When nothing else matters

Blue steel

The texts and tweets started rolling in around 8:30 on Friday night, as I stood next to a police officer looking at what was left of my Mustang. According to my phone, my alma mater, Duke, was behind No. 15 seed Lehigh late in their NCAA Tournament game.

I obviously didn’t particularly care very much in that moment. But as I watched my fiancée climb into an ambulance to be examined by EMTs, I couldn’t help wondering why I ever cared that much to begin with.

*****

The accident happened about three blocks from my apartment. My fiancée and I drove through a green light with the right of way, and I barely had time to react when another car made a blind left directly at us. I slammed the horn and the brakes, but he never slowed down and hit us head-on.

That split second right before impact seemingly lasts an hour. I remember seeing the other driver’s face and realizing that he never saw we were there, and then his headlights blinded me. The ensuing momentary sense of inevitability is the worst, as it dawns on you there’s absolutely nothing you can do.

It sounded kind of like a loud pop, and our car filled with smoke and oppressive heat as the air bags hit us. Then there was just quiet until the sirens started.

*****

Outside of the fact that we were in a head-on collision, we were honestly very lucky. In its finest moment during the decade I owned it, the Mustang took the hit like a champ. The other car’s bumper was sheared clear off, but we were kept relatively safe despite our car likely being totaled.

My fiancée had burns on her arm and stomach from the air bag, and she came up clutching her right side. The EMTs said nothing was broken, and she’s a trooper – we actually went to a boxing match we had tickets for on Saturday. But we think she has a pinched nerve in her neck, and I’m just hoping she starts feeling better soon.

As for me, I somehow didn’t have a scratch on me. And once I saw there was nothing really seriously wrong with Montana, I couldn’t help but find a little dark humor in the situation, even in the immediate aftermath.

For one, I had filled up my nearly empty gas tank about an hour prior to the accident, which struck me as the most wasted $50 I’d spent since my David Boston Dolphins jersey. And incredibly, one of the officers who showed up had actually put a dent in my parked car a couple years back. Not knowing he was a cop, I luckily hadn’t shaken him down for repair fees.

When the shock faded away, though, I started to realize there was some damage done. I can’t stop picturing the car coming directly toward us, and the horrible sound it made when it hit us. And every time I see my fiancée wince in pain, I despise that this happened at all, and I wish there was something I could have done to prevent it.

I went back to work on Sunday, and I’ve mostly just picked up my routines where I’d left off, just minus a car. But there are times when I feel overwhelmed thinking about how much worse this could have been, and I can’t help but flinch when I hear a car horn, even if I’m in my apartment. I assume all of that will pass, but it’s definitely going to take some time.

*****

The most common joke I’ve made to friends this week is that the best part of the accident – besides avoiding serious injury – is that at least I missed the Duke-Lehigh game. In actuality, I wasn’t watching to begin with. I was recording it while we went to a bar to check out a DJ we’re considering for our wedding.

I made that joke because I feel people can relate to it. Our sports teams frame our conceptions of each other. Most people who know me are aware I went to Duke, and it probably would seem unthinkable that I wouldn’t be watching their NCAA Tournament game.

Sports has always been so ubiquitous for me – there was always a game to watch, an article to read. But my priorities have changed so much, even from a couple years ago. I work as an editor for a sports web site, and sometimes I just need to get away. I now have very few fantasy teams, and on those rare occasions when I have a night completely free, I’d generally rather spend it cooking dinner with my fiancée than watching Carmelo Anthony jack up shots.

I think a lot about last year at this time, when I spent the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in Mexico, reading on the beach and relishing in the fact that I wasn’t subjected to wall-to-wall basketball. I came back and felt like I hadn’t missed a thing.

Then there was two years ago, when Duke won it all and I was surprised that it didn’t mean as much to me as I thought it would. Like, where do we go from here?

I still love sports, I have a vast base of semi-useless knowledge, and I still talk and read about it a lot. It’s just that as I get older and farther removed from college, I have little desire to get as invested as I remember being in the past.

I constantly see people on my Twitter feed and on ESPN obsessing over their teams – which hit a crescendo this week, with Tim Tebow coming to New York. I certainly don’t begrudge them that, our teams are part of the fabric of who we are, and I’ve definitely been there. But more and more, I’m not that guy anymore.

That’s never been more apparent to me than Friday night, when I literally could not have given less of a damn about Duke’s game against Lehigh.

There’s just so much more to life.

Esoteric

2 Comments

  1.  I reflect on this exquisite and poignant commentary on the shifting importance of sports as our lives evolve and the lingering associations with life altering events we have no control over. So many of us live our lives vicariously through the successes of our favorite teams, the marriages of movie stars, even the despair of others in the news and on the internet. As our lives grow more connected to the personal and professional values we hold dear and the intimate relationships we cherish, we do grow further distanced from that which will continue…regardless of whether we are “watching” or too busy…living and loving our own lives. Thank you for a wonderful article.
    senora879

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