazing.)

As I was sitting there, I flipped over to ESPN and realized that Duke and Kansas were getting ready to tip off an incredible college basketball game.

Now, let’s go back in time to May 12, 2012. That is the week that a young junior in high school named Jabari Parker was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Jabari looked like most other kids growing up in Chicago except for a couple of major differences. One, he is 6’8″ and two, he’s a Mormon. Not just a ‘my parents were baptized before I was born but we don’t really go’ kind of Mormon, but rather a ‘my brother went on a mission and my mom made my high school coach change the practice schedule so I could go to church on Sunday’ kind of Mormon. The article was fascinating. It told of how Jabari fell in love with basketball because he was hanging out at the church. So that he and his brother wouldn’t have to play in some areas of the city that weren’t entirely safe, their bishop had (I’m sure against Church protocol) given them a key to the building where they spent hours upon hours playing the game. And as a Junior, he was being touted as the best high school player since LeBron James.

I instantly loved this kid. I loved that he was concerned about whether he should go on a mission. (I know people will think I am heretic for this, but I don’t believe he should. Much like Donny Osmond in the ’70s, he can do so much for the missionary efforts of the church by staying in college, playing basketball and becoming a role model for youth the world over if he so chooses. That’s just my opinion. I hope he does whatever he feels the Lord wants him to do.) I loved that he was so respectful of his parents and his faith. I loved that he was humble. And I’ll admit it. I loved that he is LDS.

So I kept listening as to what his plans might be. He was being recruited by every major program in the country. For that reason he could go anywhere. I was curious if he would stay close to home. I was curious if he would choose an LDS environment. (I think this was the first time I ever heard BYU mentioned on the same list of possibilities as Duke, Kentucky or Kansas.) I just wanted to know what he would do. In the end, I liked his decision. He chose Duke.

I liked this decision because it is a university that offers a higher quality of education than most “basketball” universities and a large number of classy individuals have come from that program. I thought it was a wise choice.

But that did present a down side. Duke always wins. Although I rooted for them in 1990 because, as any good Arizona Wildcat fan would, I couldn’t root for UNLV and Duke was the only school standing in the way of a Runnin’ Rebels repeat. (I still hate those UNLV cheating, no-good, vile…I digress.) But as the years went by, Duke kept winning and Dick Vitale kept laying on the praise and I fell victim, like so many others, to a case of Dukeitis. I didn’t want to hear about them anymore. And I sure as heck didn’t want them to win anymore. It all culminated in the season where Duke and Arizona played for the national title and Duke won. (Again, like any Arizona fan worth their salt will tell you, Arizona got jobbed in that game. Those refs were pathetic.)

So since that time, I have come to, not necessarily hate Duke. But I will certainly root heartily against them at any opportunity.

Until last night.

Last night, I finally got to see Jabari Parker play basketball. And it was glorious. He can shoot. Wait, that’s not enough. He has one of the smoothest shots I’ve seen and it goes in regularly. It’s like fine art. He has hops. He rejected a shot by jumping three feet higher than the other player who shot the ball. It was amazing. And then when he rose above the rim to finish an alley-oop dunk? I almost cried it was so beautiful.

Now the game didn’t end before Person of Interest started so I had to miss the second half, and in the end, Jabari Parker fouled out of the game and Duke lost. But he was their best player. And after the game, his comments were so humble. He talked about how much he needed to improve and took no glory above his team. I just love this kid.

And so, as much as it hurts me to say. For the remainder of Jabari Parker’s time at Duke, I’m a Duke fan. If Arizona can’t win the national title, I want Duke to win it. And I want Jabari Parker to be named MVP. I want him to succeed.

Now some cynics might say, “You only feel that way because he’s a Mormon.”

To which I reply, “Darn straight.”

