A LIFE AHEAD Sportswriters spend countless hours trying to convince, first, ourselves, then the rest of the world, that games matter. That there is a deeper, more poignant subtext to every box score, checkered flag, or Grand Slam final. The idea is to examine the diversions of life in a manner that allows reflection on the people, places, and things that truly shape us, that really matter. Once in a blue moon, we actually pull the trick. More often than not, though, a dose of real life places a sportswriter’s craft where it belongs . . . somewhere around Section D. As I was brainstorming ideas for this column -- on September 6th to be precise -- a dose of real life hit me like a seven-pound, six-ounce Nolan Ryan fastball that got away. My second child -- my second daughter, no less -- arrived in a healthy, pink, wrinkled bundle of beauty. Elena was born just in time for one of the biggest sports weekends of the year . . . and I found that this mattered to me just about as much as it mattered to Elena. She was born merely minutes after the amazing Williams sisters finished off the rest of the U.S. Open field so they could go ahead and settle their latest family tennis squabble. I found myself wondering what kind of relationship Elena would have with her older sister, hoping-- nay, praying -- that the relationship would be defined without computer rankings or John McEnroe’s commentary in the mix. Elena was born in time for another University of Memphis gridiron disappointment at the hands of Ole Miss. The Tigers’ new, explosive offense, their blue-chip quarterback, their season-opening win . . . none of it mattered against Eli Manning’s Rebels. I found myself wondering what kind of struggles Elena will face in the years ahead. What kind of frustrations will she have to wrestle with in establishing her position in a social, academic, or even athletic pecking order? My hope is that she’s able to remind herself that another chance will always come, and next time the score will begin, as it should, even-Steven. Elena was born in time for the NFL’s opening weekend. More highlights, timeouts, penalty flags, fireworks, spandex, video-game commercials, and Chris Berman than any one nation of free men should be able to handle. But this is America. On any given Sunday -- or Monday night -- a team that has never so much as taken the field (the Houston Texans?) just might whip the over-hyped, silver-helmeted five-time world champions. I found myself wondering if Elena will ever know the difference between a flanker and a split end, a slant and a screen. And if she’ll be a Texans fan. Elena’s first Wednesday was September 11th. Talk about a dose of life. How the heck to you factor that date into the hopes and dreams you have for your newborn? No diversion here. No hype. And the fireworks are ghastly images from a horrific mass-murder. Thoughts of sports? Like I said: Section D. I was left with a rather pleasing thought last Wednesday. It had everything to do with Elena, and nothing to do with the games we choose to play. The more I wondered about what her future held, the more I was reminded how this in itself was a victory of sorts. The evil that bared its fangs last September is out there, and will likely be there in some form as Elena grows into adulthood. But the fact that she is here now, the fact that innocence still exists, that unconditional love can still be created . . . well, it means we all have a chance. And if you’re keeping score, that’s a win -- maybe a title even -- for the good guys.


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