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When Football Isn’t About Football

Just like thousands of other venues in America on a Friday night, September 5 was a great setting for high school football at Raptor Stadium in Brentwood, Tennessee. Our team had just come off a huge win the week before, knocking off powerhouse Brentwood Academy, which was ranked #10 in the country by USA Today at game time. We were the first team in Williamson County to do so in 31 years. Ever. My son, Bo, caught the winning score with 12 seconds to go. He had 12 tackles, an acrobatic interception, and a couple of huge receptions. Football recruiting letters had been flowing in all year, but that next week they had overflowed the mailbox with requests for BA game film.

You could just feel it in the air. The Raptors were poised to post another upset against undefeated Franklin High and reassert our status as one of the top teams in the state.

When football isn't just about football

Bo had the biggest game of his career against BA, but one week later …

We tailgated with our RHS Quarterback Club friends. We got to our seats early and watched he band march in. Right before the National Anthem, Bo strode to the middle of the field with three teammates for the coin flip. The game got underway. We groaned when Franklin took an early lead on a long touchdown run but we weren’t worried. No big biggie. The Raptor team and coaches had sky-high confidence and so did the fans.

It was our second drive. A simple bubble screen. QB Alex Williams pivoted and threw a pass to Bo who set up just a few yards behind the line of scrimmage out wide. He went up in the air to snag the catch and the instant he landed, the cornerback who had read the play instantly and was running full speed hit him. Now this is my ninth year to watch Bo play football – might have missed one game in all those years but not more than one – and I know this about him. Bo isn’t into personal drama out in public … and he’s never stayed down after a play in football. But he stayed down.

I do like a bit of drama but I knew he would hate it if we made a scene and rushed down to the sideline so Amy and I just stayed in our seats. I knew he was hurt but didn’t want to speculate how bad. When they stood him up about a minute later and helped him to the sideline and he could put zero weight on his right leg I still kept saying to myself it was all going to be okay and he’d be back in the game soon. When the trainer got word up to me that I needed to get my butt down there, I finally started the internal negotiation process that the injury might be real bad. I reached him on the sideline where the team doctor and trainer let me know that Bo might have a torn ACL and MCL. Pretty horrific news for an athlete with the desire to play college football or continue his track career. They got him on the cart as an ambulance was backed up to the front gate. The raucous stadium got eerily quiet. I gave Bo’s hand a quick squeeze and he held on. That’s when I knew he was really hurt. Holding hands with his dad in front of a couple thousand friends isn’t his style.

He and I cried our guts out on an ambulance ride to Williamson County Medical Center. The staff from the front desk to nurses and doctors were wonderful. We were still operating under the assumption that his knee was torn up and the first relatively good news was that the MRI technician was still in the hospital and we could get the damage assessed that night rather than having to wait until Monday. It was two hours after the accident that we began to move him from his bed in the ER to another that would take him back to the MRI room for tests. Halfway from one bed to another his upper leg went a couple different directions at once and started spasming. He had been in a bit of a stupor but he was suddenly wide awake and in intense pain – no pain killers had been administered yet. Morgan, his girlfriend, had left the game and was holding his hand when this happened and he gave her a hard enough squeeze that between that and the sight of his leg moving in ways a leg should not move she about passed out. The nurse looked at the doctor right then and said quite definitively that Bo hadn’t torn his ACL but had a broken femur. Staff rushed a portable X-Ray machine into the room and within 15 minutes she was proven right. We’ve adopted her as part of Raptor Nation for that and all the other kindnesses she showed.

When football isn't about football.

A couple days and nights together in Williamson County Medical Center.

You know it’s a rough night when a broken leg is good news but it was a rough night and so the news was good. A clean break. A rod would be inserted the next morning. Full recovery – stronger than ever – the prognosis.

Ravenwood students and players had begun gathering in the waiting room and with a mercifully slow night in the ER they were allowed to come back and be with Bo. I think we had at least fifty or sixty kids gathered around him at one point. Steven, one of his best friends, just couldn’t bear to be close. He hung back with head and eyes downcast. But Ricky, ever emotional, started sobbing. He was joined by Will, a 270-pound right tackle. Will and Ryan never stopped crying. I had but couldn’t not start back up. Then it was mom and grandparents and the cheerleaders. Then it was the coaching staff. We started and stopped crying too many times to count over the next three or four hours. Franklin’s coach stayed in touch with Coach Rector to let him know his boys felt terrible for Bo and had gathered to pray for him after the game. My blackberry never stopped vibrating with texts and calls flying in from all over the country as word got out.

