Monday, June 27, 2011

The Van Gundy

Hello! For the foreseeable future, I will be spending most of my writing time at a new sports blog some friends of mine started: The Van Gundy. Check us out here: When I feel inspired to write about things non-sports related, I will probably come back to ABC. Thanks, Bryson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little Brother

When I was a kid, there was one thing I consistently wanted for Christmas year after year: A little brother. I remember as a kid thinking that kids don’t cost any money (you just have to feed and clothe them). So I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my parents wouldn’t just get me a little brother. How difficult could it be?

Today, on the eve of my wife delivering our first son, I now think first of money when I consider what it takes to have a kid. I’ve also come to understand why my parents never gave me that little brother I always asked for: They stopped loving each other. I’m kidding, I’m kidding—I know why they stopped having kids, and it was for legitimate reasons.

However, one thing that hasn’t yet changed during my life is my insatiable desire to have a little brother. So it goes without saying that I am excited to welcome a baby boy into my home. But alas, with the much anticipated package, I am struggling to come to grips that our new addition will have an owner’s manual of sorts.

First, he is not a little brother. As much as I may try to subconsciously (and consciously) live out my dreams of having a little brother with my son, I will still have to be the dad. The far-too-often-having-to-discipline dad. Yuck. Such is the daunting task of parenthood.

Second, it will be quite some time before I can do “brother” stuff with my son. Even though I know it’s irrational, I have visions of heading straight from the hospital to our backyard to play catch with our baby boy. That’s of course irrational because there is no such thing as newborn baseball mitts. At least ones that are any good. So, I will have to exercise some patience for these next few months and years. (In the meantime, I will pray that my adorable daughter develops a love of sports, and that her habit of yelling “touchdown!” when I am watching basketball—or soccer, or baseball—is more an indication of her humor than her sports aversion.)

Third (and perhaps most importantly), I must accept my son for who he is, and not for who I want him to be. The chances that I hit the “He likes all the things that I do!” lottery are slim, and I need to come to grips with that. He may not love all the sports teams I do, and he may not like the same music as me, or laugh at the same jokes that I do, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love him completely. (But still, I really hope I win that lottery.)

Our son’s name is going to be “Jameson Brent.” Jameson because he is the descendent of a long line of James’s. And Brent after my next-door neighbor who was killed in a car accident fifteen years ago. When I was in elementary school, I used to go to Brent’s house virtually every day after school to play basketball (or baseball, or football). And while there were plenty of days he could’ve (and probably would have liked to have) told me no, he virtually never did.

I guess what I am saying in a roundabout way is that I want to be the type of older brother Brent was, and the type of dad he would have been. So to you, the unknown people of the internet, I say this: I cannot wait to finally get a “little brother.” And to my son, Jameson Brent, I say this: Can you come out and play?

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Cold Reality

A year and a half ago when 60 year old Tom Watson came within a short putt of winning the British Open, I was deflated in a way that I never had been before as a sports fan. And I had no idea why.

For two days I had barely left my couch as I watched the old golfer contend for a major golf championship. It was unreal. It was a tournament that had never been won by anyone older than 46 (and even that was only done in the year 1867). And while men of his age regularly participate in tournaments like the British Open, they never actually competed. But there Tom Watson was, in the lead, and seemingly on his way to victory. As he approached the 18th green, I remember I was literally on my knees, crouched down in front of my TV in giddy anticipation.

At some point during that weekend, it stopped being about golf. Tom Watson was literally defying age, time, mortality, the certainty of death, whatever you want to call it. But he was doing it, and I was in awe. As Tom studied his final shot, I had my cell phone in my hand. I was anxiously preparing to call my dad to say “Did you see that?!” But I never made that call. As Tom pulled back his putter to take the winning shot, you could see the exact moment when it happened. You could see the precise millisecond when Tom Watson realized what he was doing, and the enormity of it all. It was the slightest of hesitations, but it was just enough for him to jerk the putt and leave the ball out of the cup.

And it was all over. You could tell. He had seemingly stared down the impossible all weekend, but then he blinked, and when his eyes opened reality was there. There was still a playoff since he finished tied for first, but you could see it in his wrinkled eyes—he had defied the undefiable for too long. And he was tired.

This is a really roundabout way to explain how I felt today when news broke that Jerry Sloan was retiring from basketball, but it’s one of the first things that popped into my mind (other than “Okay, this is clearly the apocalypse—where’s my gun?”).

When Jerry Sloan became the coach of the Utah Jazz I was five years old. So of course he always seemed like an old guy to me. He was old—so what? Age didn’t mean anything to Jerry Sloan, the most grizzled man in all of sports. To me he was the consummate man of grit that would never back down from a tussle; always dirtied his hands during his long day’s work, but always washed those hands before supper. He represented an era that I knew existed before me, but that I only saw on the History Channel or occasions when my grandpa felt like lecturing me about life. I respected him and what he stood for immensely, though I never fully understood him.

