Skip to content

The Definitive Rules of Fandom

January 13, 2013

I recently became privy to a friend’s dilemma.  One of the most passionate and knowledgeable sports fans I’ve ever known claimed to be “homeless” in the NFL. Despite having a college football team, a college hoops team,[1] and an NBA team, my good friend was an impartial pro football guru/enthusiast.  My friend,[2] unsatisfied with dwelling in the cardboard box of his vicarious existence, devised an elaborate, semi-scientific process through which he’d eventually select the team worthy of his support.

Once I read the blog post declaring said intention, I proposed to Eric that we conduct the trial together, each applying criteria we deemed essential.  For example, Eric insisted that our team could not prominently feature an Oklahoma player[3]. In turn, I refused to bestow my energy to a team that had a K-State or Missouri player on their roster, let alone in a prominent role. We also agreed that our team could not be a perennial power—the last thing we wanted was the maligned frontrunner label.

Sometime amid our careful, though half-serious[4] process, the Kansas City Chiefs were in the final stages of weaving together the futility masterpiece that they called a football season.  Being a native Kansan, the Chiefs have always represented the only geographically logical choice for a professional football investment.  And yet, I have never really cared about them. The reasons aren’t few, and I think that they illuminate the reasons we become—or don’t become—fans in the first place, and why I ultimately could not select an NFL team at all.

1) For starters, I have only attended one of their games[5] in my lifetime. Attending a game and absorbing the unique experience afforded by a stadium’s atmosphere often generates the passion it takes to develop an irrational emotional attachment for a group of behemoth, freak-of-nature strangers scarcely aware of your existence.

One of my most formative and enduring sports stories involves my late grandfather Roy, who became the paterfamilias for my family’s KU basketball fanhood. On one fateful day, Roy attended his first Jayhawk game in Allen Fieldhouse.  Bud Stallworth rained 50 points down on his hapless opponents in a victory that thrilled the capacity 16,300 crowd and instantly transformed my grandfather into a lifelong fan.

So, from that angle, perhaps I never gave the Chiefs a fair shake.  I lacked that seminal, life-altering moment that may have been possible if I ever saw Joe Montana play in person.

2) As a child who spent every waking moment scripting his future career in the NBA, football meant about as much to me as pinochle or mathematics. Football, much to my wife’s disappointment, did not emerge as a hobby for me until long after my hoop dreams were cruelly squelched by inevitability. By the time I decided that waiting nearly eight months for the annual renewal of my vicarious existence[6] was simply too depressing[7], I threw my passion in the only place that made any sense for me.

Perhaps no better segue exists for the following.

3) The Kansas City Chiefs are not good at football. It’s really difficult to care about a team that sets new records for fruitlessness each year—that is, unless you have never known anything different than cheering for that team. For this reason, and others, I harbor the utmost respect for the noble, longsuffering fans of wretched teams.

My uncle Jared is the stalwart champion of the Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals, and KU football.  Were it not for Kansas basketball, Jared surely—and justifiably—would have committed sports seppuku many moons ago. Loyalty counts for something, though, particularly when it is extended faithfully to the bantha fodder of sports teams.

Fans are not without a sense of ethics, as it turns out, and nearly all of them cast aspersions (and sharp objects) at people who back only the most dominant teams. We don’t feel happy for Lakers fans any more than we feel happy for Donald Trump.  The man who dons New England Patriots, Duke Blue Devils, and New York Yankees apparel is assuredly the man who cheats on his wife for a comely woman twenty years his junior, attends Westboro Baptist protests, and kicks cocker spaniels in his leisure. Alternately, the man who wears Cleveland Browns[8] attire in public is the fellow who donates to the Red Cross, helps little old ladies cross the street, and pulled a maimed Lieutenant Dan from a Vietnamese war zone.

4) I could never quite condone embracing Missourians as brothers-in-arms on Sundays, but actively despise them every other day of the week.  The Chiefs fan base is a tension-ridden amalgamation of Kansas State, Missouri, and Kansas fans. Compartmentalizing my college athletics disdain simply was not tenable.  For most, rivalries are central and indispensable to their experience as fans.  My anathema for Missouri and Kansas State was set in place long before football managed to lay its claim to my consciousness, and asking a person to set such a thing aside for the benefit of watching abysmal football strikes one as discordant with nature, ethics, and The Rules of Fandom.