So now, just to be clear, my order of fanhood for this upcoming college basketball season goes:

1. Arizona State, 2. Arizona, 3. Duke.

Well, the truth is, Arizona State isn’t good enough to win the PAC 12, let alone the national title. So…I guess it would have to be:

1. Arizona, 2. Arizona State, 3. Duke.

Except…I don’t like the coach at ASU and would actually prefer he be replaced with someone better. And I really like Jabari Parker. So I guess it would actually be:

1. Arizona, 1a. Duke, 3. Arizona State (kinda)

But I can’t help feeling a little less about myself. I’ll be wearing a Thatcher Eagle’s t-shirt this weekend and I’ll be cheering for Duke all season long. Why don’t I just buy a Kobe Bryant jersey and make my defection to the darkside complete.

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What Kind of Men Are We Building?

“I want my kid in sports because it builds character.”

How many times have we heard that statement? Maybe we’ve even said it ourselves. But is it really true? Do we really believe that? And if we do, should we?

The truth is, sitting here amidst a pile of evidence supporting both sides of the argument, I’m just not sure anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a sports addict. This past weekend, I killed a complete hour holding my sleeping baby, sitting in front of my computer watching descriptions of each play in the ASU football game come up on the screen because I couldn’t watch the game on television. If you’ve never seen what that might look like, suffice it to say that it paints a pretty pathetic picture of me. But I didn’t care. I was desperate for any possible scrap of information regarding how the game was going. I’ve been known to watch golf for several hours straight. I gorge myself on college basketball every March. I love sports.

But I still can’t help but ask: what are sports today saying about us?

The National Football League is the biggest cash cow in America. Superbowl Sunday is the closest thing to a non-sanctioned American holiday as you can get. We love professional football. In fact, we love it so much, we are totally cool with looking past the fact that four current or former players committed suicide in 2012 alone. Dozens more have admitted to thoughts of doing the same.

Brett Favre, an NFL icon (and dipwad in my opinion, but that’s unrelated to this post) has admitted to bouts of short-term memory loss. And he’s just the tip of the iceburg. Many more stories came out after his including one of a former player having to take a picture of his hotel in the morning so he can remember where he is staying that night or another player who admits to driving down the road and not being able to remember where he’s going on a regular basis.

These are the benefits later in life of a storied football career: depression, short-term memory loss and suicide. We know this. If a drug caused these symptons in the same percentage of people taking it as football does in its former players, we’d be horrified.

We are the Romans. I had this thought several weeks ago and had it confirmed by Rick Reilly on ESPN. Football stadiums around the country are our colosseums. Jay Cutler, a quarterback for the Chicago Bears, takes himself out of games if he feels he is too hurt to play. He gets called soft. My favorite player, Peyton Manning, is having an MRI this morning on his ankle and his knee. My first thought is not, “Gee, I hope he takes the time to heal so that he can live a long and productive life beyond football.” Nope, it’s, “Gee, I hope he’s fine for this next Sunday, because my fantasy team is toast without him.”

And now, one final problem with pro-football that I think permeates our entire sports culture. This last couple of weeks has shown the light on the culture inside of an NFL locker room. Apparently, the use of the “n” word (a word that will get a white person fired in just about any other setting should they use it) in a football locker room by a white person is completely justified as long as he uses it in conjunction with several nasty swear words and multiple threats to bodily harm. It’s okay, because everyone there knows he doesn’t mean it. And if he offends somebody? That person should go and deal with it physically, beat the $*@& out of the offending party, because any other solution is not “manly”.

I’m sorry, WHAT???

Is that the message I want my children learning? Because if my boys were old enough and cared about sports enough to watch ESPN this last week or so, that is the message being conveyed. You can’t judge anything you hear about an NFL locker room, because you don’t understand. Dozens of former players who are now analysts have basically said just that. Well, I’m sorry but that is a load of crap! I can judge what I’m seeing and hearing and under no circumstances do I want my children being taught that language or behavior like that is acceptable. EVER!!!

