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Football, Fires, and What’s Really Important Anyway

It’s the start of a new year, always a good time to get back into something you have been avoiding with all kinds of made up excuses.  For me, that thing is blogging.  So when a couple of seemingly unrelated events created an “aha” moment just as 2012 was up and running, well there was no escaping the synchronicity .   It’s time to get back on The Road to Higher Consciousness.

The first event involved a College Bowl Football Pool that my daughter and I get in every year. You know the kind, pick the winner in 25 different bowl games, rank your picks from 1 to 25 in terms of confidence, and if your team wins, you get that many points towards your final score. After the last game, the one with the highest total score wins.  We’ve never done well but it’s fun and the entry fee is only a few bucks.

This year you can imagine our excitement when we started racking up more winners than losers in the first twenty games and found, via a real-time, online scoring matrix, that we were firmly ensconced in sixth place out of the hundred or so entries.  We actually had a chance to win.  Next up… the Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State.  We had picked Stanford and ranked it high, but according to the matrix, everyone else in the top ten had picked OSU!  If Stanford won, we’d be on top of the heap.  And with only four games left, nobody could catch us!

The game was exciting.  I’ll spare the details save to say that with three seconds to go, the score was tied 38-38 and Stanford was lined up to kick a fairly routine field goal for the win.  I didn’t want to count my chickens, but it was all but in the bag.  And then he missed the kick!!!  And he missed the kick in overtime and the OSU kicker didn’t miss, and suddenly Stanford lost and instead of being first in the pool we were twenty-fifth and our vision of a little extra spending cash to start the year was history.  For the next few hours I felt really bummed.  I mean really bummed.

And then around eight at night our phone started ringing just as our front door was getting pounded and a bunch of neighbors were yelling at us to look out the back window.  We might want to consider grabbing a coat and some important stuff and heading in the other direction.

The flames were a good twenty to thirty feet high when I first saw them, coming from a building on the cross street no more than fifty feet down the hill.  Firemen were already on the roof but they didn’t have hoses and as I watched they retreated to the next roof over, only three away from us. We’re on the top floor and our exterior walls and windows were bring bombarded by burning cinders.

My wife grabbed her purse and our computers and headed out,  I made sure the windows were shut, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and joined other neighbors up on our roof, where we sprayed the burning ashes as they landed and watched the progress of the professionals several roofs down. They had hoses now, the flames were getting smaller, and the white smoke was turning black.  In about an hour or so the fire appeared to be out, although the firemen hung around till well after midnight making sure.  And when the nightly news reported that no one had died or been injured, we finally exhaled.  We had dodged a bullet and felt really grateful.  I mean really grateful.

As I lay in bed that night, too keyed up to fall asleep, I couldn’t help but reflect on the mood swings of the day.  Two events beyond my control had run me through a whole range of emotions.  But what a difference in importance.  I’d lost a pool but my house was safe.   What if it had gone the other way?  And what if we had lost our house but our life had been saved?   There’s always something larger, something more inclusive, someplace farther back where you can stand and look and put things into perspective.

Thinking back to the Stanford game from the comfort of my bed, suddenly I didn’t feel bummed anymore.

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