Friends, Football, and Fighting Back: Lessons for the Holidays and Beyond
As many of you probably know I am a sports fan. It provides me a source of relief and decompression from the challenges and pressures associated with practicing law and representing the interests of my clients. I love my profession and having outlets help me maintain a sense of balance, purpose, and perspective. And since Christmas is but a week away I will use this post as a respite from “law” and chat a few moments about “life”.
I am a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and have taken a good bit of abuse—-all in fun—-for my fandom. A particularly rocky period was in January 1996 when my Steelers lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX. I and many others in Steeler Nation believe the Steelers gave that game away versus Dallas beating the Steelers. But it matters not as my Steelers definitely did not prevail in that game. However much history has been written since that game including two more Steeler Super Bowl titles giving them the NFL lead with six Lombardi Trophies. Hmmm….since that 1996 Super Bowl victory, Dallas has only won two playoff games….two playoff games? Yikes!
This past weekend I was blessed and amazingly fortunate to get the offer of a lifetime: a chance to see my Steelers play Dallas in a regular season game. Now admittedly the venue was Arlington, Texas—home of Cowboy Stadium—but knowing Steeler Nation travels well I enthusiastically accepted the offer. I had a Texas-sized great time. The tailgate party started early in the morning and there was a festive atmosphere amongst all fans on a mild day in mid-December. There were loads and loads of Steeler fans. So much so that you could have been excused if you thought it was a neutral site game. Terrible Towels waving and “here we go Steelers!” chants were a constant occurrence over the course of the thrilling game which went into overtime. And once again a Steeler mistake—-Christmas comes early in Dallas so Cowboy fans can thank us now or later—led to a Dallas victory, 27-24. Despite the loss I had a great time.
The offer to attend the game came from a phenomenal couple whom I had the privilege of meeting while I was in law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Isaiah, my best friend from law school, now lives in Atlanta with his wonderful wife, Natalie, and their three amazing sons. Isaiah and I met as first-year law students and quickly became friends. He needled me endlessly when his Cowboys got the Super Bowl over my Steelers in 1996. We have maintained contact through the years and through the ups and downs of life. This past weekend gave us a chance to hang out, catch up, talk friendly trash, and further solidify a life-long friendship. Natalie put together the football weekend as a birthday gift to Isaiah and the couple was kind enough to invite me to share in the weekend. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity and am glad I was able to participate.
From this story I learned at least two valuable lessons: one about friendship and one about resiliency. As to friendship I have long believed in the value of having good friends and I try to live my life in a manner such that the friends and family around me realize the value they add to my life. This occurs in many ways and sometimes our family and friends will surprise us with gifts and mercies that can humble us and leave us speechless. Random acts of kindness are gifts that can (and should) be given all year round. They do not require a credit card or a bow or even a bunch of buildup. Do it just because. Life is tough yet precious as we have seen from a recent series of unspeakable tragedies across our country. Think about this: the easy thing to do is to cling to one’s family and not maintain outside friendships but is that really living a full life? Isn’t it more challenging and often rewarding to cultivate powerful, positive relationships with non-family members? If nothing else having good friends can provide for a fuller life.
The lesson about resiliency is nothing new or inherently philosophical. Instead it is just the fact that we have to keep moving when things do not go quite as we would expect or desire. When I arrived at the airport in Dallas-Fort Worth on Saturday night my checked bag never appeared at the baggage claim area. I calmly completed a lost baggage claim, had some faith it would work out, and left the airport terminal. Natalie was kind enough to take me to a local Wal-Mart so I could pick up a few items for the next couple of days in the event my bag never reappeared. On Sunday while I was at the game with Isaiah the airline had someone deliver my lost bag to the Dallas hotel where Natalie, Isaiah, and I were staying. (If I had the bag before the game you would have seen me wearing my Steeler cap and jersey in the above picture.) Problem solved. During the game my Steelers got behind early and the Dallas crowd got loud but the black and yellow refused to quit. They fought back and actually took the lead late in the game with a chance to put the game on ice….but it was not meant to be. And as is typical with the road of life, more curves lay ahead……. my return flight to Greensboro on Monday was delayed an hour due to weather and while on the flight we met some unsettling turbulence. But the plane landed safely, I retrieved my bag from baggage claim, went to my car, and headed home from a phenomenal weekend.
So much of life is how you respond to the challenges you face. In the course of representing my clients there are times when the challenges are such that the easy thing to do would be to give up and give in. Read my recent post on this very topic of rebounding from adversity. This year has seen many ups and downs for our country and I imagine you have had some peaks and valleys in your life also. As we are in the holiday season I wish you and yours all the best. I desire that you may have some quality time to spend with the family and friends and those that you love. Thanks for your support and readership….Thanks again Natalie and Isaiah…..and, in closing, Go Steelers!