However, it finally hit me today that Sloan is old. He was tired. And that means something. He had been around for so long, was so consistent, and so dependable, that it became a given that he would always be around. Sure, I knew he would leave eventually, but it was inconceivable that he would do so without doing the one thing he ever really cared about—winning it all. Jerry Sloan was the John Wayne of basketball, and John Wayne did not quit.

But John Wayne was only ever an actor, and he died of cancer in 1984. So, as I listened to the press conference today, and as I listened to Jerry Sloan humbly submit to mortality, I felt the same way I did watching Tom Watson on the 18th green. I felt deflated. Only this time I knew why.

Despite my relative youthfulness, I felt the shadow of mortality that creeps on us all. As long as Jerry Sloan has been the Jazz coach I have related sports to the world around me. And now that he is suddenly gone, I am learning a lesson I’m not sure I want to learn. I’m learning of the cold reality that not all hopes are realized, not all dreams are fulfilled. Justice does not always prevail in the end. At least in this life.

Jerry Sloan deserved to win it all. And the realization that he won’t hurts.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jimmer Fever

I know exactly what I would say to Michael Jordan if I ever met him. Word for word. I spent my entire childhood daydreaming that I would somehow meet him. I’ve played the scenario over and over in my head. And there’s really only one thing I could say to him.

Michael Jordan was my childhood hero. If you knew me as a kid you just read that line and said something like, “Well, duh.” You probably then had some memory of me running around with a dirty Michael Jordan t-shirt dribbling a ball and awkwardly sticking my tongue out. He wasn’t just my hero: He was my idol. Literally. When the prophets of the Bible condemned idolatry, they were thinking of people like the nine year old Bryson Kearl.

While the years have passed, and I’ve come to see Jordan for what he really is—a truly gifted athlete with a competitiveness unsurpassed in almost any other arena of life, but nonetheless a very flawed man—my love for him has waned. And I’m okay with that.

I am still to this day in awe of the memories I have of watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Nobody in my life has ever come close to being as dynamic on the court as Michael was in his prime. When he played, my eyes were magnets, uncontrollably connected to my parent’s television set. He seemingly never let me down. The greater the moment, the greater he played. The limits by which the other nine men on the court were bound held no sway to the greatness that was Michael Jordan. And no other reality could have been believed by the childhood version of me.

His lasting impact on my life was his ability to send my never-slowing imagination into spin cycle. If I watched a Bulls game that ended in the early afternoon, you could say goodbye to the rest of my day. I was in a place that only me and my imaginary friend Michael could go. Whether I was throwing rolled up socks into a laundry basket as Patrick Ewing tried to block my shot or spinning around Joe Dumars to sink the game winner at the school across from my house, I was gone. Hour after hour, shooting hoops, imagining wildly, and loving every minute of it.

But all that ended. A young boy’s imagination is always dampened by the cold wet realities of life. Michael eventually retired (for real), he eventually exposed himself in unflattering ways, and I eventually had to grow up. Again, I’m okay with that. There is order in this world, and its designs have served me well. I now have a beautiful wife and daughter, and we have a baby boy on the way. I have a good job. I have enjoyable hobbies. Life is good, albeit less imaginative.

Enter Jimmer Fredette.

What Jimmer has done on the basketball court in recent weeks justifies the ridiculous quantity of accolades going his way right now. So much has been written about Jimmer in both local and national media of late that I can’t pretend to add anything to the archives. But what he has done to me—and most notably to my imagination—has earned my unwavering respect.

These past few weeks, as “Jimmer Fever” has reached Beatlemania-like levels here in Utah, I’ve been living in some sort of weird time warp. As I’ve watched BYU’s every game, I’ve found myself holding tightly to my couch armrest. Waiting for the next goose bump moment, trying to hold my excitement in check so as not to scare my daughter. Openly dancing in my living room without conscious thought. I’ve even caught myself daydreaming wildly as I did many years before.

During last night’s BYU-SDSU game, I had a thought that—upon realizing the thought—made me openly laugh out loud at myself. Thoughts are never accurately portrayed in words, but here’s my attempt to dictate what I thought: “When I make it to the NBA, I want to pattern my game after Jimmer’s.”

It was a delusional thought, I know. But when the thought set in and I started laughing, it was the kind of laugh that left me wanting more. I was loving the moment, and I was in awe at what Jimmer had done to me. He had brought me back to a time when nothing was impossible, and even a rolled up sock and a laundry basket could keep me happy for hours at a time. And my imagination was sent, once again, into spin cycle.

As the game ended and I saw the BYU fans descend upon Jimmer as if he were John Lennon and the year was 1964, I laughed at them. But then I realized that if a younger version of me were there, I’d be doing the exact same thing. And then I thought, “What would I say to Jimmer if I actually met him?” Immediately, I knew the answer to my question.

I’d say the exact same thing I would say to Michael Jordan. I’d walk up to him, go to shake his hand, and simply say, “Thank you.” What more could I say?