Before I moved to Oklahoma last summer, I foresaw the possibility of adopting the Thunder as an NBA team.  A passing, blithe interest in the Phoenix Suns would be relatively easy to shed for a team that had two Jayhawks on its roster and one of the most likeable players in professional sports.  Luckily, and most importantly, the Thunder galvanized my emotional investment last year when they eliminated the wildly unlikable San Antonio Spurs from the NBA playoffs. Tim Duncan, whose emotional capacity knows its zenith only in the seconds following fouls whistled on him, is rather easy to hate, as is his balding, beak-nosed counterpart (Manu Ginobli), and Tony Parker.[9] I was irrevocably tied to the Thunder bandwagon after watching James Harden deliver dagger after dagger to the most personality-devoid team in sports, thereby exorcising the demons attending me for all the years I watched the Spurs eliminate the Suns. In other words, I needed a foil for my team before that team could be mine.

One of the primary motivations for fanhood, unfortunately, rests in the desire to feel superior to your rivals. Enjoying your own team’s successes simply isn’t enough. To be a true fan, you must also revel in the failures of your rivals.

This morning, when I glimpsed a woman wearing a Kansas State pullover, it conjured images of my fifth grade teacher (who memorably found ways to insert her athletics allegiance into our class at every turn), Western Kansas, and agriculture. The sight also triggered emotional responses, of course. I thoughtlessly unzipped my coat to ensure she could glimpse my 2007 Orange Bowl shirt, a particularly apropos dig on the heels of K-State’s BCS bowl loss to Oregon.  I wanted to shove statistics in her face about the all-time head-to-head record in football[10] and our utter dominance of the Big 12—and, by extension, K-State—in hoops. To the relief of my wife, I managed to suppress these desires, but made certain to bear a smug grin on my face after we paid our bill and strolled past her on the way out of that IHop.

Ultimately, I removed myself from the NFL adoption project.  Sure, I can produce an emotional response for a group of tattooed college kids trying to throw a ball through a net, but doing the same for a group of tattooed adults trying to crush each other’s skulls seemed impossible for reasons other than my preference for a finesse sport over a contact one. The nuts and bolts for true fanship are as follows, and—as I discovered—are nigh impossible to generate during your adulthood:

1) You must have attended a game at your team’s venue.  If you’ve never set foot on the campus at Chapel Hill, you don’t get to be a Tar Heels fan.

2) You must have cheered for at least one bad team—and remained loyal to said team—during your life.

3) You must have rivals that you detest beyond reason.

The absence of any of the above precludes you from being a fan, irrespective of the money you’ve shelled out for the team’s paraphernalia.  Fortunately, rumor has it that alternate hobbies exist for adult men, though I can’t imagine what they are.


[1] Not the same school for both sports.  I’ll touch on this breach in fanhood later.

[2] We’ll call him Eric. Because that’s his name.

[3] The Vikings were immediately out, despite meeting most of the other criteria we parlayed together.

[4] For my part, not his.

[5] A preseason one, at that.

[6] The college basketball season ends in early April and does not really begin in force until December.

[7] An irony that does not escape me: basketball was invented so football fans would have something else to care about.

[8] Or Cavaliers, for that matter.

[9] Who is hateable by virtue of being French.

[10] A sport that, according to Wildcat nation, began in 1993, ceased to exist for several years during the aughts, and was graciously recognized once again in 2009.

Advertisements

Making Sense of the Madness

June 14, 2010

3/21/10

8:00 a.m.

With hands on head, Jason looked directly at me and said, “We are in serious trouble.”  Lost for any non-profane word (my grandmother sat three feet away) I merely nodded my recognition of our annual Doomsday. When my Jayhawks are bounced from the NCAA tournament, I always feel gut-punched—like an unexpected breakup that I probably should have expected.  You’re sad and angry at the same time, but first you just try to cope with the complete disbelief. Perhaps it’s more like your mortality: even though everyone knows they will eventually die, most people regard the possibility of their demise with a healthy dose of incredulity.

