Oregon Duck seeing the light
Image by avinashkunnath via Flickr

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. I think the holidays tend to stir up these feelings (particularly around Thanksgiving) as we all try to slow down enough to assess our lives and think about how much we have in our lives…if we just allow ourselves to enjoy it.

I’m the first to admit this is not always easy. Life is incredibly stressful for all of us (I think) with the continued economic uncertainty probably weighing most heavily on our minds. By nature, “news” tends to focus on the negative and/or shocking developments in our world – and if you want to keep up on current events, it can get awfully depressing at times. I’m not sure if there is more deceit, greed and outright evil in our world than ever before – but I sure know about a lot more about it than I ever did before (or cared to for that matter).
And those of us raising children always have ongoing concerns and issues – whether or not the child has special needs or not. we now hear of more stories involving child molestation from coaches and others in position of trust, bullying (real life and cyber) in schools and horrifying stories of abuse or neglect from adults towards children. This is all really bad stuff – and is just piled on top of the “normal” areas of worry – such as education, social acceptance and flat out trying to teach our kids right from wrong and how to be well-mannered.
But despite these ongoing challenges, I do think it’s critical to stop and try to focus on the areas of our lives that are positive and bring us joy.
For me (and millions of others), sports is a great area of escape. And make no mistake, the world of sports hasn’t escaped scandal and pain – and this saddens me as well. But I know that I’ve been much luckier than many fans of sports teams, for I’ve been able to watch and support my favorite teams as they have won championships and reach heights difficult to imagine – even by the most optimistic of fans.
This is especially true for my beloved Oregon Ducks. They are on the cusp of a third consecutive conference championship – which is as impressive as it is unbelievable in so many ways. You want to know how good of a coach Chip Kelly is? Think back to his first game in Boise when the 2009 college football season began – and the Ducks stumbled out of the gates with an embarrassing 19-8 loss to the Broncos (punctuated by the post-game punch from LaGarrette Blount). Immediately following that game all of the optimism and goodwill that was generated by the strong finish the previous season was suddenly in tatters. Immediately many wondered if Kelly was in over his head – and wondered if the program would head south.
But Kelly and the Ducks righted the ship and went on to cruise through the Pac-10 season and capture their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1994. What did they do for an encore in 2010? Only blasted through the regular season undefeated and came within a field goal of winning the national BCS title. And this year? They captured the first-ever Pac-12 North crown and again sit on the cusp of another Rose Bowl appearance.
Not bad for a guy who had never even been a head coach before 2009.
I write this because I know and understand the cyclical nature of sports. This is a golden era for the Ducks and it won’t last forever. I don’t know how long it will last – it could be awhile because they seem stacked with talent. But you never know if/when Kelly will leave or when other developments may arise that derail this run.
As a lifelong 49ers fan, I was lucky enough to experience their dynasty years in the 1980s and early 90s. Given how terrible the team was growing up, I couldn’t believe it when they made it to – and won – their first Super Bowl (let along 4 more the following 12 years). It was truly a magical time to be a fan of the team – and it was just dumb pure luck that I happened to grow up a fan so I could experience that magic.
I write this because I know there are fans of other teams who have *never* experienced anything close to this kind of success. I think about the poor professional sports fans in Cleveland – they’ve never even appeared in a Super Bowl. At least they have a couple of World Series and NBA Finals appearances to celebrate, but it’s not the same as winning the championship. Or I think about Cal football fans. They are pining for a Rose Bowl experience now that they are on a drought of 50+ years without an appearance. 50 years! There are countless of other examples but the point is simple: appreciate the good times and good experiences in life because they may be fleeting.
And while this is true in sports it obviously also holds true in life as well. Instead of focusing on all of the bad in the world, lets try to take time to appreciate the good. Because chances are, if you’re reading this, your life is guaranteed to be more rich and fulfilling than probably 90 percent of the world’s population.

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