Sunday, February 6, 2011

I know those guys

Yesterday afternoon a high school buddy who went to Hofstra left a voice mail for me at home. He was watching Hofstra play Northeastern University, my employer, and wanted to know if I was watching the game. Judging by the message and an e-mail he sent when he did not get me in by phone, my pal was very excited about the Hofstra Northeastern game.

I wasn't home yesterday because--in what has become an annual expedition--several Albany college buddies met in the state capitol of New York and went to see the Albany Great Danes play an America East basketball game.

What prompted the Albany alums' rendezvous was less the basketball game and more the comraderie we have enjoyed when we reconnect. Still we made sure to get to the gym before the opening tipoff, and were relieved when the home team-- for the first time in our four years of having so rendezvoused--prevailed with a 62-59 victory.

It was a decent, but not packed crowd at the Albany arena last night. There was a good deal of howling for the home team. This despite the fact that last night in Albany was a terrible driving day. One of the worst I've ever experienced. The roads from Boston to Albany were fine, but it started to rain/sleet mid afternoon and then by the 7 pm gametime, it was like ice skating on the highways. Spectators after parking their cars slid, as opposed to walked, to the arena.

You don't need to go much beyond my experience of yesterday to see evidence of the lure of sport in our society. My high school pal, a very successful 60 year old accountant, is thrilled that his alma mater might defeat Northeastern in a Colonial Athletic Association contest. And maybe 3000 fans skate to a basketball game in Albany New York to watch a .500 college team play another .500 college team in the America East.

It was a gas seeing my old buddies in Albany. After the game we went to a restaurant and regaled one another with tales about our youth and I experienced, not for the first time, the therapeutic value of laughter. We were howling repeatedly making a scene of ourselves, but we tipped the waiter very well for his endurance while we joyfully reminded one another of our history.

But there was a sad aspect to the evening as well. Our pal Brian had secured the tickets for the game and we had terrific seats just to the left of the really terrific seats of the season ticket holders. I looked over to that bunch, and thought to myself--those guys look old. Then, slowly I began to recognize several of those seated there. The "old guys" were contemporaries, people who had gone to college with me and had stayed in the Albany area. I know those old guys that looked like old guys because I am one of them.

One of the bunch of us who meet annually is still in touch with some of the old guys in the season ticket section. And it was sad to hear him tell us, how this one is having some health issues, and how that one would have been here but had a stroke. One fellow who had been a star on the teams when I was a freshman is battling cancer, not for the first time.

Laughing as an adult--like a child might--is great therapy. Cheering enthusiastically for sports teams--as a child might--can purge the tensions within us. Remembering our mortality will allow us to enjoy the time we have and not squander our time away childishly.

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