Footballs are shaped funny. They’re oblong, like brown eggs with stiches. Pigskins. Pills. Rocks. They’ve been called many things over the years, people doing their best to define the magic of leather and laces, but nevertheless, footballs remain unpredictable.
Drop one and try and guess which way it will bounce.
You can’t do it, and that’s because of the shape. The points at both ends. There’s just no telling which way the ball will go.
This past Sunday, the ball bounced funny for the Saints and the Chiefs. Toward the end of the Saints’ game, a pass was ruled “uncatchable” by the referees, negating a blatant interference call that could’ve pushed the home team to victory. The Chiefs, on the other hand, simply didn’t get the ball. They made it all the way into overtime against the battle-tested Patriots, lost the coin toss, and a few minutes later, their season was over.
Everything happens for a reason, right?
I just typed three words, deleted them, then typed three different words. Did that happen for a reason? Maybe. Maybe the four seconds it took me to make that choice will come into play somewhere down the road. Maybe not. Maybe three words are just three words. Maybe — sometimes — the ball just takes a bad bounce.
On Sunday, January 12, 2019, the ball took a bad bounce for two of my favorite people. Dr. Susan Wink — wife of my long-time writing mentor and dearest friend Dr. Johnny Wink — was headed into her living room to watch the “Chefs” game (as she likes to call them) and took a nasty fall. As a result, she broke a ring in her pelvis, was rushed off to the hospital, and has remained there ever since.
Was there a reason Susan fell? Was there a reason the Saints didn’t get the call and the Chiefs never even got the ball? How do we make sense of this game we call life when the ball doesn’t bounce our way?
I remember my coaches telling me to have a “short memory.” In other words: get over it, move on, there are more plays to be made. But football is different than life, especially when you’re seventy-seven and fall on the way into your living room, trying to catch the “Chefs” game.
Instead of having a “short memory,” instead of turning away from the pain, I took a trip down to Arkadelphia last weekend to see the Winks. We missed most of the Saints’ game, catching a little of the third quarter in Susan’s hospital room while she drank a milkshake and told us why she called the Chiefs the “Chefs.” Johnny and I caught a little of the fourth quarter, shooting pool at The Cue.
By the time we headed over to Johnny’s longtime friend Pat Adcock’s place for drinks and conversation, the Saints were up and we figured the fat lady was singing a sad tune for the Rams.
But that ball, man — it’s unpredictable.
I got home just in time to see the Patriots win the coin toss. I sat down on the sofa with my wife, my daughter asleep in the next room, and we watched the winning drive. Two hours south, Johnny sat in a hospital room with Susan, watching the same game, probably hoping the “Chefs” would at least get a chance to touch the ball. But they didn’t.
And then on Monday, after the Chiefs’ magical season was over and there was no longer any reason for Susan to try and catch their game — she stood for the first time in a long time, and walked.
Maybe everything happens for a reason. Maybe only some things happen for a reason and others are just pointless. OSKIE. What’s the reason behind my writing those five capital letters? Is it some sort of word? A secret message? I don’t know, but I’m sure hoping Susan makes it home in time for the Super Bowl.
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