Most years, when I was growing up, I would retreat to my room and stare at the ceiling for an hour before it occurred to me to do anything else.  This was an improvement over my rage phase, I suppose.  I can distinctly recall tearing my room apart one year after being bounced by Syracuse (not in the 2003 title game), thinking that the destruction of my possessions bore some resemblance to the men in the Bible who tore their clothing upon hearing blasphemy. In the eyes of a 12-year-old, Kansas losing to Syracuse certainly seemed an injustice, if not blasphemy. My mother’s swift reprimand ensured that I never drew that parallel again.

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that part of the reason you’re so upset is the fact that you’re going to endure the merciless smack of all your non-KU friends.  This strikes me as perhaps the primary source of anger among serious fans. What other personal satisfaction do you enjoy from your team’s triumphs, if not the feeling of superiority over fans from opposing schools?  Sure, you are disappointed when your team fails to meet expectations and provide you with the excitement/distraction accompanying a deep March Madness run.  But mostly, you do not want to endure your suddenly clairvoyant rival fans claiming, “I totally saw this coming” or mockingly invoking the Rock Chalk Chant when you enter the office on Monday.

It’s like when that obese woman on Office Space tells Peter Gibbons, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Muuundays!” It is predictable and wretched.  Moreover, it puts you in the position of having to be the vaunted Bigger Person.  You could retort with any number of invectives, but society expects you to take it—to be a Gracious Loser. Fortunately, I do not work with Missouri or K-State fans.  However, I do face the task of engaging patients with small talk before Charlie makes his way into the room. With this in mind, I’m preparing a mental list of every possible stock pleasantry to ward off KU-related lamentations.  I’ll have 25 adjectives ready to describe the weather.

I also dread the trite, obligatory comment from the pulpit at church today. For whatever reason, people who speak at church cannot resist the opportunistic dross afforded by a KU loss.  This will manifest itself in one of two ways (and usually both): 1) a light-hearted attempt to trivialize the defeat.  I.e. “You know, when I woke up this morning, I was surprised to see that the sun had risen!”  2) An abject, half-baked attempt at allegory. Basketball is like Christianity because _________.  The former always fetches laughter while I place face into palm.  The latter makes me fantasize about piercing my own eardrums with my writing utensil…while resting my face in my palm.

For whatever reason—I suppose I really cannot help myself—I logged onto Facebook following the loss and found some statuses directly dedicated to me.

Dean Kraushaar: “My condolences to Brandon Sayre.”

Jeremy Stevens: “Someone please go over to Sayre’s and talk him down off the roof. DONT JUMP BRANDON!!!!”

Anyone who calls me after KU is bounced from the NCAA tournament clearly does not know me well enough.  I do not care whether your intentions are pure or not, I have no desire to commiserate with you or to engage in postmortem analysis.  No offense.  You could be Heidi Klum in a bikini on the other line—I still won’t want to talk to you about basketball.  In other words, I know why we lost and feel no need to relive it.  Why did we lose?

We failed to dictate anything offensively or defensively.  Sherron Collins elected to put forth one of his worst shooting performances when we needed him the most (but we relied on him far too much throughout the season).  Northern Iowa killed us on the offensive glass throughout the game and were savagely opportunistic when we turned the ball over (which was often). Xavier Henry’s miss on the front end of the 1-and-1 was devastating, as he could have cut the lead to a point with plenty of time remaining.  UNI made shots when they needed to and we did not. Tyshawn Taylor and Brady Morningstar gave us nothing.

That’s it.  Today, I am not wasting any time thinking “What if Henry made both free throws and cut the lead to 1?  Would UNI have buckled under the pressure?” “What if the Iranian dude did not elect to hoist up a strategically moronic three (and bury it)?” This, for me, is where sports losses diverge from breakups.  When I go through a breakup, I want to talk to everyone and dissect every aspect of the relationship.  Where does the blame go?  What could I have done differently? Should I have seen this coming?  As an outsider looking in, you can probably provide an objective take on the relationship’s demise and—assuming you possess some tact and concern for my emotional stability—offer a verbal vial of comfort.  Following a breakup, I’ll take as many of these as are offered.  Following a KU loss, I do not want your sympathy or your analysis.  I want sports to cease to exist.

