Friday, November 30, 2012

What A Change Time Can Make

My life has changed drastically over the last 5 years. Hell, even 7, but the last 5 are when the change really started and improved my life.

Right around this time in 2007, I was really lost in my life and unsure of what I wanted. But I had an idea, because someone walked into my life and replaced everything I thought was concrete.

Fast forward a little, and we were the only thing I knew. "She and I" didn't exist anymore. I couldn't find a way to separate us, even in text or speech. We had our early struggles, but we persevered, mostly with her faith in us. (No, I didn't cheat, you bastard minds)

It wasn't long after, I was being transplanted from Maryland to Louisiana. I was afraid "we" were going to grow more distant. She had school to worry about, and I had a sick grandfather who I needed to look after. But life in Louisiana proved to be a lot more comforting and joyful than I had imagined and all of the trying times that my life went through, she was always there as my support and comfort.

My time in Louisiana made me appreciate family more. Responsibility. I found something in myself that I didn't really know I had in me, outside of my innate protectiveness of my brother. There was nothing in my mind, ever, that told me to quit on my grandfather. When my grandparents called me for anything, it was always an immediate response. My duty to take care of him wasn't a chore. It was a blessing, as macabre as that may sound. I had an opportunity to spend time with my grandparents whom I had only seen on holidays in the recent years before then. I got to witness, first hand, the purest love my life could encounter. I could go on for days about all that my grandparents had gone through in their battling lives, but I hope you can trust me at my word when I say that no two people in love, that I've ever known, went through more, with more faith, confidence, and love than them.

I also got to see my grandfather, who cherished knowledge to no end, use his knowledge to astonish me every single day. My grandfather was interested in me, not just as a grandson, but as a man. And while he was ashamed of the fact that he needed my help, he let me know every chance he got that he appreciated me doing everything that I was; but he always said it looking out of the corner of his eye. He knew I was making my grandmother's life just that extra bit easier in those trying times.

When we lost him, I was devastated. I was hurt. The only people I trusted enough to help me get through it were my grandmother, and her. And they did. My grandmother even made sure I got a "reward" for my "duty" by helping me relax on the greatest vacation I could imagine. When she got sick, I was tested even more. To this day, however, I'm sure love prevailed in her death, less than a year after my grandfather. There's no telling how long she was sick before she realized it, or before he died... but she never showed any signs until after he was gone, and she fought to make everything right before her own end.

The entire family was devastated. Rightfully so. But in the back of our minds, and in our hearts, we knew she wanted nothing more than him, and that was nothing to feel offended about as son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter. They depended on each other every day for nearly 30 years after my grandfather's stroke. Without him, she didn't know what life was anymore. It's a blessing that God ended her agonizing pain to reunite them. I hope my aunts and uncles feel the same way; feel no hatred towards God or this journey called life; accept that they're reunited and watching over everyone.

As painful as it was at the time, I knew that I had witnessed the strongest companionship. It made me appreciate her even more. In turn, I had far more faith in us than I thought I had before.

I didn't immediately kick into gear to get everything organized, but she pushed me. Threatened with losing the only thing in the world that made life mean anything to me, I decided to make the changes.

I'm back in school, which I hated. Not going back--school. I never liked school. I love education, and knowledge, but school, especially in the U.S., is horrendous. But I love education so much that I've decided to major in it. Hopefully, to follow in my grandfather's footsteps. But she knew I would do what would make me happy, and her hollow "threat" was all I needed.

Our relationship helped me recognize that I've got more potential than I could ever imagine. Our relationship helped me identify the power of my grandparents' love. Our relationship has made me a better man. A better person.

Coming up on 5 years with her, and everything is still about her in my life. She's still my first thought every morning. My last thought every night. And she still manages to show up in my dreams. I've got faith in us, because I have faith in the amazing person she is. She reminds me when I feel like hope is lost in humanity, that there are people out there who bring out the best in others, even at the expense of themselves. I don't know what all she may have had without devoting so much to me, sacrificing opportunities elsewhere... but I'm thankful, eternally, that she chose me to invest in; and try as she may to convince me that I've helped her, I know she's incredible enough to have achieved more had she not spent so much time and energy being about us... and me. But that's what faith, and love are. Knowing that, no matter what you sacrifice, you still make everything work because you're perfect together. That's how I know she loves me. And that's how I know we've got what my grandparents had.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The NFL's "Egregious" Discipline

Before I begin, I want to make a few points perfectly clear:

  1. I do believe that concussions are a very serious matter,
  2. I don't condone players being intentionally violent,
  3. I do believe player safety is the most important focus in football.
Now having said that--the National Football League is out of line and highly irresponsible in its handling of penalties/suspensions. Enforcement of the rules is a problem. Clarification of what is against the rules is an even bigger issue.

From childhood, every offensive football player is told to get their pads low, because whoever has the lower center of gravity is the least likely to get blown up on a play. Basically, "put your facemask in the defender's chest and run through him."

This week, Baltimore Ravens' safety Ed Reed was suspended (now uplifted and turned into a $50,000 fine) for his hit on Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sanders caught the ball, turned upfield, and collided with Ed Reed in a big hit. Reed was penalized on the play, and he knew the fine was unfortunately coming. What he didn't expect was his suspension for being a "repeat offender."

Replay shows that Reed/Sanders did butt heads during the hit; but it also shows that the contact was incidental. Reed was going at Sanders' shoulders, and Sanders turned and ducked to get lower against Reed. Now in less than half of a step, Reed was expected to adjust further so as not to hit Sanders' helmet. It's physically impossible.

The league expressed their wishes that defensive players are solely responsible for fixing this issue, but how? If in a split second a guy gets lower than anticipated, you're going to knock helmets. So does Reed have to dive at Sanders' waist?

A defensive player with HIS facemask at a players' waist is exposing himself to the risk of spinal injury if his neck bends awkwardly. If his head is down, he may be less at risk of his head snapping back but more at risk of sideways jarring or jamming the spinal column (think Kevin Everrett).

Again, I am in no way trying to downplay concussions. They're severe, and possibly far worse than we've ever imagined. But it's clear to me that a lawsuit about providing funds to take care of retired players dealing with the effects of concussions is more important to the league, than actual player safety. And quite frankly, if I were involved with the league, I think I would prefer a player having a concussion to a player having a broken neck/spine/paralysis/death.

I don't want to see flag football, and I also don't want to see concussions galore. But I believe the league has to identify what it expects even more, and take every detail into consideration. Too many of these helmet-to-helmet hits are incidental contact where nothing can be done to prevent it. A defender gets low, the ball-carrier gets lower, and there's a headbutt. Hardly the defender's fault, so why is it their responsibility?