I was going to wait until after tonight’s game to update, but …
I have to wonder sometimes. I mean, how does a guy like me—47 years old, not entirely uneducated, 22 years into the working world and bearing little resemblance to the wide-eyed kid I used to be—find myself alone in my living room on a Saturday night, tears streaming down my face, standing in silent ovation to a football player I’ve never met?
Hey, I have a mortgage (two, actually). One that reminds me every day it is not I, but a bank somewhere, that owns my home.
And I own two cars, neither built in this millennium, which my wife and I will continue to commute in until the doors fall off (the cars’, not hers and mine). What can I say, they’re paid for.
I also have three teen-aged kids—one getting ready to start her second year in college, another a senior in high school and just a year away from college himself, and a third just a year from entering high school, with definite university dreams of her own. I’ve done the math; twelve years of school at roughly $15K per.
And it's not like I’m claiming poverty, financial or otherwise. We take a nice vacation every summer. The mountain of loot under the tree, despite solemn parental vows to “cut back this year,” remains a testament to Western excess every Christmas. And far more importantly, we’re all healthy and love one another.
So it ain’t about that.
I know psychologists have good sound theories explaining “hero-worship.” And I know better at this point in my life than to
project otherworldly characteristics onto another man simply because of the uniform he wears.
So it isn’t that, either.
And anyway … I suppose we’re not that different from our fellow men and women around the world and through time. I suppose my counterpart in the cheap seats at the Colosseum two thousand years ago, for example, might well have understood.
"The Romans seemed ambivalent to the violent nature of the gladiatorial games and, though we may condemn them, the games are not unlike modern professional sports like hockey, rugby, and football. The gladiators were the heroes of their time … "
And if you could sit and talk with one face-to-face, on neutral ground during the off season, with plenty of space and a quick escape route at hand, and maybe some mace or at least a good right cross at your disposal … I suppose so even would our most extreme contemporaries in the futbol-playing world today … whose passions make those of us who consider ourselves fervent fans of other sports seem positively kitten-like.
So it ain’t just about being crazy.
Quite simply, I think we still crave champions. Goes back to prehistory, I'm quite sure, when the most popular member of our tribe, the one everyone admired and secretly craved to be, was the one best equipped to keep the sabre-tooth from dragging away our children at night.
Well, in a place and time without sabre-teeth stalking our nights, and where our wars no longer take place in our own streets (with one unspeakable exception noted), we don’t really celebrate our real-world champions as we once did. Our military heroes today are largely faceless … which, ironically, is precisely how I've found most of the very best among them prefer it.
So we’ve largely turned to sports. And even that’s not as simple as it used to be, given the realities of our time, our culture and their effects on our “heroes.” I won’t insult your intelligence explaining that further.
I’ll be honest, what I've come to realize is that I don’t really want to know what it is that moved me so deeply last night, watching Art Monk stand tall, silent and humble as wave after wave of pent-up adulation washed over him ... all before he’d said a single word. Hell, two minutes into that tribute, as far as I was concerned he could have simply nodded, maybe given a little smile, and walked silently back to his seat.
Although had he done so, I think I might really have lost it.
Truth is … I don’t really want to know, in some intellectual or clinical sense, what it was. One of the traps we fall into as self-styled “educated” people is our tendency to analyze the life right out of the very things that make us feel most alive.
So instead of some over-the-top paean (did I use it right, Ron? :) ), I’m going to honor Art Monk, and acknowledge the depth to which he has touched my own life … simply by admitting, in this semi-public place, that my private tears last night were perhaps 10% burgundy and gold, 90% simply honoring a Man.