The magic of "The Bigger 14" euphoria has worn off, but that's really not the worst thing to happen to any of you. What REALLY hurts you is this:
I didn't win the Power Ball.
This affects all of you, believe it or not. I had a plan worked out in my head. Each of you who have touched me in some way over the years was going to get something back, anonymously. My favorite friends and causes were going to benefit from my good fortune. The Jersey Shore would get a lot more help from me. The Rutgers Athletic Center renovation would not have to wait any longer. I was going to settle my ledger with all of you. This would assuage any guilt I had that some of you did more for me than I did for you. I would be at peace for the rest of my life. I'm sorry I'm still left with some angst, but I came close.
I was only off by 6 numbers.
Oh well, It's still just a game.
Speaking of games, the long suffering saga of Rutgers Football continues for the vast number of fans whose expectations haven't been met. This year I really thought that someday when their best would beat the best had arrived.
There must be a sharp edge of a razor between pressure and praise that is difficult to pass over, (to paraphrase Maugham's "Razor's Edge") making the path to Salvation hard. The players have tremendous support from their community, if only it could be translated into performance, instead of pressure. It's hard for these late teen, twenty something young men to gauge.
As a never say die fan, I believe they will get there. They will play a great game like it was a perfect practice.
In last night's game I noticed a player on the other team make a mistake, and get yelled at by the coach. He just smiled, patted the coach on the shoulder as much to say, "I got it coach, I'll fix it."
It struck me, that is what Rutgers has to do to blow off the pressure caused mistakes which snowballed, and haunted them as the game wore on. This has to be an ingredient in that next great game they play, and then there will be no looking back.
Oscar Wilde said there's a creeping common sense that one shouldn't regret their mistakes.
Also, the players would do best to remember:
It's Still Just a Game.
Last week was a momentous one for Rutgers Athletics. We ( I say not royally) were invited to join the Big 10 Sports Conference (see "The Bigger 14"). In a sense, one could say, that's a form of "Power Ball".
A little over 6 years ago, the Rutgers Football Gods gave us a glimpse of how we'll strive to play in this new league, without all the sputtering, terrific to awful efforts since them. We beat Louisville that night, and had a chance to win the Big East Championship that season, but we didn't. We've had our chances since then, all missed opportunities.
Tomorrow, Thursday, 11/29/12, we get another chance to play "Power Ball", and finally win the Big East. We'll be playing Louisville again. At home, again. It would be fitting to win, if our stars remain in alignment with our Big 10 good fortune.
But first, tonight is the real Power Ball lottery drawing. If things are REALLY going our way, and one of us wins, let's not forget the Jersey Shore, and all its people in need.
If I were to win, I'd sure help God clean up what the Devil washed in.
I'm a stickler for incongruity, so with Rutgers joining the "Big 10" to become the 14th team in the league, I couldn't resist the title.
This story isn't going to be a funny as much as a happy one. For Rutgers grads, this academic and athletic accomplishment Dwarfs most, if not all, we've done since 1766. Don't get me wrong, the University has produced many who have changed the world, for the better. This new arrangement will only enhance and multiply that growing number of minds we marvel at, and are so proud of.
I hope this move is seen by those who heavily favor academics over sports as a real world solution to what they want, with a hell of a lot more fun!
Of course, there's always a reporter or two not content unless they find dirt. Guess what, there's dirt everywhere. I've always looked to the clean and the good first. I just can't seem to find a happy life otherwise. The happy moment is NOW!!
I've attached a photo of Austin Johnson, a student athlete who epitomizes what's best in attitude and opportunity at Rutgers, and Cal Schwartz, a good friend who has the weathered, long wandering fan look on his face, just before the announcement became official. When I see him again, I'll take another picture, this time of his smiling face.
We've just experienced a "perfect storm", Hurricane Sandy, in our area, although I like to attach "perfect" to something good, and not forget the long standing suffering Sandy has caused. That good would be the "perfect place" the University finds itself in the Bigger 14, with a Happy Thanksgiving we shouldn't forget.
This time of year is filled with anticipation for all college basketball junkies, like myself. I've said before those of this ilk would like nothing better than to play the game year round, but we face reality and defer to the other major sports in our pastime.
Anxiety accompanied this usual anticipation for some of us this year, because our season tickets didn't arrive in a timely manner, ie, before the first game last night.
The last couple of days required a few phone calls to the ticket office, and I was assured a duplicate set of tickets would be waiting for me at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC). The culprit was the terrible Storm Sandy which clobbered our area, and disrupted our mail and UPS deliveries. The Athletic Office always cuts the delivery close to the start of the season, and I've said before, one of these years, an unscheduled event is going clog up this ticket apparatus, and this was the year.
