We met my friend Brett and his kids at Memorial Stadium at 5:00 p.m. last Friday to run on the field. At 4:30 p.m. my wife asked, “How soon should we leave?” I said, “In 15 minutes,” Look at me calling the shots. What a boss. But then I fretted, “Or, maybe we should leave now so we’re not late.” Look at me second guessing myself because I’m not a boss.
Brett is a former Husker football Captain, so he could get us in. It is notable Brett played football at Nebraska. But that is the least impressive thing about him. He is a poet. He baptized African orphans in the Indian Ocean. He is a comedian. He is an artist, environmentalist, intellectual and minimalist. He has a shoebox full of letters from inmates he visited.
The first time I met Brett, at the Lincoln Correctional Center, he was wearing velcro shoes, not long after he tried out for the New York Jets. If you say you like something Brett has he promptly gives it to you. He’s also a pastor- a people’s pastor. You should meet him, but he might not want to meet you because he’s an introvert.
I felt happy about this night. I often make myself miserable during perfect circumstances, so I appreciate the ability to enjoy something. I do not take happiness lightly. On the way to the stadium I thanked God for the ability to appreciate this experience.
The ability to enjoy something is underrated. Without the ability to enjoy ice cream you lifelessly lick milk and sugar. Ice cream is a non event without the ability to enjoy it.
After our daughter ate her supper on Tom Osborne Field she ran to me and said, “Dada let’s race all the way down there,” and pointed to the far end zone. We raced down and back three times. We had the stadium to ourselves.
I pretended I was ex-Husker Ahman Green and she was ex-Husker Eric Crouch. I was Ahman because our daughter says, “Daddy, you have the darkest skin in our family. Your skin is not as bright peachish as ours."
After that, my wife and I raced. I requested a 50 yard race because I wanted to skew things my way. She requested a 30 yard race because she wanted to skew things her way. We met halfway and did 30.
We got in our stances and Brett’s son said, “Ready, set, go!"
We ran with smiles, but we were serious. I could not lose because my wife tells stories to crowds of people when we eat at her parents.
She was fast. I was impressed. We were side by side for 15 yards. She was like Justin Gatlin, taking quick short strides. I was like Usain Bolt, uncoiling slowly but taking longer strides. Gatlin would get ahead of Bolt, but Bolt would run past him halfway through the race. You can ask my wife who won and she will tell you the story at the dinner table.
Our son ran the gridiron like a happy goat. He ran at me and tried to push me over. I fell over and pulled him with me and we looked into each other’s eyes like a Hallmark movie.
He pleaded to climb to the top of the stadium stairs so we did. He liked the train under a bridge in the distance. He smiled and I could tell he did not take his happiness lightly.
The Lord’s right hand was showing off. This experience was an unnecessary extra, like coffee. Everything in addition to Jesus is surplus.
Then we did the tunnel walk and walked through the stadium's innards. My wife asked Brett, “Can you believe you played here? Does it feel weird coming back now?” He said, “Yeah, leaving Alabama and playing here, then moving back home is like what just happened?"
He appreciates it more now that he is further removed from the experience. He sees things for what they really were in hindsight. Don’t we?