There is one word to describe this transformation from just another birthday to the most important birthday:
If you know me or my family well, you are aware of the health issues my father is currently fighting. Getting a call from your father with the worst news imaginable, seeing your mother cry when you visit home, discovering medical-related books and evidence around your childhood residence--these are all things that give you perspective.
When my father first received news of his diagnosis, I was devastated. I was too shocked to cry or react. Then I received a follow-up text from my father:
"WVU - Oklahoma 7:30 Fox"
How could he be thinking of a West Virginia football game at a time like this? This text message gave me a dawning realization. For years, I have labeled myself as crazy for WVU athletics. I have actually distanced myself from it because I thought it was an unhealthy obsession. I have stayed off message boards and left games early, because I thought it was weird to care this much about a college game. Honestly, it would cause me stress, anxiety, anger, and euphoria--sometimes all in one game. Now, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing weird about it all. In fact, it teaches us a valuable message that I would like to share with all of you.
Take something you are passionate about and invest all of your heart and soul into it.
I have friends who do this with their instruments. I have others who do this with their pets. There are others who do this with a girl they met last weekend downtown. I also know some who squander great opportunities and don't invest their emotions into anything. In reality, those kids you see LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) around campus are probably happier than all of us. Why? Because they care about something. They care about something so much that it doesn't matter what others think about it. In a world where Instagram selfies are perceived as cool, these people are labeled as "bozos with foam swords," opposed to someone with an amazing passion for something they love.
Over the years, our lives have revolved around who/what/where West Virginia University is playing. During my childhood, we would sometimes open Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve so we could catch a flight on Christmas Day to various bowl destinations around the country. Our Thanksgivings often consisted of hotel dinners in Pittsburgh, since the Backyard Brawl was the next day. In the spring, we would head to Madison Square Garden for a week to watch our beloved Mountaineers play in the Big East Tournament. I would miss a week of school, but my parents did not care. In 2010, WVU advanced to the Final Four. I had just arrived to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break earlier that day. The next morning I booked a flight to Indianapolis to go to the game.
It may seem incomprehensible to let a sport be the axis that your life rotates on, and I started to believe this. I lost touch with WVU sports. I let other things take over, and I felt happier that I didn't know who #85 was or what time we played Saturday. I thought this was the right way to live. I could not have been more wrong.
Currently, I live in Arlington, Virginia, and I find myself rediscovering this passion for West Virginia University athletics. The three-hour drive home every weekend reminds me of the road trips my Father and I took to Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Rutgers. We would talk WVU football the entire ride and walk into every gas station on the way with pride, as we sported our gold and blue outfits.
Flights down south remind me of early morning and late night flights after WVU losses. I was a brat. I hated losing and didn't shut up about it. I was rude to my dad over it, because I clearly was the expert on all things WVU. My dad would then recite his famous motto:
"Don't let three hours ruin three days."
Do not let three hours of a WVU game ruin three days of father-son bonding. Now that is some heavy perspective. At the time I didn't get it. Now, I do. West Virginia athletics will always be there, but we won't.
So today, I have found my passion equilibrium thanks to my father's perspective. I no longer let the outcome of a WVU game determine how I treat others around me. All that matters is that we are alive and investing ourselves into something we are passionate about. I will say this. When West Virginia football/basketball wins its first national championship, my father and I will cry our eyes out together. If you think this is weird, then you're weird.
|In 2012, WVU's geographical footprint further expanded to Thailand.|
Happy 62nd Birthday, Steve. When you put things into perspective, I would not trade this investment for anything in the world.