A truly inspirational and cinderella story

With all the hype and attention the NCAA tournament has received over the past few days,  a story took place here in Minnesota during the boys state basketball tournament which deserves a great deal of attention as well.  In fact, it put tears in my eyes as well as many other people who happened to view the event.

In January, a young man named Zach Gabbard, who plays for a small high school in western Minnesota, suddenly collapsed and went into cardiac arrest while playing in a game.  He immediately had CPR performed on him and was taken to a hospital in Fargo for emergency open heart surgery. Days later, he was transferred to another hospital here in the Twin Cities.

Zach was the leading scorer of his team, the Perham Yellowjackets. His team was the top rated team in the state and surely, this tragic event had to really shake his teammates as well as the community of Perham. Luckily, Zach survived due to the quick responders to the scene but I can only imagine how bad the poor young man must have felt afterwards while laying in the hospital. Not being able to play and be a part of that team probably was a big emotional blow to him. But his prognosis for a full recovery is good and in the grand scheme of things, that is all that matters.

Zach’s team made it to the state tournament.  Zach unexpectedly arrived in the Yellowjackets  locker room in a wheelchair before the first game to greet his teammates. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the room to witness that. It surely must have have been an emotional and uplifting scene for him and the team.  Zach sat behind the team bench  during the game which Perham won and advanced to the semis.

During the introductions of the next game,  Zach was introduced with the reserve players.  He was all decked out in his team’s colors. When his name was introduced, he got out of his wheelchair, walked down the path and high fived several of his teammates.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the arena during that intro.

Perham went on to win the game and won the state championship for their class the next day.  Zach was very tired from all the hoopla of the previous day and could not attend the final game. But I am sure his presence during the tournament did just as much as his sweet jump shot would have done. Although he did not play a single moment, he is my MVP for the tournament.  Showing up like that and inspiring his teammates was a thing of beauty.  I wish Zach a speedy recovery and hope he can get back on the court soon.  We are all cheering for you.



The agony of NCAA bracket pools

Like many folks around this country,  I decided to shell out a few bucks and join our company’s office pool for the NCAA basketball tourney.  Having watched a good amount of college basketball this winter, I figured this would be an easy way to pick up some extra cash at the expense of  my co-workers.  After all, many of them have very limited knowledge of college basketball and some probably do not know the difference between a football and a basketball.

Well after the first few rounds of the tournament, this so-called company hoops expert is hovering near the bottom for total points! In fact, I am struggling just to beat half of the millions of people in an online bracket challenge. How can this possibly happen? But i see this happen every single year. People who have no knowledge whatsoever of college hoops suddenly look like the biggest hoops expert in the world during the tournament.  And of course, these people like to walk around and boast about their great predictions.

But the truth of the matter is that it is simply a matter of being lucky.  These days, logic is thrown out the window when making those bracket picks.  There might be only about 10 teams who really have a legitimate shot at making the final four but the rest of the field is really wide open. Parity is becoming a big part of college basketball. There really is not much of a difference between say a number 3 seed and number 12 anymore.  And I don’t believe there are any really unbeatable teams in the tournament. On any given night,  anybody can have an off night and get sent packing home. That is just how the game is. For instance, I believe Pittsburgh would beat Butler 9 out of 10 times. But that one time on Saturday night was enough for Butler to upset Pitt and move on.  In a single game elimination, anything can happen and sometimes the better team over the course of the season does not win. And that is what makes this tournament so special.

In the meantime, I still have a shot at redeeming myself. I have 3 of my final four teams still alive and my pick of Ohio St. winning the whole thing looks stronger everyday.  I always feel that the tournament really starts during the sweet 16 round.  Not only for the teams, but for us in these pools. The big points are at the end of the tourney. Just maybe I can surpass our office secretary who is more interested in girly things such as perfume than sports. How do these people get so lucky?!!! Maybe next year, I will pull out my lucky coin.

The Japan disaster really puts life into perspective

Every so often, you see a news event that really sinks your heart and this certainly has been the case with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Thousands of people dead, many more missing.  Damage beyond belief and the threat of nuclear plants leaking radiation gas makes for a hellish scene over there. I can certainly speak for everyone in this country in offering my prayers and thoughts to the fine people of Japan.

While watching the news coverage in Japan,  a thought dawned on me. What if this kind of disaster happened here in the United States? How would we handle it? And don’t think that it can’t happen over here. A major earthquake can hit the west coast anytime. Imagine what it would be like to have the entire state of California, one of the most populated states in the country, totally wiped out by an earthquake or a tsunami? Or have several large cities wiped out by a massive band of tornadoes.

I think a large majority of people in this country including myself can plead guilty about complaining over such little things that nature hits us with. We complain that it is too hot or too cold. We complain over a snowstorm and the inconvenience that it might bring or how the rain will damper our picnics or golf outings. But most of us cannot even begin to imagine what life would be like if we were living in parts of Japan right now. We are way too spoiled.

Now just imagine having your town totally wiped out and having several family members killed or missing. Or having a shortage of food and water.  And living with the fear that a nearby nuclear plant will melt down and you will die an awful death.  These are things that few people in this country are really prepared for.

I think most Americans should feel lucky that we have never experienced a disaster of this magnitude. Putting yourself in the shoes of many of those Japanese people really makes one appreciate life a lot more.

My worst job ever

I’m sure most people have a story to share when the topic “worst job ever” comes up.  Perhaps it was something that I used to do at a public library, file books away and clean the bathrooms.  And believe me, there is nothing more gross or humbling than cleaning a public bathroom! And both bathrooms were equally disgusting! Or maybe you had a job where you had to work with some very obnoxious co-workers or had a very difficult boss to deal with.

Surprisingly, my worst job ever involved one of my favorite sports, basketball.  During my sophomore year of college,  the recreation director of the town I was attending college  needed some basketball officials for a men’s league.  Our coach explained to us that it would be only one night and week and we would get paid handsomely for just doing a few hours of work. Since I played college basketball and knew the rules pretty well, at least I thought I did! I jumped at the opportunity.  This is certain to be a pretty good gig, refereeing a bunch of fat middle-aged guys playing basketball. Boy was I wrong!!

Anybody who has ever watched a pickup game at their local health club can understand what I’m talking about. Grown men, who think they are better than they actually are,  whining, complaining or just arguing every call we made. Here you had guys who were doctors, lawyers, city officials acting like jerks on the court.  At first,  I was a little intimidated but after a few weeks,  I decided enough is enough and started calling technical fouls. Funny how that shut some of those guys up!

Eventually the season came to an end and that was the last of my basketball officiating career.  As a player, I get upset with officials calls. It only human nature if you are any bit competitive. But then I ask myself, what am I getting so upset about. This is only a GAME!!! But it is amazing to find so many guys around this country who raise their blood pressure way too high over a silly, little recreation game. I see it even in pickup games.  Maybe that is why they paid us so well to ref those games. But I would rather clean a public restroom. At least my mop will not verbally abuse me!!