The worst thing to do, I believe, is to attempt to find meaning from sports losses.  Or victories, for that matter.  The people who genuinely think that the successes of their teams indicate some divine favor are typically the same insufferable dolts who found salvific meaning through the Iraqi insurgence.  I have the opposite problem—I try to make sense of my team’s face plants. This strikes me as an incredibly solipsistic exercise—attempting to personally proffer from your team’s loss. God is trying to teach me humility, for instance. Bruce Wayne claimed that, “The world only makes sense when you force it to.”  But you cannot force college athletics to make sense, particularly with an event aptly christened March Madness. You are a merely an emotionally invested voyeur.  Just accept it.

You can point to things that may or may not have served as heralds of your team’s ultimate fate.  Someone on Phog.net opined that there were “deeper issues” with this team, citing some troubling preseason anecdotes: Brady Morning’s DUI, the multiple—and embarrassingly public—fights with the football team. People want to understand why things happen, which is reasonable.  I do not care whether these incidents did or did not factor into the loss to Northern Iowa yesterday, I only care that we lost to Northern Iowa.

Mostly, though, I wish that I did not care about sports.

Don The Narcoleptic

June 14, 2010

3/11/10

5:47 a.m.

NOTE: Names have been changed

Yesterday, we performed a root canal on a patient named Don.  Don could not have been much older than I am—probably somewhere in his middle twenties.   He had distinct Middle-Eastern features—deep green eyes, a dark complexion and (a most unintentional observation) a full carpet of hair on his back.  I discovered this last part while placing his bib around his neck—which is probably the second most emasculating thing (behind spitting into a cup that I hold) that I force patients to endure.  Don, in the course of relating his symptoms to me, divulged that he suffers from a rare form of narcolepsy.

I have always been intrigued by an ailment that robs you of your free will to determine the time and duration of your naps, so I naturally had a lot of questions.  It turns out that Don’s case is much more severe.

“It comes and goes,” he said.  “Last year, I was awake for 100 days.”

I misunderstood him.

“You were awake for 100 consecutive days?”

“No, 100 days total.  Last summer, I slept for a month and a half straight.  Three of my friends got married during that time, and I slept right through all the weddings.”

Naturally, I struggled to fathom this, and attempted to react to his statement with the appropriate air of empathy and pity.  But he was so nice and, at times, quite cavalier about it.

“It’s kind of nice to not have any responsibility,” he confided.  “It’s pretty impossible to have any responsibilities, quite honestly.  That’s why I have such trouble keeping appointments here and keeping up with my dental hygiene.”

I, of course, braced myself for the inside of his mouth to resemble a rotting corpse.  “They’re really not that bad,” the Dentist said.  And they weren’t.  He’ll likely need an additional root canal on the opposite side’s back molar, and several fillings, but the guy did not have any unsightly deformations or discolorations.

I was still attempting to intellectually reconcile what he had shared about his sleeping troubles.  If what Don said was true, he was awake for 27% of 2009, a ridiculous and unimaginable statistic.  If I slept an average of eight hours for a year, I logged 2,920 hours of sleep in 2009.  Don slept approximately 1,100 hours consecutively over a month and a half, over 1/3 my yearly allotment.

“Your perspective on life definitely changes,” he told me.  “It’s so hard with friends and girlfriends.  They all say that they don’t mind [my narcolepsy].”

“I had planned to go to law school, but that’s impossible right now.  I really can’t stress enough the fact that I can’t have responsibilities.  With [narcolepsy], you definitely learn to appreciate people more.”

As an aside, I did wonder—at some point—why he was so willing to share all of this with some strange guy who would soon suction his saliva through a plastic straw.  Maybe he perceived that I was genuinely intrigued and just the right amount of empathetic.  Or, more likely I think, he sees little point in small talk or sugarcoating.  After indicating a coffee stain on his jeans with a casual wave of the finger, he said, “I left pretenses behind a long time ago.”

While many of us fret about our physical appearances, Don—during his waking hours—broods over his physical needs. Mostly, his eating.  He describes eating and sleeping much like a bear preparing for hibernation.

“That’s exactly what it’s like,” he said.

So, in reality, Don does not randomly fall asleep for a catnap.  Don randomly hibernates.

I was actually disappointed when my fellow assistant came to relieve me for my lunch break.  I wanted to ask what he did while he was awake, what it was like to try to maintain relationships with women when he slept for months at a time, and what his religious beliefs were.

