Being a sports writer, I get the luxury of not taking things too seriously, and doing it for a living.
I relish in watching a game without bias, agreeing with fans of either team about half the time and chuckling to myself at their partisanship when whichever team doesn’t get the call. I love unraveling the conflict and the storylines woven into every contest. I like talking with my family about this athlete from this place who just did this spectacular thing.
And while I really enjoy the distraction sports provide from the more serious things of the world, I realize sports aren’t always so happy-go-lucky.
I’ve seen a teammate’s leg get struck with a stray javelin. I was there when a kid nearly drowned in a community pool with a lifeguard present. I’ve covered the death and subsequent revival of a basketball player who had a heart attack during practice. Just last week, I saw Shaylie Davis lie on the court for nearly an hour after getting pushed in the back by a girl just trying to get the basketball back for her team.
These events show me how quickly sports take a backseat to the things that really matter in life.
I had a similar experience — albeit away from any sort of arena — when I attended my great-grandfather’s funeral Tuesday.
Eugene Butler Stucki was 98 when he died, having outlived my great-grandmother by nearly two decades before he was interred next to her on a snowy hillside in Paris, Idaho. It was 7 degrees Fahrenheit during his funeral.
Because of his old age, all of my family members had a chance to acclimate themselves to the idea of life without our patriarch. Our faith also played a large role in the happier celebration-of-life attitude as we gathered in the Paris church house.
His longevity has given me cause to ponder my own existence.
I think it’s important to fill a life with what makes a person happy. Some people find purpose in their careers or in their religion. I obviously like sports.
I wonder why grandpa lived the way he did, with a variety of careers ranging from law enforcement and politics to television repair and agriculture. I wonder how he feels about resting so close to his father and brothers. I wonder how much he missed my grandmother during his final years.
My great-grandfather valued his family, and his death made me wonder how the lives of his 38 grandchildren and 108 great-grandchildren might have been different if he spent his time on something less important.
And by extension, I wonder how my life might be affected by the decisions made by his oldest son and grandson — my grandfather and father. What would have happened if my grandfather decided not to come back and buy a dairy farm down the road from his dad’s, or if my dad hadn’t decided he’d milked his last cow in high school?
Life is short. Relatively speaking, even a 98-year lifespan isn’t all that lasting. Lives are cut shorter all the time by accident and malice.
There are so many things I could fill my life with outside the sports world. Athletics are something I think I will always enjoy and spend time around. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, provided I still pay attention to things that are a little more important.
I think grandpa would say something similar.
Tavin Stucki is a sports writer who has always had an affinity for raspberries because of his family’s Bear Lake roots. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.