Tag Archives: bucket list

Another Hall Of Fame

I recently got back home from a trip of a lifetime. My lovely wife surprised me, for my half century birthday, with a planned vacation – ALL ABOUT ME. I had expressed my desire to someday travel to a few cities including Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. Sound familiar? Anyway, I noticed the missus kept using the phrase bucket list whenever discussing our trip with other people. Her terminology sort of rubbed me the wrong way. Call it what you will – simple semantics, “you say tomato and I say tomahto,” or chalk it up to me being a dope, but eventually I felt compelled to make my thoughts on the subject known to her.

I tend to view a “bucket list” somewhat negatively. I see the popular trend as being just a list of stuff a person assumes will bring true happiness once completed, yet if everything on their list is not crossed off before their demise then tragically the person thinks their life came to an end without ever having known complete fulfillment. I do aspire to travel and experience different things, but I certainly don’t need new adventures to possess contentment. Regardless, “bucket list” or not, I had a wonderful time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but that was just a portion of our week-long vacation. My trip of a lifetime included another Hall of Fame (also found in Ohio).

The feeling I got when entering Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame was akin to how I felt when going through the doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was that familiar aura of greatness inside the hallowed walls of the National Football League (NFL) enshrinement. Only the elite, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the crème del a crème are inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Their eminence is rewarded with a bronze bust of their likeness to forever be displayed in Canton. No good players, coaches, or special contributors to the game are allowed in the exclusive club: only exceptional individuals are welcomed.

In the recent past, I was guilty of taking those already enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for granted because it seemed as though each and every year several new inductees were being admitted. I thought surely by now there must be hundreds of bronzed busts occupying The Hall. All that is true. There are now 303 individuals (including the 2016 inductees) honored within Canton’s revered facility. However, there’ve been tens of thousands of people associated with professional football since the game’s inception; therefore, in actuality the number of those who’ve been selected is fairly scant.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame includes an informative, up-to-date timeline showing how today’s NFL as we know it came to be. I learned the first player chosen in the very first NFL Draft was that year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but the talented, most sought after player had absolutely no desire to play professional football. The Hall also boasts endless memorabilia and numerous interactive exhibits. I discovered I throw a football just like Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly (well, maybe not as far – or as tightly spiraled – but somewhat similar nonetheless). I grip the pigskin in the exact manner as the former Buffalo Bills’ legend probably because our hands are the same size.

I was caught a little off guard when I came across a modest display featuring the most perfect picture. The photo was taken at the first professional football game played after the events of 9/11. (The NFL postponed all games for a week out of respect for the lives lost during the attack on our nation.) The inspirational picture, capturing a burly football player bursting through the stadium’s smoke-filled tunnel while proudly waving a life-sized American flag, was both sobering and uplifting. The way the United States came together during that horrific time in history was a thing of beauty. I wish we could experience that type of unity as a nation again without requiring another tragedy of that magnitude to bring us all to our senses.

By far, my favorite part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame was strolling by the rows of busts. They were arranged in chronological order by the year in which each member was inducted. I took my sweet time as I read each name and studied the inductee’s bronzed likeness before proceeding to the next bust. The first grouping of Hall of Famers I came upon, that I was genuinely interested in, were of a few players I had routinely heard of as a child. I certainly knew about Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Namath, but I was a little too young at the time to recall ever watching them play. My father has been a lifelong Kansas City Chiefs’ fan, so I’m well aware their Hall of Fame quarterback, Len Dawson, massacred opposing defenses throughout the 60’s. Unfortunately, I can only remember rooting for the Chiefs’ subpar quarterbacks, Mike Livingston and Bill Kenney, during my initial years as a football fan during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

I eventually came across some standouts I could actually remember witnessing firsthand their superior play on the football field. My interest in the bronze busts escalated when spotting many of my favorite players from my youth: Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Terry Bradshaw, and Lynn Swann. I guess there was a time when one could be a fan of both the Cowboys and the Steelers. I also admired Hall of Fame running backs, Earl Campbell and O.J Simpson, around that time. Yes, O.J. Simpson. I even had (and still have) an O.J. doll…ahem…I mean an action figure complete with football uniform and jogging suit (knife not included). Sometimes our heroes fall – and sometimes they fall hard. I was a huge fan of Earl Campbell. I fancied the power running back not only because of his bruising-style of running but also because the Houston Oiler dipped Skoal tobacco (my beloved grandpa’s brand).

After a while I found myself amongst the gleaming heads of the more recent Hall of Fame inductees. Two of my favorite players from the 90’s were Deion Sanders and John Elway although I liked them for entirely different reasons. I was enamored with Sanders’ athleticism as an All-Pro cornerback and gifted return specialist. Watching “Prime Time” return a kick or an interception was anything but boring. The way Deion pursued the end zone with reckless abandon brought everyone to their feet and made opposing teams’ fans cringe. Many times the versatile athlete’s improvised returns would result in choreographed touchdown celebrations. I used to thoroughly enjoy Sanders’ showboating and his high-stepping into the end zone, but with age I’ve come to despise excessive celebrations of any kind on the football field.