I did get to hand him his bill (ugh) and walk him to the front, though.  He took the root canal in stride and, extending a hand, said “It was really nice to meet you, man.”

Clumsily removing my glove and accepting the hand, I returned the sentiment and silently wondered how long he would remain awake.

On Deck

June 14, 2010

3/1/10

6:06 a.m.

Johnny and I went to Quail Springs Mall one day for no particular reason.  Being avid sports lovers, we thought we would drop in to On Deck, a sports memorabilia shop on the upper half of the mall.  The owner struck up a conversation with us; the details of which I can’t recall but assume had everything to do with sports.  He essentially offered us jobs at discussion’s end.  I did not think that job hunting would ever be so painless, and that only cleavage bearing, nubile girls were offered jobs on the spot.

Learning the tasks of the job was not difficult.   There’s a reason why high schoolers often work retail—it requires such limited skills and thought process.   But I observed Marvin—the store manager—and Dan, his #1.  “Doing alright today?”  Dan casually asked each customer.  They either nodded an affirmative or, if they were older than 18, graced you with a curt verbal response.  Most people wanted to simply browse, so we generally assumed a customer service approach of apathy and detachment.  Teenagers mostly wanted to gawk at the autographed jerseys—showcased in glass frames and hanging just beneath the ceiling—and ask, “How much is the Troy Aikman jersey?”  Marvin had no patience for this question, and I learned to sympathize in due time.  “You got $4k?” Marvin asked.

I learned that I really hate teenagers.  We had this device at the front of our store, notifying us of all entering customers. BEEP. During the summer, this device hardly seemed necessary.  The mall was so sparsely populated that we saw approaching customers from 50 yards away.  Teenagers, upon discovery of the beeper, would straddle the entrance and force an elongated BEEEEEEEEPPPPP. Dan and Marvin released exasperated sighs, which I mimicked in time.  For now, I merely looked up from whatever book I was reading that day.

Sometime that year, Oklahoma quarterback Rhett Bomar was caught violating NCAA rules.  A local car dealership claimed he was an employee, but his pay did not quite match up with his hours.  Bob Stoops kicked him to the curb, a decision that soon made my life miserable.

Second Self-Discovery Gleaned While Working Retail: I HATE Oklahoma Sooner fans.  After perusing our selection of college football jerseys, every Sooner patron approached the register and—with a grin that clearly conveyed delight in his own comedic opportunism—asked, “So, do you guys have any Rhett Bomar jerseys?”  This query grew substantially more intolerable when the jokester had the company of several more Gooners in his wake.  They cackled gleefully over the originality, failing to register the grim expressions cast their way by Marvin, Dan and myself.  Rhett Bomar inquiries became our version of TPS report briefings.  We saw it coming, could to nothing to prevent it, had dealt with it innumerable times and were obligated to deal with it yet again.

Such was my anathema for all things Sooner that I took to regularly adorning myself in KU apparel.  I wanted OU fans to know that I wanted nothing to do with their hayseed fan base, their idiotic Schooner and their obdurate Rhett Bomar jokes.

Little time passed before people began to take the bait.  Some Sooner fans regarded my distinct attire as a sign of open hostility.  “KU, huh?” they asked with wry grins.  I interpreted these grins for their smugness and intended condescension.  It was always worst during football season.

“You’d have a lot more fun as an OU fan,” one man dared to claim.

If I was feeling particularly abrasive, I said, “I’m sorry, but I think that I would have to surrender too many IQ points in order to acclimate to your fan base.”  Marvin and Dan hated OU as well and—incredibly—neither ever expressed displeasure when I retaliated to the goading of OU shoppers.

Between the Gooners and teenagers, the job eclipsed only food-service in dignity.  During the summer, the most frequent—and easily identifiable—customer was Wife of Fan.  Wife of Fan walked in and cast a bewildered expression after tripping the beeping sensor.  “Did I do that?”  Dan closed his and eyes and supplied a rueful nod of the head.  WoF proceeded to lose herself in the sheer volume and array of our products.  Mini Monster Trucks, Baby Bibs, Jerseys, Frost-able Beer Mugs, Clocks, Pennants and BBQ Grilling Sets.  All team affiliated.  WoF knew her husband’s sports allegiance, and the smart ones walked straight to the counter and asked, “Where is the Yankees stuff?”

