Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Luck is what you make of it, or it makes of you

     So are you a good-luck person, or a bad-luck person, or somewhere in between?
     Luck, or fate, has been on my mind since my previous blog post when I declared Les Miles "the luckiest coach I've seen in 55 years of following sports." Since then, his LSU football team has won twice more -- and luck had nothing to do with it.
     Those were well-deserved victories. Not much crazy business and lots of discipline and willpower in those games.
     But the intention of this piece isn't to write about sports; it's about luck -- or lack thereof -- in life. I find it a fascinating subject; maybe you will, too.
      I often write from the viewpoint of athletics and journalism because that's who I am, that's where I've been. But, of course, I have many other roles and viewpoints -- son, brother, husband, father, uncle, Opa, friend, co-worker, agitator, etc. -- and I've been here 67 years to offer these opinions.
      I look at my life and say "glad to be here" and "damn, I've been lucky."
      How about you?
      To come to the United States from another country with my family -- as millions have -- and see life develop so splendidly, that's good fortune. That's with a lot of help from a lot of people.
      To settle in Shreveport, La. -- no garden spot, but a beautiful place for us -- and move to a neighborhood and schools where all seemed to be just right for a decade, how fortunate.
      And I'm not alone in that thought. On Facebook recently, my co-sports editor for the high school yearbook in 1963-64, Lewis Allgood, wrote of the Class of '64 reunion ... "how lucky we all were" to be at that school at that time. Several others expressed the same thought.
      How lucky we all are to still be here. One of the photos from that reunion shows the "in memoriam" board -- 71 names listed, including some good friends ... eight of them athletes. From the five seniors on our basketball team in my senior year, one survives.
      We lost so many of these people when they were so young, so far ahead of what we thought was "their time." We've all lost family, friends much too soon. It was not their luck, or their fortune, to live long lives.
      That's hard to explain, perhaps, and we can say it was their "bad luck" (and ours, in a sense). To understand it, we lean on whatever faith we believe in.
      Luck so often is a right-place, right-time deal. Just as bad luck is a wrong-place, wrong-time deal.
      Most of the "bad" that's happened to me has been self-inflicted; it wasn't "fate." I put myself in that wrong place. Conversely, I've been lucky that someone -- Bea and others -- was there to give me a lifeline, a boost ... a job. My family certainly benefited from those times.
      Oh, I could point to some "bad" luck with, say, automobiles. Haven't we all had that?
      Let's see ... three instances where we had huge dents or extended scrapes on one side, a blown-out tire on a bridge coming into Baton Rouge, a loose truck muffler I couldn't avoid on a bridge going into Jacksonville that caused a busted oilpan, a flash-flood I ran into in Knoxville when the car got caught in deep water, killing (and ruining) my engine, a 10-car pileup (I was third) late one snowy, icy night at "malfunction junction" on the interstate in downtown Knoxville ... another dented bumper and side panel.
      Almost forgot my first accident -- the day I backed my mother's car into my father's car. Oh, yeah. Dad didn't get all that mad at me very often, but that day, he was just a bit ... furious.
      As my son Jason and my friend Teddy Allen taught me to say ... "My bad."
      So I kind of understood when Jason, while in high school, came home and told us that he had backed the rented car he had used to take his date to the prom into the girl's father's car.
       But -- knock on wood -- no injuries, no pains. Bad luck, but also good luck.
      We, Bea and I, have had some things stolen from us here and there, but nothing major. My parents' home got broken into, and it shook them up, but the damage was minimal and the crime was solved in short order.
      We've known people who we thought were beset by "bad luck." Something disastrous -- a family problem, financial woes, physical trouble -- was always happening to them. Sometimes it was out of their control, but the feeling we had also was that they caused their own issues, and so often you can feel their "woe is me" vibes.
      Most importantly, whatever happens to us -- good luck, bad luck -- it's how we react to it. We can take a positive approach, deal with it and move on; we can whine/complain about it, or be angry ... and then what?
       I am dismayed when people express their frustration/anger at their bad luck, or what they perseve as bad treatment, on Facebook. That happens much too often; it's tiring to read.
       It's all in what you make of your luck, or if you let it control you.
      When I think of good and bad luck, though, what counts most is a person's health. Nothing is as crucial as good health.
       It is, as we know and have been told repeatedly, imperative to do what you can to preserve your health -- to eat properly, exercise, stay in shape, to live as safely as possible.
      We had our big scare in 2002 when Bea was found to have colon cancer. It was Stage II (Stage IV is most often fatal), and the chemo was a tough process. But she recovered and a relapse scare and radiation/more chemo three years later was difficult, too, but she is here and she's well, and we are blessed.
      My parents each lived into their late '80s, mentally alert for most of those years. There were some issues (kidney stones, diverticulitis, a broken wrist, a growing battle with diabetes) on the way, but they rolled on and kept living.
      But, gosh, we see people, friends, whose lives were cut short by cancer, strokes, heart trouble, brain tumors and accidents, and the thought is "bad luck." It is those sudden deaths, when people were seemingly well or in the prime of their lives, that shake us so. We don't forget them.
       I have close friends who have had heart attacks/blockages, have stents, have survived prostate cancer, and a stroke. I am thankful they seem to be doing as well as they can.
      We've all known people who were physically handicapped -- some from birth -- and those who have had to care for those people, parents with babies/kids with special needs. And yet, they face their challenges and so many have managed productive lives. I have so much empathy and admiration for those people. Bad luck maybe, but no give up.
       I think about my family history, and I can say it was "bad luck" that my grandparents, uncles and aunts -- and my parents -- were caught up in Europe in the late 1930s/1940s and were Jewish ... and were victims of the Nazi horrors.
       My parents' good luck was that they somehow survived and -- with a lot of breaks, some self-made -- found the way to a new and better life.
       Final thought, back to Les Miles. Our "good luck" football guy coached Saturday's big game with nemesis Ole Miss a day after his mother passed away. The death wasn't unexpected; she was in her early 90s.
       But the unexpected happened 3 1/2 years ago when the Tigers' coach and his family lost his younger sister in a car accident near Baton Rouge.
       So no matter how famous, how high-profile a prominent coach is, how "lucky" he might be, he's human. Bad luck or fate affects him -- and it has nothing to do with football. We should all handle matters as gracefully as he did this past weekend.            


  1. From Tommy Canterbury: Read the sports part and just now the "rest." Well done!

  2. From Patrick Locke Sr.: As "luck" would have it, you are once again, right on target ... great piece.

  3. From Lewis Allgood: What a great article. This world needs more people like you who have such a positive outlook on life. Personally I could never thank God enough for the wonderful life he has blessed me with. Thanks or bringing a smile to my face.

  4. From Jesse Grubbs: So right on. I've always said, without health, you have nothing.

  5. From Ross Montelbano: Great article, and by the way, if Les had any luck at all, last week's game would not have been close. In fact, I believe his demeanor and closeness with his players helped them all overcome some of the unluckiest plays I've seen all year.

  6. From Jim McLain: I wanted to comment on your "luck" column. ...I've won four nice trips and thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise since I've been retired. I've been told many times I'm lucky, but luck actually had little to do with my good fortune. I enter 150-200 sweepstakes every day. It's a hobby that usually takes around three hours out of my day. I enter only the "daily" sweepstakes, not the weekly or monthly ones, because I figure I can gain an edge over people who might enter just every once in a while.