The most insidious thing is that we know behavior unbecoming a man is not limited to professional sports. It pervades locker room at every level (pro, college or high school) in our country. I learned most of the swear words I know (but don’t use) from my freshman basketball coach. And had he acted they way he did with us during halftimes of our games in any other setting, he would likely have been fined or even arrested. I’ve heard first hand accounts of coaches in the college setting doing their best to cheat and cover for their athletes so they can get them on the field or court regardless of their actual eligibility. Now there’s a good message to send. Then we wonder why so many former college athletes in the major sports are —— (things we get when we grab the stem of a rose too quickly.)

And what does it do to us – The average fan? I attended a high school football game in a neighboring town a week or so ago. I’ve witnessed a lot of high school athletic contests and I am aware when officials are being a bit one-sided. I didn’t have a child playing in the game so I feel I can be a bit objective although the team getting jobbed was the team that came from the town I now live in.

It was blatant. And it made me ask a few questions.

1. What happens to an adult male, or rather a team of adult males that makes them feel justified in doing their best to screw over a bunch of high school kids in favor of another group of high school kids? (And as evidence that this actually occured, the team from my current home town lost, but the following week, the two teams played again and this time they annihilated them. It wasn’t even close. Take that for whatever it’s worth.)

2. Despite what was happening on the field, what led us in the stands to believe that shouting derogatory things at the officials was justified? What about all that talk of being the bigger man we used to hear about? (As a mea culpa, I do recognize what I did back in college when it came to being an observer of basketball at EAC. I had a blast. But it wasn’t right. In some cases, it wasn’t right in a lot of ways.)

3. How are we supposed to foster a spirit of sportsmanship in our kids in an environment like that? There was a day when it was encouraged to offer a hand to an opposing player when he got knocked down. Those days are long gone. Now that kind of behavior is considered weak.

Finally, I recalled a high school basketball game I attended last year between Thatcher and a private “Christian” school from down in the Gilbert area. To be frank, they were better than we were. But then how could they not be? They can recruit players where we could not and they can practice together year-round while we are limited to a few months out of the year. So, in my mind, bad message number one: Winning is more important than a fair playing field.

As their team continued pummeling us, the parents in the stands of these extremely good athletes felt it necessary to cheer on ugly behavior by their players on the court and to taunt us as fans of the losing team. Bad message number two: (Really, do I have to spell this one out?)

But sadly, in most instances, this is what high school sports is becoming. A battle between private institutions built solely for the purpose of buying state championships with public schools being left to compete in an arena that is staggeringly one-sided. Bad message number three: Those who have the means are more important and deserving than those that don’t. (To be fair, this is a message communicated in far more areas than just sports)

The evidence of negativity in sports could go on and on. It almost makes me want to wash my hands of it and tell my kids to forget competing because it’s not worth it. But then I’m reminded of these few anecdotes:

1. A junior high football team that, without the knowledge of their coaches, purposely stopped short of scoring a touchdown by about a foot so that they could bring in a special needs teammate who normally didn’t play and let him score a touchdown. It was the highlight of that young man’s life.

2. Two coaches of opposing Catholic Youth teams who agreed before hand to suspend a certain rule so that a blind student could shoot all of the foul shots for his team. And that all the players agreed, even when it came down to two shots with 10 seconds left and the blind young man’s team down by 1.

3. The Queen Creek High School Football team protecting a girl suffering from microcephaly and the effect it had on an entire community.

4. The look of accomplishment I see in the eyes of the young men and women I’m around on a weekly basis as they accomplish something they never have before, whether it be in football, volleyball, soccer, cross country running, tennis, wrestling, or any other sport. It even extends to my daughter’s eyes as she competes this coming weekend in cheer leading spirit line. Some may not feel it’s a sport, but they better not say it to her. She and her team have worked too hard to accept that analysis.

So I guess I really just don’t know. As a parent, what am I supposed to do. I want to share my love of sports with my kids, but I worry about the lesson it will teach them. But then, I suppose when it comes to sports in America, it’s just like everything else. It’s about the people playing, the people coaching and the people watching. In many cases, sports is just like a bunch of other things in our society that can easily become corrupted. It’s more about who we teach our athletes (and our fans) to be and then let them learn whatever lesson there is to be learned.

