Many of you may not know this, but Adrian Peterson and I collided in my youth. We even walked and ran the same field. I'm 99.9% sure I'm not even an afterthought in his mind and the only reason I remember him is he was on the receiving end of my first flag in NCAA football.
He was, and is, an outstanding Running Back. We couldn't seem to stop him. He was big, fast and agile. And so, when the time for me came – red shirt freshman that I was – to go in as a Defensive Tackle, I imagined it was my duty to stop him. A few plays later I found myself stretching to catch him as he shot by the line of scrimmage like a bull. All I remember going through my head was, “Don't let go…pull, twist, drive him down.”
The whistle blew and I could see my teammates' looks of shock and annoyance as they glared at the ref. I knew. I looked around, scanning the vibrant green blades of the Rose Bowl's field and found it. Yellow and alien to the field. A pang shot through my conscious and a small knot in my stomach turned. What is this for? Dear God, please be offsides on the offense.
“Unnecessary roughness. UCLA. 15 yards!” the ref stated sternly as the gavel dropped on my heart, quickly drowned out by 80,000 people booing a thunderous roar. I just hoped that their jeers were at the ref and not me. Damn it.
Unfortunately, life doesn't come with a dust off and yardage penalties. Especially when it comes to our children.
What's happening in the media right now with regards to athletes is a small but painful reminder of what happens all the time. I won't pretend to know at all what actually happened in Peterson's case. I wasn't there and have no right or duty to judge. The trial of popular opinion, the faux inquisition and concern by media (who are loving the ratings) and saturation of judgment before hearing is all the reason I need to pull away and stand back. In doing so I am reminded of an important consideration.
We forget, much of the time in our fast-paced world, that patience is a skill. It needs to be practiced to be strengthened as part of our character. It adds to our perspective and allows our inner wisdom to sit in and pilot our judgment.
But God, can I be fast to anger. Haste poses itself before me as my best friend. It leads me like mercury at terminal velocity only to collide with those I love most. Some Boy. Sidekick. Chelsea.
Luckily, as I get older, I like to think I'm getting a bit wiser. Things I see during the day remind me how important family is and even more so how fleeting youth is. I am reminded to be patient. I breathe. I shut my mouth and slow down. “You don't have to fight every battle just because an adversary arrives,” I tell myself.
Some Boy wants to test my boundaries at times. “Put your toys away, buddy. It's time for bed,” I say. “Nooooooooo!” he exclaims as he darts away like one of the goats refusing to get back in the pen.
When the media uses what I do for a living as fodder for ratings…patience. When caught behind a driver who was taught at the Driver's Ed of ‘I Have No Clue' that 55mph means they should take the speed limit and divide by two…patience. And when collective opinion points its finger and demands vigilante justice instead of understanding and facts…patience.
So far this year, we've been presented many snippets from the world and urged to judge quickly. It's been thrown in front of our faces and made our blood boil. We beat our fist into our palms, beating on our imaginary foe. To all my friends out there I pass on one request, or a reminder if you will.