The Saturday surgery went smoothly and was deemed a success. Ravenwood High School set up residence at WCMC. At one point we learned he had been admitted as “anonymous” so we went down to let them know that it was okay to identify him by name and allow people to come up and see him. “Don’t worry, every body’s found him” was the reply. Bo didn’t go to school the next week. His hospital room and then our living room, his new convalescent center, looked like Christmas in September with a slew of presents and cards. College coaches called to let him know he was still being recruited. Neighbors, teachers, friends, Young Life leaders … all came by to wish him well and many to say a prayer with him.

When football isn't about football.

Another visitor to the hospital!

Last night was four weeks from the accident. He drove to school for the first time earlier that day. He got rid of his crutches completely two days earlier. He’s doing his therapy and lifting upper body weights five days a week. Subsequent X-Rays show the unmistakable image of a knee-to-hip rod, but you have to look hard to find the line where the complete break occurred.

I already knew that high school football wasn’t really about football. At least not just about football. But if I’ve ever forgotten that while caught up in the spirit of competition, I’ll not forget it again.

Student council isn’t about running schools but teaching leadership. Scouting isn’t about camp outs but learning responsibility. And football isn’t about touchdowns and tackles but discipline, teamwork, loyalty, overcoming adversity, and being there to cry with a friend who is down.

I’d still rather Bo be playing on the field his senior season but I’m grateful to watch him on the sidelines with his teammates, as big a part of his team as ever. Because football isn’t just about football.

Wayman Tisdale – Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now

Wayman Lawrence Tisdale

Wayman Tisdale was a star in the NBA and the world of jazz.

Wayman Lawrence Tisdale passed away on May 15, 2009, from cancer.

He was a big man with a bigger smile. Great athlete. Better person. A cool jazz man who was maybe the best slap bass guitarist of his era. A man of faith. Deeply committed to his family.

Having lived a few years in Tulsa, I knew he and his family cast a huge shadow over that city. His father was pastor of the Friendship Church for 28 years. When he passed away in 1997, one of the local expressways was renamed the L.L. Tisdale Parkway. Wayman’s older brother, Weldon, is now senior pastor at Friendship.

A high school basketball star at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Wayman went on to Oklahoma University where he was the first college basketball player to be named first team All American his freshman, sophomore, and junior years. He still holds the records at OU for points and rebounds. He played with Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and other luminaries on the 1984 US Olympic team that was dubbed the ‘Dream Team.’ The 6′ 9″, 240 pound power forward played 12 seasons in the NBA, averaging more than 15 points per game.

He didn’t grow up with a dream of playing basketball in college or the NBA – music was his first love. His music career began while he was still in the NBA with a Motown record called, appropriately, Power Forward. He recorded seven more albums, including Face to Face, which hit number one in sales for the contemporary jazz chart. His final album was Rebound and reflected his belief that he was not going to be defeated by cancer.

Wayman was diagnosed with cancer on the knee (osteosarcoma) in February 2007, when he fell down the stairs at his house and broke his leg. Chemotherapy that spring didn’t work and in August 2008 he had his right leg amputated. Tisdale kept his strong faith and never lost his trademark smile.

Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma said of Tisdale:

“Oklahoma has lost one of its most beloved sons. Wayman Tisdale was a hero both on and off the basketball court. Even in the most challenging of times, he had a smile for people, and he had the rare ability to make everyone around him smile. He was one of the most inspirational people I have ever known.”

As a c-jazz lover, I was a bigger fan of Tisdale’s music than I was of him as a basketball player – he never played for ‘my’ team. But most of all I’m a fan of him as a man of persevering faith and and as an example of a resilient joy and hope exhibited and proven under all circumstances.

Anytime someone dies ‘before his time’ it is a sad story. Particularly for his wife, Regina, and their four children, along with a loving extended family. But his music is a joyful reminder of a life well lived and where he is now. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that his number one hit was his take on the standard, Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.

The $700 Billion Bailout: Overheard Conversations

Who created a situation that required a $700 billion bailout? Hint: The same group that promised to fix it.

Prelude

Government: Everyone in America should have the right to pursue the American dream, which everyone knows is owning a house. But not everyone can afford it. The dream or the house. Therefore we will legislate that lenders must give loans to anyone who meets certain minimal criteria – and lower the criteria.