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Enough With the Goodbyes Already

I’ve about had my fill of death.

It seems that just about every time I turn around around, I’m hearing about another person’s passing that is just sad. In truth, I think I’m becoming immune to a lot of it. But every once in a while, I will hear about the passing of someone and it just stops me cold. Because that person was never supposed to get old and they most certainly weren’t supposed to die.

And it is generally people most folks would find surprising that I even know. The latest of these happened just over a week ago. The person’s name was Marcia Wallace.

If I were guessing, I would think that the response from most people reading this blog would be: Marcia Wallace? Whose Marcia Wallace? I’m pretty sure that would be the response from every single person in my immediate family, including my wife. But if you are a pop-culture savant, you are probably sagely nodding your head because you know who Marcia Wallace is. She’s been the voice behind Bart Simpson’s teacher for over 24 years. But that role has nothing to do with why her passing is getting to me today.

It’s actually her role on the Bob Newhart Show: Carol Kester.

I’m supposing that most people familiar with the role are now sitting back and trying to think, “How old is this guy? I thought he just made a big deal about turning 40. That’s way too young to be affected by the Bob Newhart Show. He would have been born the year it premiered”

And people thinking that would be correct.

But the Bob Newhart Show was one of my mother’s all time favorites. I remember being a little kid (and by little, I mean 4 or 5) and watching that show with my parents. At that age, I thought it was boring. As the years went by and I started to see some of the episodes in re-runs, I started to get some of the jokes and have even started including them in my own family’s lexicon. Whenever my son, Braden, starts in with his ‘woe is me’ attitude, I will start chanting in a sing-song voice, “Single-scooper, single-scooper, this man is a party pooper.” That’s a direct lift from an old episode that I can still remember to this day. I don’t know anything about the episode, but I remember that line being delivered as Bob Newhart is standing in the middle of some bizarre restaurant/ice cream shop with a spotlight being trained on him. I know this means nothing to anybody. But to me, that’s a good memory. A good memory I shared with my mother.

What makes it hard is that I believe my mother died too soon. She was only 59. Our family had already been through the loss of one parent too early when my father-in-law died at 49. But with news of each death from my mother’s era, it is becoming clearer that people that mean a great deal to me are only going to be leaving me with more and more regularity.

I mean, when I heard that Marcia Wallace had died, I thought, “Oh my gosh, she’s way too young.”

Except she was 70. Not necessarily an age that is considered remarkably old, but certainly an age that when it is accompanied by death, we don’t hold our hands to our mouth in shock either. It is a good long and successful life. One that I would be grateful to have. Until I realize this:

My father will be 70 in just over a year.

And he and I wasted an afternoon yesterday. Yesterday, our family blessed my youngest daughter. We had family in from out of town and like most families we had the obligatory family luncheon after church. The problem was, my dad and I ended up in a two-hour discussion/argument over politics. And it was stupid. When it was over, neither one of us had convinced each other of anything and we had lost all the time available with family members who were now preparing to leave. Furthermore, we lost a prime opportunity with each other to enjoy family rather than discuss a political event that in the grand scheme of things means nothing. Today I’m a little sobered and saddened at the missed opportunity. Because I can’t be sure of how many I have left.

So, I will try to file this away and forget about it. It will take a day or two, but I will succeed. But at the moment, I know the next shoe will drop soon. Bill Daily from that same television show (the actor my mother considered her favorite) is 86. Peter Bonerz is 75. We already lost Suzanne Pleshette a few years ago. And the hardest will be when Bob Newhart himself (currently aged 84) passes away.

Again, most people from my generation will remember him from either Newhart, Elf or his guest roles on shows like The Big Bang Theory. But to me, he will always be Dr. Bob Hartley, psychiatrist. And he (probably more than any actor other than James Garner) will always remind me of my mom. And how much I miss her.

God Speed, Marcia Wallace. I would say you will be missed, but in my case, that wouldn’t be true. I hadn’t thought of you in years. But the fact that you were out there brought me comfort. And I suppose that is what I will truly miss the most.

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