Anyway, Krystin, my ever helpful contact in the Athletic office, said she would leave word with the parking attendant that I would retrieve my parking pass when I picked up my tickets at the Media Center entrance to the RAC.
We still had a problem of our own doing, my wife and I. Genna had a late afternoon appointment, and would have to arrive at the RAC in a separate car. Since I would only have one parking pass to be used with my car, she would have to pay for her car ($12.) and park at the far end of the lot.
I arrived first at the RAC in order to set up my book stand next to the main Court Club table (see photos).
"Hi, I'm John Heldon. Did you get word to let me in without a parking pass while I go retrieve my tickets?"
A jovial, burly event staff member whips out a list, checks my name, and says, "Go ahead."
Great. I'm in the Green Parking lot, which is right next to the RAC, perfect for those games on cold, windy, or inclement days, as I have to schlep my basket of books and signage into the lobby an hour before game time. Poor Genna, I think, she has to pay $12. and park the equivalent of two blocks farther away. Normally, with this kind of a scheduling hassle, she would beg off the game, but this was her Alma mater, St. Peters.
About a half hour after I got setup for my book selling in the lobby of the RAC, Genna saunters up to my table with a big grin,
"I'm parked right next to you in the green lot, and it didn't cost me a dime. I pulled up to this big parking lot attendant and explained we hadn't gotten our season tickets or parking passes, and he said,"
"Are you here with John Heldon?"
We both burst out laughing. We weren't the only ones with tardy ticket issues, and I can't say I'm that famous as an author, but that's what he said!
This turned out to be the last chuckle of the night for me, as the Rutgers seemed to be in the Twilight Zone, playing much like the team of ghosts in my novel, "Ark."
This humiliation was accompanied by countless elbows to my ribs from Genna after each key score from St. Pete's. I'm hoping the game was a wakeup call for the Rutgers team. There's just too much talent there to sell themselves that short.
As a Hurricane Sandy survivor, it's easy to feel sorry for one's self. I did, for a couple of hours. It's easy to forget. To lose one's perspective, by forgetting those who lost much more, or most, or all of everything they had.
We didn't have power for 92 hours, which broke our personal best of 44 hours from Hurricane Irene last year. Well, there are still those whose record meters are still running, and those whose record will never have an end to. No power, no house, no things. It's hard to imagine a bounce back like that for me, the only comfort I have as an "other" not in that position, is to know it has been done many times before, some how, some way. My hope is those who've met more devastation than I come to see it that way soon.
As horrible as this event seems to me, I realized this all pales in comparison to what severely disabled people go through each day, for the rest of their lives. This brings me to a favorite fellow blogger, Laurie Carlson, whose site is linked below.
Have you ever heard of "Stiff Person Syndrome?"
Visit her site. Look at the ledger of things she can't do, and what sheer Will enables her to do.
If you're so inclined, include Laurie in your prayers, as I have, and let her remind you that no storm, or whatever the cause of a temporary or permanent disability, can affect your Spirit, only your mind if you let it.
To those of you in the Rutgers community, we have Eric Legrand to inspire us, and now, please include Laurie in our orbit of stars who we won't let fall.
Mark, my neighbor, in his usual quipful style, put that one to me as we got clobbered by Hurricane Sandy, Mother Nature's Halloween "trick" for the Northeastern US, particularly our area in Central New Jersey, cutting power 92 hours for us, still ongoing for many others.
Sandy did manage to send several other messages besides the destructive wake up call:
Yes, there IS Global Warming, despite the indefensible position of the "Carbonites".
Yes, we can get along. Witness NJ Governor Chris Christie, brought to his dimpled knees and his sense of cooperation by Sandy, as only a catastrophe can: to do the Right Thing with the Federal Government and its chief representative, The President.
Yes, the barrier islands along the Eastern Coast are just that: protectors of the main land, not a real estate gold mine. As sympathetic as I am to anyone in a life altering plight, the thought of living in peril should always be present in the back of the minds of those people who live there.
Back to Mark.
The guy is a Saint, even though his beliefs are in the Old Testament (I'd push St. Peter aside on Mark's behalf). Anyway, his ticket to Heaven has already been punched. What he did for his neighbors, us and the Teppers on his other side: purchase a generator and wire outdoor outlets for each of us to tap into, sharing light, refrigeration, and hot water is just his way, and it reminds us what a Prince of a guy he is.
Thanks again, my friend!