Fan, Father, Human

The relief of bad news

Nobody likes getting bad news. But sometimes bad news is a relief, because it’s not worse news. And bad news gives us an opportunity to count our blessings.

Your pre-teen wakes you up in the middle of the night because he’s feeling sick, and then vomits. But he made it to the bathroom toilet — five years ago, that would have been on the carpet. Ten years ago that would have been all over his crib. This is an improvement!

You take him to the doctor and find out he has strep throat. That’s bad news… but it’s great news, because that means antibiotics can cure him. And, it’s not the flu, which would have taken him out for much longer… messing up weekend plans and quarantining the house, not to mention probably getting the rest of the family sick.

There’s often a counterpoint that turns “regular” bad news into good news, without being disingenuous. Favorite team didn’t advance in the playoffs? Now you can enjoy the playoffs without worrying about your team winning… or just reclaim the time you would have spent watching. Work project didn’t go as planned? Cut your losses, learn what went wrong, and make plans for next time. Didn’t get the job/date/part/promotion/win you were aiming for? You know there will be other opportunities down the road, and with that experience under your belt you’ll be even more ready for them.

The song, written by Eric Idle, was taken from the controversial 1979 film The Life of Brian - which was banned in Norway and Ireland

Cynics may decry this look-on-the-bright-side attitude as a foolish kind of forced optimism. But consider the alternatives. Complain? Curse the world? Silently suffer? Spend your time worrying what will go wrong next? Throw a tantrum? Bemoan your luck? Become paralyzed with indecision on how to react?Some mourning for What Can Not Be may be called for, but then you have to move forward.

So make the best of it, and seek those hidden pockets of joy. It’s how we survive and press on to the next challenge. We don’t have to find a silver lining on every dark cloud. But, wouldn’t it’d be foolish to stand in the rain with a closed umbrella?


The glory of the celebrating crowd

Is there anything more glorious than tens of thousands of people all cheering and celebrating when something happens that they weren’t expecting?

Take for example, this play from the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings were losing by one point with seconds left in a playoff game. Needless to say, their chance of winning the game and not ending their season was unrealistic at best, but the crowd was hopeful. Then on a freak occurrence, two people guarding their receiver Stefon Diggs collided with each other, meaning he could score a 61 yard touchdown to end and win the game.

These moments happen most often in sports, be they the Malcolm Butler interception in the Super Bowl, Dave Roberts stealing 2nd base before David Ortiz’s home run, or the final seconds of the US hockey team’s victory over Russia. The shared joy between the athletes who have dedicated countless hours preparing for these snippets of time, and their audience witnessing the payoff for their hard work, is infectious.

If you ever need a quick pick me up, watch one of these videos or one of your own favorite sports team coming through at a key moment with a stadium full of witnesses.

We may not have a playing field or a full stadium of onlookers for our own triumphs, but why not try to capture and spread that joy ourselves to celebrate each other’s victories in life?

Citizen, Fan

Trivial trivia

There’s important trivia, like “Who was the 30th president of the US?” There’s less important trivia, like “How many different ‘Mountain’ roller coasters are there on Disney properties?” And then there’s completely irrelevant, important-to-no-one-but-a-few-people-trivia, like “What was the name of that cereal that had a commercial that started with a cowboy singing ‘Get along, little blueberry critters, get along?’ ”

Unfortunately, the way our brains sometime work, those irrelevant questions can get stuck in our heads.

Fortunately, this is one of those situations where the Internet giveth rather than taketh away. All of those questions, yes even the blueberry critters one, is solvable with a quick Internet search. Our society’s collective brains have been indexed for us, so our trivia answers can be on demand, while our brains focus on more important things.  (Y’know, like more difficult posers the Internet can’t answer, such as, “How many different characters touch a lightsaber handle in the original Star Wars trilogy?”)

So yes, there is joy in having a repository of knowledge stretching back decades to scratch those mental itches, instead of everyone shrugging their shoulders or pulling out encyclopedias from the library.


Fan, Friend

Adding stakes

Sporting events, such as the NFL playoffs, are fun to watch with a crowd, especially a crowd of friends.  But one way to add much more excitement, especially if you weren’t particularly rooting for one team or another, is to encourage everyone to make cheap bets with friends while everyone’s watching together.

“One dollar says they convert this third down!”

“You’re on!”

ohhhhhhhh…. Ohhhhhhhh….  OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-AHHHHHHHH-Awwwwwwwwwww…..

Dollars are exchanged. General merriment and hilarity ensues.

Suddenly the audience is no longer a passive actor. Each of us becomes an active participant. There is shouting and clapping and cheers and laughter. There is joy.

It’s amazing how much any event, sporting or otherwise, becomes more interesting when there’s some small personal stake at risk. In the end, no one walks away more than a few dollars up or down. But when you have something to win or lose attached to these otherwise random outcomes, you care more. You stay involved. You’re no longer a bystander. Suddenly, it matters. All for maybe a $1 here and there.

What if we made more every day things matter?


Tom Cruise Is Jack Reacher

There’s something mesmerizing about an actor at the top of his game.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series tells the story of a 6’5″ 250-pound muscular ex-military policeman who, after leaving his position, foils bad guy after bad guy as he hitchhikes his way across the country.  The character as envisioned in the books is an unstoppable force of nature, a chivalrous knight errant capable of outthinking, outlasting, or outgunning his opponents.  Whether it be his eidetic memory, his force of will, or his extensive combat training, Jack-None-Reacher gets it done.

Now put 5’7″ Tom Cruise in the role.  Fans of the book series howled.  Sure he’s an action hero, but how could tiny Tom Cruise, he of the slippery spy Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible, the smarmy Maverick in Top Gun, the earnest lawyer in A Few Good Men… how could he ever possibly play the unsentimental, determined Reacher?

Pretty damn well, it turns out.  It’s unclear whether it’s camera tricks or they just surround him with short people, but however they did it, when you watch either of the Jack Reacher movies, you forget it’s Tom Cruise in about 5 minutes, and feel a thrill every time you see a Reacher with both brains and brawn take down another opponent.  Cruise completely inhabits the character of Reacher, and becomes unmistakably him.

There’s a lot to like and dislike about Tom Cruise as a person.  But it’s hard to deny that he’s a phenomenal actor.  Would that we all could be that good at our craft.