Yankees stuff?  I can serve you a Yankees smorgasbord, lady.  Yankees wallets, Yankees helicopters, Derek Jeter figurines, Yankees autographed baseballs, Yankees light switch covers and championship banners that hung from the ceiling.  Yankee wrist watches, pewter models of Yankee Stadium and framed pictures of Mickey Mantle.

“How about just a T-shirt?”

We have some of those, too.

I pawned off a staggering amount of Yankees memorabilia on WoF—it nearly made me wish that I worked on commission.  But for every Wife of Yankee Fan, there were twelve Morally-Opposed-to-everything-Yankee men.  These guys could not resist firing a passing salvo at WoF.  WoF either feigned oblivion or was genuinely nonplussed by such affronts.  Her expression mostly conveyed, “Hey, I’m just shopping for my husband.  I don’t know what the hell a babe Ruth is.”

So virulent and bombastic were the Yankee opposers that I soon purchased a Yankees T-shirt from our store.  Employee discount, of course.  “Since when did you become a Yankees fan?” my friends demanded to know, with thinly veiled contempt.  I reminded them that I did not care for baseball and shared my ulterior motive.  The rabid baseball fans among my friends found this a serious breach of The Rules of Fanhood.  Some even opined that it violated the terms of our friendship.  “That would be like me wearing a Missouri shirt just to piss you off,” Alyssa told me.  I conceded the point and relegated the shirt to work-wear-only status.

One man, seeing my Yankees shirt, approached the register with his toddler in tow.  “Son, what do the Yankees do?”  The child slowly raised his tiny hands to his neck and gently clutched, allowing his tongue to protrude and issuing a faint cough.

The polarizing fun yielded by my Yankees shirt soon lost its luster.  Summer days at the mall were marked by hours of unrelenting boredom.  When I thought I could get away with it, I would ask Marvin if I could “take a lap,” which meant, “Can I go walk around the mall for 10-15 minutes?”  He looked up from his text message to survey the store, which bore eerie resemblance to a morgue.  “Hurry back,” he said.

The Burglary

July 27, 2009

I recently fell victim to one of the most ill fated, poorly conceived burglaries in the annals of criminal lore. To call myself a victim of said crime would be a bit misleading, I suppose, as the two bandits only made off with $21.60 of quarters, dimes and nickels from my apartment (all of which I recovered).

The Fort Worth Police contacted me at around 5:00 p.m. on Friday. I had been at Barnes and Noble at the time, utilizing the free Wi-fi in my continued, earnest pursuit of Employment.

“Mr. Sayre? This is So-and-So from the FW Police Department. Your apartment has been broken into.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty sure it’s yours. You live in 1525, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well the good news is that we caught the bad guys. Is there any chance you can come back?”

“I will be there in 10 minutes.”

For some reason, this call did not particularly trouble me, nor did it particularly surprise me. This was bound to happen sooner or later; it’s incredible that this is the first time such a thing has happened to me. Yes, this was the thought that immediately passed through my mind as I hopped behind the wheel of my beleaguered Buick Park Avenue. Oddly bereft of the rational questions and emotions typically elicited by such a jarring phone call, I did not really wonder “why me? Why my apartment?” I did not seethe with anger, begin plotting revenge on my faceless foes, or lament the stroke of ill fortune. If anything, the incident produced mild feelings of annoyance mingled with a fleeting rush of adrenaline and piqued curiosity.

Upon arrival, I discovered two police cars stationed several hundred yards from my apartment. Somewhat bemused to find them situated so far from my building, I decided to park Buford and consult the officers. I noticed straightaway that the pant legs of the officers were adorned with some type sort of foliage. Fresh beads of sweat still streamed down their faces. These fellows had seen some action.

“I love catching burglars!” This officer positively beamed with self-satisfaction.

After identifying myself and providing identification (I was indeed Brandon Sayre, it was determined), I began to collect scattered pieces of the narrative. One of my neighbors witnessed the two geniuses in the act and called it in. The burglars were knocking on doors (in broad daylight, mind you) and forcing entrance with a crowbar. Not very subtle, these guys. Within minutes, FWPD burst onto the scene—patrol cars in the grounds and the helicopter soaring overhead.