John Elway, on the other hand, brought a controlled passion to the game. I can’t say as I cared too much for the lifelong Denver Bronco quarterback at the beginning of his career, but his obvious heart and vigor for the game converted me into one of his fans by the time he retired. (I felt the same way about Hall of Famers, Joe Montana and Brett Favre, and future Hall of Famer, Peyton Manning, at the end of their storied careers. I admit to having a soft spot when it comes to most NFL quarterbacks’ last hurrah. Of course, Tom Brady is the exception.)

John Elway led his team to back-to-back Super Bowl victories, during his final two years in the League, with sheer determination. I was reminded of his tenacity while watching footage of Super Bowl 32 inside the sacred walls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlights showed Elway willing his aged body to perform as though he was a robust rookie. The scrambling quarterback can be seen sacrificing said body, for the slightest extra yardage, in pursuit of a much needed first down. His tremendous effort led to a touchdown – and his 1st Super Bowl ring. The next year Elway was even better, winning Super Bowl 33 and being named the game’s MVP, as the gritty quarterback undeniably went out on top.

Spending a day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was definitely a dream come true. I wonder what’s next on my “bucket list.” Boston? Washington, D.C.? Paris? Ireland? Perhaps another Hall of Fame?


Contentment

It’s quite interesting, as well as refreshing, how the Holy Spirit intervenes seemingly under even the most trivial of circumstances. I was having a little trouble deciding what to write about when I remembered Christ is interested in every aspect of my life. Once in a while I find myself becoming a bit too complacent, when walking with the Lord, that I sometimes forget He has all of the answers. I made a simple plea for some clarification, during my evening prayers, as to what topic I should be entertaining. The very next morning, while continuing a Bible study I had started in January, I came across 1st Timothy 6:6-8.

The Apostle Paul said, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Previously, I had considered offering my thoughts on contentment; however, I had just come up with a clever title pertaining to a different subject altogether, so I figured that ship had already sailed. Obviously, I was wrong. Immediately after reading those verses I no longer had any doubt as to what I was suppose to be writing about at this time. I cannot (and will not) dismiss the Holy Spirit’s intervention as merely a coincidence.

Google defines contentment as “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” I prefer Wikipedia’s definition which states, “Contentment is a mental or emotional state of satisfaction drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind.” How many people do we know who have the aforementioned abundant supply of food and clothing, as well as many other things, yet they are still discontented? It’s fairly difficult though to rebuke those who are not content since our country actually promotes this type of behavior. We are encouraged to buy into the notion that we must constantly strive to advance in our careers, upgrade to larger homes and more expensive vehicles, and be the first in line when the newest technological device hits the shelves.

What it really boils down to, in today’s society, is we have a misguided admiration of the almighty dollar. The noticeable differences between the haves and have-nots are what tends to divide us as a nation. We are erroneously separated into categories based on our financial status; however, the Bible warns us (again in 1st Timothy) that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” I’m not contending there’s anything wrong with ambition, and I’m certainly not implying there aren’t any fulfilled have-nots living amongst us. In fact, I would venture to say there are probably more individuals with much less money, than those with beaucoup bucks, who are content with their lives. The problem with making accumulating wealth a priority, and striving to obtain more possessions, is that inevitably it becomes a vicious cycle, so there’s rarely a chance of achieving any sort of lasting satisfaction. How much would be enough?

Not so long ago my father was asked what was on his “bucket list.” After pondering the question, for a quick moment, he unexpectedly replied, “Nothing.” My father was born of modest means, did not attend college, and was the sole breadwinner for his family of six. Looking in from the outside it appears as though he hasn’t had too much excitement in his life. He’s rarely traveled, has never been on a cruise, had never purchased a new vehicle until recently, and my father doesn’t even own a computer, yet he is content. He explained how important raising a family had been to him, how he couldn’t think of anything he desired to do (even if money was no object), and how even if he could he still wouldn’t change a thing.

I consider myself content as well although I have many things on my bucket list. I’d like to travel more especially outside of the United States. I also wish to one day partake in bungee jumping, go whitewater rafting, and possibly run a half marathon. Attempting to run a full marathon (26.2 miles) would just be silly. I’ve already tried my hand at waterskiing, snorkeling, and parasailing – and I really don’t even know how to swim. I went skydiving several years ago as well. Some folks think it’s ridiculous to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, but I highly recommend the exhilarating feat.

For me, skydiving on November 26th, 2001, was somewhat of a religious awakening. I would think it’s nearly impossible to fall from the heavens, at 13,000 feet, without considering one’s mortality. I even pondered what could possibly go awry before boarding the compact aircraft; hence, the reason why I quickly penned a short letter to my lovely wife before takeoff. I reminded the missus how much she and our son meant to me, and I apologized for the times, during our then 18 years together, when I wasn’t the perfect mate she deserved. I reckon I was yearning for complete contentment “just in case.” I asked my bride not to read the note unless something went amiss up in the blue sky. Of course, anyone who knows my wife most-likely has already guessed she read my heartfelt words before I even got on the plane.

On this earth we are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We are here experiencing the lower story (life’s fleeting moment) although the upper story (God’s divine plan) is the only thing that truly matters in the end. Ultimate contentment is surrendering all things to Christ. It is realizing your soul is your greatest asset. Assuredly, I am not against earning a good living, climbing up the company ladder, or having a bucket list as long as those desires are secondary. It’s not important that I once went skydiving, and I’m not too concerned whether or not I’ll have the opportunity to someday experience any of the other adventurous activities on my bucket list. Regardless, I’m content.