Part 1 At the Broker

Customer: I’d like to borrow money for a house but I’ve not saved any money.

Broker: No problem. Since the price of houses will always go up, we don’t require a down payment any more.

Customer: Cool. Oh, and one other thing. My employer is a jerk sometimes and might not fill out the earnings verification form.

Broker: No problem. We have a new financial instrument called the “Liar’s Loan” – we let you verify your own wealth, employment, and income.

Customer: Really? Cool! You’re not worried even a little I won’t pay you back?

Broker: Nah. It’s not my money. A bank will provide the actual funds. I get my commission whether you pay it back or not.

Customer: Cool!

Part 2 At the Bank

Banker 1: We’ve got to get rid of some of these loans. They smell bad. And they’re attracting flies.

Banker 2: But how do we get rid of them?

Banker 1: We’ll sell them.

Banker 2: Who would be dumb enough to buy these stinky things? Especially with all the flies on them.

Banker 1: Nobody will buy them one at a time, but there are people who will buy a whole bunch of them.

Part 3 At the Wall Street Investment Bank

Real Estate Fund Manager: Man, we’ve got to get some fresh money into these mortgage funds. They stink! And they’re attracting flies.

Assistant Real Estate Fund Manger: Have you seen default levels? Who would be dumb enough to buy these stinky things?

Part 4 At the Institutional Investment Firm

School Board Pension Guy: You sure this is a good investment opportunity? I hear there are problems in the mortgage industry.

Advisor: No problemo.  These things are as safe as anything in America. The Investment Banks wouldn’t buy a bunch of stinky individual mortgages and put them in one basket and say they are good would they? Besides, they’ve divided the security into three traunches: good, okay, and bad. Since we’re dealing with your pension funds, we’ll only buy the good ones. They are AAA rated securities. I’d like to get a higher rate of return but that is available only on the bad securities – and you know how the Investment Banks are; they save the good bad stuff for themselves. If you’re still worried just be aware that the Investment Banker even bought bond insurance on your good ones.

School Board Pension Guy: Cool.

Part 5 Back at the Wall Street Investment Bank

Assistant Real Estate Fund Manager: Boss, I know those new securities you came up with are strong sellers but I have one question. Don’t we have to show the mortgages on our books?

Real Estate Fund Manager: (Rolls eyes and gives a little laugh.) Nope. The Government allows us to set up something called an SPV – a special purpose vehicle. We did ours in the Cayman Islands. The SPV carries the stinky loans on their books, not ours. We are AAA rated for those wanting a safe investment. Heck, even our so so securities in the second traunch are rated BBB for those with a little more risk tolerance. The question is irrelevant anyway.  Housing prices always go up.

Assistant Real Estate Fund Manger: Boss, you’re a genius.

Real Estate Fund Manager: I know.

Interlude

Government: We are going to hold companies accountable through Sarbanes Oxley and make them declare Market Value on their books every day. Plus we’ll punish rogue CEOs who inflate values. Now everyone knows we mean business. We demand transparency from our investment companies, too. That’s why we have the SEC. The only problem is, too much transparency gets a little confusing. And Americans don’t like confusing.

Part 6 A Meeting of the Minds

School Board Pension Guy: Hey, where are our payments?!

All Others: Sorry, the jerks who borrowed money on the houses can’t make payments.

School Board Pension Guy: But you said that housing prices always go up and they could refinance their mortgages with low interest ARMs if they got in trouble.

All Others: Sorry. We’re as upset as you are. But there’s nothing we could have done to see this coming. Housing prices always go up you know.

School Board Pension Guy: But I only bought the good securities. The AAA ones. That means I get paid back first. That’s what you said.

All Others: Sorry. There are more problems with the loans than we thought. Sarbanes Oxley isn’t helping either. No one is getting paid back squat right now.

School Board Pension Guy: But you bought bond insurance in case this happened!All Others: (Laughter.) Do you really think an insurance carrier has set aside that much money? Sorry.

School Board Pension Guy: Is all you can say, “Sorry.” You’ll pay for this you know.

All Others: Listen, no time to finish the conversation right now. We have a high-powered meeting to attend at a resort in the Cayman Islands.

School Board Pension Guy: You haven’t heard the end of this. Like I said, you’ll pay for this!

All Others: You really think so?

Postlude

Government: People are so gullible and get themselves in such messes. I guess it’s up to me to save them from themselves again. My work is never done. But I’m up to it. I’m about giving them the American dream after all!