The bandits, from what I gather, fled on foot. Abandoning the getaway vehicle, they scaled the southwest corner’s gate and sought refuge in the woods. At least three police officers gave chase. I later envisioned the absurd sight of a man attempting to evade police capture with $21 of quarters, dimes and nickels jingling in his pockets. I would like to think that the added weight of my change collection contributed to the capture.

After supplying the police with my written statement, I began my walk toward the apartment. Before I could leave, however, an officer called out to me from inside a patrol car.

“This guy wants to apologize to you,” he said, indicating the backseat with a lazy hand motion.

I curiously approached the window and leaned in to properly look upon the face of the culprit. His wide, beseeching eyes met mine as the words “Sir, I am so sorry for what I did” spilled from his mouth. He could not have been a day older than 18. I returned his ostensible remorse with “I appreciate you apologizing to me.” Feeling like the exchange was more than was required of me, I took my leave.

My apartment indeed bore all the signs of a forced entry. The doorframe stood little chance against the crowbar—apparently these kids knew what they were doing. Desk drawers were ajar, exposing a leather case full of CDs that—evidently—held less appeal than a mug full of silver coinage. My IPod, DVDs and 16’’ Sylvania television remained exactly where I had left them. I later discovered that the thieves had already liberated a flat screen television and various electronics from my neighbors.

I can imagine the dialogue that took place after the bandits crossed the threshold and surveyed my apartment.

“Dude’s got a lot of books.”

“Man, what the $#% we gonna do with a bunch of books? We just had to break into some Poindexter’s apartment.”

“Well, we could take his TV.”

“And do what with it? Put rabbit ears on it and travel back through time to the 1950’s to find a willing buyer?”

“Yeah. You’re right. Get his change and let’s bounce.”

Mr. and Mrs. Tyler Brassfield

June 11, 2009

Preface: Another Feature Writing Piece that I unearthed yesterday. Believe me, I do not include this piece for any perceived journalistic merit (or even any particularly enjoyable prose). I do, however, love this story and was among the groomsmen at the wedding (though not one of those who attempted to light a nonexistent wick.)

 

Candace Timmons and Tyler Brassfield stepped off the Childress Church of Christ stage and approached the candle to their immediate left, the symbol proclaiming their imminent union in marriage. Timmons’ brother-in-law belted out the now ubiquitous Rascal Flats hit “Bless the Broken Road” as the soon-to-be-newlyweds prepared to light the candle. The moment seemed picture perfect. Joy and excitement radiated from the couple.

            Then the unthinkable. The unity candle would not light.

            An already spent wick prevented the couple from fulfilling the symbolic tradition. Two groomsmen fumbled desperately with the candle–futilely attempting to produce a lasting flame–as the tension and frustration grew more and more palpable. Certainly, this seemed an ill omen for the beginning of a marriage.

            Not to be so easily defeated, however, Tyler at last devised a solution. He firmly placed his own candle atop the unity candle, which cemented itself upright into the melted wax. The auditorium reverberated with a chorus of surprised and relieved laughter. Unity achieved.

            “It was one of those light-hearted moments,” Candace Brassfield said. “We can always look back on that and say ‘Hey, we got through that, we can get through a lot of things.’”           

            Indeed, the couple overcame much greater adversity together a mere month and a half prior to their wedding.

            At approximately 2:15 on November 16, Tyler Brassfield concluded a job interview and hopped into his 1997 Pontiac Grad Am. He needed to drop by the UPS store to mail a few items he had sold on Ebay. He waited patiently for the green light before traversing an intersection he encountered on a daily basis. When the green arrow lit, Tyler began his northbound turn onto Boulevard from 33rd street.

            A 1996 Cavalier literally rocked Tyler’s world. Running a red light, the car collided into the driver’s side tire of Tyler’s vehicle—spinning his vehicle 90 degrees and activating the driver’s side airbag. Had Tyler eased off his breaks and began his turn a bit more quickly, the Cavalier likely would have collided directly with the driver’s side door.

            “Everything was bright for a minute. I couldn’t see or hear anything,” Brassfield said. “I looked up in the rear view mirror and I had blood everywhere.”

