Each summer in the searing sun of southern Louisiana, 90 men leave their individual life behind and dream of becoming one. The goal is simple: forsake yourself for the fortune of group, rise above the immediate trials of the time, and become timeless. The summer progresses, the heat intensifies and the number of men sacrificing together dwindle; and although your body tires, your resolve must strengthen. This is the life of a New Orleans Saint preparing for the season, and if you are one of the 53 few chosen, this is the place you want to be.
Coming into this season, like every season before, there is a sense of promise.
If you take a poll of all 32 teams, 32 of them will believe that there is something different about this year's chances; the offseason breeds hope, but only when hope is challenged, does resolve flourish.
The 2012 New Orleans Saints season was well documented, from the loss of Sean Payton, our coach; to the rest of the sanctions dealt to our program in the alleged bounty case; to, ultimately, the performance of our team -- a 7-9 finish that left us out of the playoffs for the first time in three years.
What was not told in the headlines or on the news, however, was the spirit of our men in the locker room. Experiencing an unprecedented ordeal in the history of the NFL, our men never wavered. Although our spirit wasn't reflected in the final score of nine of our games, we endured Goliath's wrath last season, and now Goliath has to pay.
So forgive me if I sound the trumpet of preseason enthusiasm. It was out of tune for a year, in the shop being repaired. This year holds no promise of a better timbre for the orchestra that is the Saints; but now, in our coach, we have our first chair back, and he has brought in a badass sax player in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, some new songs and some new steps.
So, for this summer, in the searing sun of Southern Louisiana, 90 men leave their individual life behind and dream of becoming one; and although the goal is simple, and hope profuse, becoming timeless is going to take a lot of work.
And now for a story ...
Along the stream that ran between his house and mine, my friend and I sought to perfect the art of play. He would seek while I would hide; we built forts amongst the giant boulders and, amongst the old oaks, we would climb. The unimaginable amusement we experienced validated the joy of youthfulness in our life; it encouraged us to play more, to shine brighter, and led us to fulfillment.
There, along the base of the tranquil stream was the oak of wisdom. The grandeur of the old oak was astonishing, and reminded me of the stories my father would tell me before bed as a child. As we gathered closer, we discovered two seeds. As I glanced upon my friend's seed, I noticed imperfections he thought perfect; I commented on cracks in his seed he deemed creative. One glance upon my seed, and my soul's thirst was at once satisfied; my heart's hunger was finally filled to excess. To me, my seed reflected a truth within my spirit that until then remained silent, but now spoke clearly. My friend and I cared deeply for our two seeds, and out of exhilaration decided to return home as champions.
As I entered the house, my father greeted me. I opened my hand slowly, revealing my seed, and at once my father's face beamed with joy. "My son, this is the Seed of Destiny," he said, "given as a gift by the Gardener to one chosen for the task." I was given precise instructions to wash it off and place it under my pillow. As I prepared for bed, after thanking the Gardener for this gift, I blew out my light. The luminescence from my seed filled my room, creating amazement in my mind and peace of purpose in my soul; I closed my eyes, and at once I was asleep.
I arose the next morning refreshed and assured, renewed with a sense of purpose. Clothed, fed and collected in a matter of minutes, I prepared to leave for the day. "Where is your seed, son?" my father asked in a voice calm, but convicting. "You must understand that this gift requires great sacrifice," he told me as he approached the door. "Continue to carry this seed, my son, nurture it, water it, and in time, it will bloom into something so beautiful."
The seed I loved, once smooth and manageable, over time had become jagged and course, almost unbearable to carry. Content with my effort, I put my seed down and walked away. My father, returning home to see my seed jagged and alone, summoned me to the table. "Son, although our destinies can sometimes become rough and seemingly unmanageable, we must strengthen our grip. Although painful at first, our hands callous and contour into a strong support, giving a firm foundation for something so special." He asked me to hold my hand out across the table, placed the jagged seed in my palm, and used his callous hands to close mine. Applying tremendous pressure to my grip, he assured me of my own strength; the excruciating pain drew blood from my hands, tears from my eyes, and a smile from my heart. For I knew I could bear this pain, and enjoy the passion that runs through it.
