Far too many sports fans are consumed by the fortunes of the teams they live and die with.
Ask any member of Red Sox Nation pre-2004, or engage in a heart-to-heart with a Cubs fan.
Such focus on who won or lost the night before, who’s in a slump and who’s red hot, and how highly ranked your school’s recruiting class is causes us to lose sight of what’s truly important.
Thankfully, those teachings are right there under our noses. All we have to do is look.
The best part is we can learn those lessons from the most unlikely of sources.
In my case, I was schooled by an elderly couple I’ve never met before in my life.
Northeastern Boulevard, located in Nashua, NH, is the typical busy road found in Any Town, USA.
Numerous side roads leading to hundreds of residential homes line one half of the street.
On the other half is a plethora of businesses ranging from industrial and commercial companies to automotive repair shops, a couple of pizza joints, and even a gym.
I’ve been an active member of that gym, Best Fitness, for over nine years.
When I leave the gym to head home, it’s the same routine: Left out of the lot. South on Northeastern. Veer left through the light and head towards the highway. I swear my car knows the way.
The trip is about eight minutes if I make all the lights, 10 if I don’t.
Every so often, on the side of the road, I see an elderly couple. The man is pushing a woman, who I presume is his wife, in a wheel chair.
I’d estimate the couple to be in their late seventies.
They move along at a slow pace. On occasion, the man leans forward to say something to her.
Sometimes they’ll be stopped on the sidewalk, gazing at a brook that runs underneath the street.
A short distance down the road from where they walk is Greenbriar Terrace Healthcare, a rehabilitation center.
Some folks stay there temporarily. Some are residents. Given that the woman is in a wheelchair, I assume she’s either a patient or resident.
Each time I see them, it’s only for a few seconds as I drive by.
But every time I do encounter the couple, a certain feeling of enlightenment fills me. The sensation is one part serenity and the other part envy.
Often I find myself hurrying to get on with the next “thing” in my life. I’m in such a rush to get some place that sometimes I miss out on the journey.
But when I see the couple, I can’t help but feel as though they have it right and a lot of us have it wrong. Very wrong.
This couple probably couldn’t care less that Kobe was hell bent on winning the NBA title this year. Or that the Yankees, desperate to book a return trip to the Fall Classic, spent over $400 million on three free agents this past offseason. Tiger missed the cut at the British Open? There’ll be other tournaments.
What, or should I say who, they care about is each other. Not A-Rod. Not Manny. Not T.O. And definitely not Brett Favre or Scott Boras.
Don’t get me wrong. Sports have their place in society, especially in today’s world.
For many of us, sports became a constant in our lives at a very early age.
Parents teach their young children how to catch a ball in the back yard.
Boys and girls learn the value of teamwork and selflessness playing Little League and youth soccer.
Sports teach us—well, some of us—how to lose with dignity and, more importantly, win with class.
Yet, every time I pass this couple, I focus on who and what matters. Or perhaps I’m reminded of who and what doesn’t matter?
Let’s face it. We live in a non-stop, fast-paced society in which, to some, instant gratification is a birthright.
We can’t even be bothered to get out of our cars to go to the bank, buy coffee, or get a burger.
Pizza can be ordered online. And then delivered to your home. Have we become that lazy?
We “tweet”—don’t get me started on Twitter—the most mundane aspects of our lives.
Is anyone reading this piece really interested if I’m at home folding laundry on the couch while a pot of pasta boils away on the stove?
News casts and news Web sites cover stories about which Hollywood phony just checked into rehab for the sixth time.
It seems as if there are just as many sports stories about athletes under arrest, billionaire owners fighting with millionaire players over money, and PED scandals as there are about game summaries and divisional races.
All the while, society continues to focus on obtaining the best and latest of everything.
Magazines and TV shows preach the value of beauty and the scourge of growing old. And God forbid you’re a few pounds on the heavy side.
Morgan Spurlock once said that other societies value their elders while we hide and shun ours.
Perhaps one day, we as a society will extract our priorities from our backsides and learn the lessons we all need to know.
I can think of two people who already have.
Here’s wishing I never forget that lesson, and, more importantly, from whom I learned it.