            Meanwhile, Candace Timmons sat anxiously in her late afternoon Video for Media class on the Oklahoma Christian University campus. After class let out, Candace routinely reached for her cell phone to check her messages. Perhaps nothing could have prepared her for the ostensibly flippant voice mail she received from Tyler at approximately 3:00 p.m. that day. Her fiancé had been involved in a car accident. Though she had heard his assuring voice, panic naturally overcame her almost immediately.

            Candace and Tyler were slated for another pre-marital counseling session later that day. Tyler also had an upcoming band concert. Thoughts of their approaching wedding date certainly loomed large. Those things would have to wait; Candace needed to be by Tyler’s side as quickly as possible, and she had to find transportation to the ER.

            When she finally arrived—thanks to the aid of the pre-marital counselor and long-time friend of Tyler—Candace viscerally weighed the gravity of the situation. Tyler had sustained a black eye, a bruised and swollen left side of the face, busted top and bottom lips, three chipped teeth and a break in his left arm of the ulna.

            “His lips were so swollen that you couldn’t even see his teeth,” Candace said. I was pretty emotional. I try to keep it together, but this was kind of bigger than me.”

            Despite her shock, Candace stood poised, though concerned, by the side of her fiancé. She realized that he was indeed going to make it. In hindsight, Candace believed the experience strengthened her relationship and solidified trust with Tyler’s parents.

            “It was really kind of a bonding moment for us. His parents knew that I would take care of him, but this kind of sealed the deal.”

            Brassfield underwent surgery at Bone and Joint Hospital in downtown Oklahoma City and endured four weeks of hand therapy. The accident rendered him in a temporarily state of helplessness.

            “I felt completely helpless,” Brassfield said. “Everyone had to help me do even the small tasks of cutting up my food, and for a while I kept thinking ‘Why did this have to happen right now?’ Because, not only the wedding approaching but also two holidays, and no income coming in for two months because of it. I was also worried of the possibility that any surgery could possibly push the wedding date back.”

            Tyler and Candace persevered and were able to wed as scheduled on December 30 in Candace’s hometown of Childress, TX. The police report on the accident confirmed Tyler’s innocence. He has now regained nearly a full range of motion in his left hand. The couple’s triumph over the accident and its aftermath, as well as the unity candle gaffe, solidified their confidence in their ability to overcome any obstacle—together. To Candace, the triumph reflects the nature of the relationship.

            “It’s basically our relationship,” she said in reference to overcoming adversity. “Tyler is basically my stronghold. He keeps his head on level. He’s a very reserved, intelligent thinker who tries to solve a problem rather than make it dramatic and blow it out of proportion.”

The Force Is With My Father

June 11, 2009

Preface: This was a 5-minute free-write from Creative Non-Fiction, prompting us to share the details we know of our parents’ initial romantic involvement. Retrospectively, I realize that it reads like a caddy roast of my then-younger father. I did not intend for it to come across this way at all. The anecdote about the Mickey Mouse tank top is a running joke in our family, as is the legendarily mammoth-sized picture of my father—in all his Mark Hamill glory—straddling his motorcycle.

 

I’ve received only scattered details relating to the dating life of my parents. I’m not sure if this is the mark of my lack of curiosity on the subject or perhaps that it never really occurred to my parents to share this information with their children. I can tell you that my father had befriended my Uncle Randy—a fellow KU grad—and that the two cohabitated for a stint in Great Bend, KS, where the Sinclairs lived. Having seen some of my father’s pictures taken during the time, I can only conclude that my father was in possession of some charm and sophistication that belied his rather free-spirited attire. My mother once related to me the story of their first date, to which my dear father (now a venerable C of C elder) arrived in a Mickey Mouse muscle shirt. His hair was appropriately (given the time period) bushy and disheveled, giving him a rather mustachioed Luke Skywalker visage. Perhaps we may speculate that my uncle Randy was an insightful matchmaker, or rather that The Force was especially strong with my father. At any rate, the two evidently hit it off swimmingly, prompting the immediate dissolution of my father’s involvement with Big Bottom Girl. “Even though she made the rockin’ world go round, she was no match for your mother” my father explained.*

 

*Unfortunately, he never actually said this.