Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Not Just Any Incentive to Live

My mom and I, as you know if you have been reading this blog, are both avid University of North Carolina Tar Heel Men’s Basketball fans and we watch the games as often as we are able. When we are visiting with one another, we watch the games together and when we are apart, we call each other either before, during, or after the games and sometimes all three, depending on the closeness of the contest and the importance of the game. We joke with each other about our need for oxygen to get through some of the more difficult stretches of play and exalt together when our men in Carolina blue achieve yet another level of excellence.

Last night, I called mom to remind her to find ESPN2 and the Virginia Tech-UNC Chapel Hill game at 7:30 pm. She said that she would be watching. I called her again at halftime to see how she was holding up during the close game. During our conversation, I realized that I probably would not be able to call her after the game because the hospital where she was staying does not allow incoming phone calls after 9pm and I figured the game would end after the deadline. When we had finished talking, I told her that I would call her back “tomorrow” rather than after the game. When the buzzer sounded and UNC had won a close game on the Virginia Tech court, I knew that my mom was as pleased as I was, even if difference between victory and defeat was a mere three points.

Mom is trying to survive as an octogenarian with heart disease and I am fighting against HIV infection. Over the twenty years that I have survived my illness, it has often been the ability to look forward to a Carolina basketball game or the happiness borne from an unlikely win in a game where we were the underdog that has given me the strength/desire to see tomorrow. When our team won the national championship last season against the University of Illinois and 91% of our scoring left to graduation or the NBA draft, I didn’t expect much for the next year. However, the boys in blue are doing quite well so far and I find myself looking forward to seeing the next game no matter how difficult the circumstances of life at any given time. I am hoping that Mom can let the UNC team be an inspiration for her as well, at least to get her through to April and springtime when the smell of clean air and the beauty of flowers in the sun can replace basketball as an incentive for living.

You may find this silly, but if you are a Tar Heel fan, you know that you should never give up as long as there is time on the clock. Over the 35 or so years that I have been a Tar Heel fan, I have seen our team beat the odds on many, many occasions. They have been consistently good, earning second place in overall NCAA men’s basketball victories behind the University of Kentucky. As a result, the unlikely victory of this year’s young team over the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena has already made them a team of distinction. It is the perennial success, though, that makes this team a source of inspiration for me and hopefully for my mom. If they can beat the odds, then, by gosh, we can do it too.

I could go on and on about how this program provides me the spark to get through the deepest, darkest months of winter…but I will just say that my mom and I love our Tar Heels and we wish them well. Their welfare, is, in many ways, our own.

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