That fall, as the first foliage lay upon our acreage, I understood that I too must lay to rest that which enticed me as a child, and with my seed sprouting, find a place for it to lay its roots. As I approached the door, my father with a joyful heart stood at an arm's grasp: "Son, I have seen you grow from a child, concerned with life's fulfillment, to a man, searching for life's truths. Stay humble, serve others, and always allow the Gardener to grow through you. I love you, son." He embraced me and kissed my forehead, signifying that I was no longer his to protect. With my own destiny coming to pass, I knew I must strengthen my grip, and continue to endue.
So I left.
After many years passed, I returned to the land of my youth. Although I had left a young man, inexperienced, and oft naïve; I returned inspired, while once my seed was thought to be the solution to life's problems, it had become weathered, beaten and almost broken by the torrential winds of life. I had to become firmly rooted in the lessons I had learned, and truths I had found.
My seed continues to comfort me with a patience that only a few understand. I reminisce on my father's wisdom, not fully understood until now: "Son, our trees must be strong, with roots locking our foundation securely in love, and we must provide not only home for fowl but a place of respite to the weary. It is in your shade that your children will find their seeds, and they will climb your sturdy branches and tell you secrets in a time you will never visit. And when the wind blows ... we can tell them stories of a place they've never known."
And so, here we are ...
Although I use allegory in explaining the story of the two seeds, the principles I wanted to express in this Monday Morning Quarterback are in harmony with the task set before us this day. Monday is a day in which we start new, and we often compound the expectations and tasks facing us, even before realizing that our own seeds still scream to be cultivated. We all have a seed of destiny that has been nourished by each and every one of our joys, pains and mistakes. These seeds grow into the tree of our life, and although it's never perfect, we must be acutely aware that it is not about the immaculate presentation of the flowers bestowed upon our tree, they will quickly wilt in the summer's sun. It is about the shadow that our tree casts; our shadow is our life, it is our legacy, in which our children's children can take respite and refuge when the heat of ostracism or the shifting winds of seeking their identity try to take hold. We must be the shade to the oppressed, the Fatherless and the poor. We must be the encouraging catalyst to the young who come after us, seeds in hand and full of promise. With their seed, we must cup their hand and apply great force.
For out a river of pain,
Their passions shall flow.
no one understands me.
Ten Things I Think I Think
1. I think that you guys will read the Two Seeds story, and get to the tagline of "no one understands me," and some of you will invariably reply, "I don't get it?"
2. I think that the nation's sidewalk-sign-twirlers should look into getting a union. I consider that a high risk, low reward gig. Nobody should tear a rotator cuff flipping a sign promoting ½ price off haircuts for kids*.
*Applies only when you purchase full price adult hair cut.
3. I think it grinds my gears when someone who has lived in Portland his or her whole life starts to root for the Heat. You're not a LeBron fan, you like winners. Just say so!
4. I think one of the most confusing comments I sometimes hear when I'm with my children in a restaurant is, "Oh, you're such a good daddy, I wish there were more like you."
Really? More what? More men who realized that they are too lazy to make pancakes on Saturday, so instead pay twice the market value to have someone else make them?
Another comment I often hear is, "Your children are so well-behaved." That's because every time we go into a restaurant, we have a Greer Family Meeting. Here are the rules:
• Don't stick your nasty fingers in someone else's pancakes.
• Don't you dare dance on the table; they don't tip in there, so leave your break dance routine at home.
• I better not hear anyone of you go up to a customer and ask, "Who is you?" or we're leaving.
5. I think, when writing comedy, the best place to look for conflict is the waffle house during the morning rush. There should be a reality show called Hot off the Grill: Drama in the Waffle House.
6. I think the worst place to rush to the restroom is at a Cracker Barrel. If you're trying to picture what it's like, think less NASCAR, more bumper cars.
7. I think the media's perception of fatherhood has been devastating over the last 20 years. There are not enough Cliff Huxstables, and too many Homer Simpsons.
8. I think no matter how insightful, inspirational or moving my writing may be, I'll always hear it from Falcons fans:
"Loved the article, but I hope that Roddy White 'drops his seed' on ya'll Week 1! Rise Up!"
9. I think I have been truly blessed to know Steve Gleason. I had to confront my own mortality and prejudice, and get to know him on a personal level. But now, in addition to my friend, he is my Go-To Music Man: Lord Huron, Alt-J, all from the Great Glease. I love you, man, you're a true living hero.
10. I think if you met me for coffee, the last thing you would think I did professionally was play football.