Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In the real world, people matter most

     Real-life matters keep reminding me what is really important. It is not all fun and games.
    For years and years, I have lived in an unreal world -- athletics. I have plenty of company. We love our teams and our games; they are part of our lives, and they can dominate our thoughts.
    How often I wish it wasn't so.
    Honestly, I do not want to discuss or even think about LSU football and Les Miles for a couple of weeks. Enough already.
    And I kept thinking as people were contacting me by phone, Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, about the Miles/LSU saga, I have other things that matter more. People things.
    They matter more to other people, too. The blog piece I wrote and posted about the young woman -- a family friend -- and her unborn baby dying received more than 5,400 "views" on my blog site. The piece I wrote about the Shreveport sportswriting legend, now with dementia, received more than 1,100 views. The Miles piece had 200 views.
    That's the difference in the real world and the unreal world. 
    It is unreal the amount of attention athletics receive, the money that is spent on athletics, the outrageous salaries of coaches and professional athletes, the off-the-field crap that we have to endure. The games are what count for me; yes, the wins and losses, but even more, the competition. 
    It is, in many senses, a fantasy world. It is, as a friend pointed out, an entertainment world, which explains the ever-growing amount of money these people make. And now we're talking about paying college athletes. Why not?
Amy Geneux Keck: This is the cover photo for the beautiful,
touching memorial tribute posted by her husband.
    But I have learned -- finally -- not to let the games bother me too much or too long. Because in recent months there have been so many other considerations.
    Here is real life:
    -- The death of Amy just before childbirth, and Adeline. We think of the grieving family daily, and if you watch this video (link below) posted by Amy's husband, it will grab you.
    (And we know other parents, old friends, who have lost their children much too soon -- an Oak Terrace/Woodlawn athlete and his wife, a woman from a Dutch family in East Texas. Their pain might subside over time, but it never goes away.)
    -- While in Shreveport for Amy's visitation/funeral, we learned that the delightful 95-year-old matriarch (with her 93-year-old sister) of the family that were our first "sponsors" after we immigrated to the U.S. was in the hospital with pneumonia and other health problems. Thankfully, she has recovered and continues to live this beautiful life.
    -- My visit with the Byrdman, "Tweety" to some and "The Man, The Legend" to me. After I wrote the blog piece, one of our co-workers said "it must have been hard to write." Not as hard as the actual visit itself, knowing that The Man would not remember it.
    -- My best friend since 1958 having his third heart attack while on vacation with family members in San Francisco. Yet another procedure to clear blockages, and lots of uncertainty before they could return to Shreveport. He's battling; he always has.
    -- Another close friend's 4-month-old grandson, a precious Down's Syndrome baby named Jack (after his great grandfather), undergoing heart surgery and making a recovery.              
    -- One of my high school coaches and good friend, 85 years young, going through another heart episode and the same doctor as before, thankfully, keeping him going up in Tennessee.
    -- Another high school coach and good friend seeing his wife -- a popular couple with so many of us from North Louisiana -- go through lung cancer and surgery. Again, a nice recovery.
    -- Still another high school coach, tough guy on the field and super nice guy off it, deep in the throes of Alzheimer's for several years now.
    -- Quadruple heart bypass surgery for the soon-to-retire LSU play-by-play announcer of more than three decades, whose broadcasts I messed up regularly when we did Centenary road basketball games in the late 1970s.
    He missed all three LSU football losses and the three road-trip men's basketball losses, so -- as I write this -- he's undefeated this school year. He's recovered enough to return to the games and to travel, and on Monday night in New York City, he received the Chris Schenkel Award for long and distinguished  service in college broadcasting.
    -- An older woman from The Netherlands who immigrated to East Texas, after a long recovery from hip surgery is moving to the Seattle area to be near her second and youngest daughter. She is the widow of one of my Dad's oldest and best friends. 
    -- My sportswriting buddy since the mid-1960s partially paralyzed and limited after a stroke and again dealing with health challenges. He's not OK with it -- none of us are -- but he's still cranking out stories and columns and doing the best he can daily.
    -- I've written about losing old coaches/players earlier this year. The latest was a high school/college pal with Fort Worth ties who was a do-good person, a U.S. Navy veteran, husband and father, and forever sports (especially baseball) fan.
    A lot to deal with, but we also cherish the good parts of life:
    -- Our daughter, so devoted to her kids at home and at school, so dedicated to increasing interest in reading by fellow faculty and her students.
    -- Our son-in-law trying to straighten out Tennessee athletics on his radio show in Knoxville.
    -- Our son and daughter-in-law preparing to open a third Cajun Tailgators location, a restaurant at the Dallas Farmers' Market. There is much to do.
    -- Our oldest grandchild, our only granddaughter, sweet, silly, sassy and smart, into gymnastics and soccer, and the avid student and reader her mother wants her to be. Two years ago, she told me enthusiastically and emphatically, "I can read!"
    -- Our youngest grandchild, her brother, at 15 months learning to walk and talk and seeing his first Christmas tree. Stay out of it, Eli.
    -- Our two oldest grandsons, growing wiser and more curious and active, taking in their first LSU football gameday. They wore out, but they are ready to go again.
    -- The boys' new foosball game. They're good at it, but they found out that Opa is not a pushover. It's competitive, remember.
    -- Beatrice and I working daily to keep the apartment in shape and, with regular trips to the downtown YMCA for stretching and yoga, to keep our bodies in shape.
    -- We have to keep our place tidy because our spoiled-rotten cats also live here. Ditto and Grayson, brothers who are almost 10, wake us daily at 6 a.m. or earlier, demanding to be fed.
    -- We think of our extended family and our friends, and we try to stay in touch. We are grateful for the good days. We know everyone has hardships and tough times, so we understand.
    The games, my teams, are important to me; they always will be. That's just me. But when you weigh this unreal world against what really counts, it's all relative, isn't it?


  1. From Loretta and Lynn Geneux: Thanks for your mention of Amy. She was real as are the others you wrote about. She and they matter. They are all part of our family, your family or someone's family. They are important and need to be remembered and treasured.

  2. From Jack Thigpen: Wonderful article. Really puts sports in perspective. Life and good health is so much more important. Wish players, coaches, and fans would understand this and we could all just enjoy the competition and excitement of the game.

  3. From Jan Prothro: Nico, you have reached the age of wisdom and real understanding of what is truly important. Your gift goes way beyond sports. Your mom and dad were always proud, I'm sure ... as they would be today.

  4. From Jimmy Russell: How right you are. There are many instances especially as we get older that happen that cause us to put things in perspective.

  5. From Doug Bland: Every time I think you've done your best work, you crank out one better. You have a true gift to be able to communicate what a lot of us think but can't put down in words. SB magazine did a great story on how the Airline baseball team has put up the Christmas lights at our son's house every year since he first contracted cancer. With all the "bad" stories that are thrown at us, it's always great to see what good is happening.