“The mind is its only place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven ” Noted British prose polemicist penned those chilling words. He composed them in 1655. But they rang true for the Dallas Cowboys in 2012.
In the small illustration the Cowboys won a game that they needed. But in the large frame, the team pulled together with the intermittent application of human palliatives.
This was more than the resulted 7-6 record. Greater than playoff survival. Light years from stats and standings. This was a furious and disconsolate display of human desire and evocation to salvation.
Playing a game less than two trips through the clock barked of therapeutic escape. The intensity of camaraderie was the theorem. It smacked of a Panglossian erudition of storylines. Rapt ruled this Sunday afternoon.
It was early Saturday morning that two life sentences were rendered. One young man was taken from this life. Another was forever broken. One dead. One haunted in an infinitive manner. Something as simple as a car ride affected the lives of so many. In an instance of unwise choices and fogged thinking, it was over. Yet it began a multi-veined matrix of fleshly realism and a detritus character of upcoming cruel dreams. Gone forever is the simplicity of words and anecdotes.
I try and never mix real life with a game. Whether a game is won or lost, there is always a tomorrow. A chance for redemption. A second try. But in the competition of life, tomorrow may never come. Or sometimes it comes in the form of disengaged uncertainty. I also try and hide from war and combat references when communicating about a game. War is real, games are…well, they’re games. But it was against the backdrop of a game played by extraordinary gifted men that this tragic story was defined. A group of young men engaging with heavy hearts displaying their wares in a most public of ways.
There would be no winners on this day. The scoreboard read 20-19 but that tally didn’t even begin to denominate the veracity of this story. Already working with thin ranks the Cowboys were bullied and bulldozed for much of the contest. Their quarterback was beaten and battered. He was harassed and recriminated. But he stood strong. He proved to be the gas mask of the soul for this wounded team. Operating with both lance and shield the team refused to surrender. Often in the hellish bunkers of reality, this team stood strong and fought back with the might of modern day Davids. Opposed by a clearly superior team, the Cowboys managed to see through the illumination of a celestial vision. In other clearer and pointed words, they refused to lose. Frankness, simplicity and courage. Yes courage. Even in a game courage can be throttled and harnessed. Raw emotional energy replaced game plans. Their effort was a complement of brilliance and blindness wrapped in a shroud of unthinkable tragedy.
How in the world could any rational thinking person expect this team to win against such impenetrable odds? The circling layers of heartbreak and misery hung heavy. At the outset the theme seemed more of coping than victory. But the karma gods were smiling. Anguished looks of calamity and doom were transfixed for all to see. The juxtaposition of jarring news created an undulating ripple on a seemingly meaningless game. Yet the hunger of the marooned rose stately in the end. On a weekend where winning was void of comprehension, they won. And the triumph was a harvest of a strong mast broken. An expression of muted despair wove a web throughout the silent and reflective locker room. A team won a game and in the process answered their own doubts. For years to come this 20-19 outcome will be recorded as just a football game won. Like thousand upon thousands before. But the underlying truth is that human emotions had been annexed.
Standing before the assembled press in his post game interview, Jason Garrett searched for the words to connect what had transpired. With steely eyes, jaw set, voice low and precise. The words seem to flow from the heart. He spoke for not only his team, but to all affected by the terrible news still only hours old. His sentences had the impact of a torpedo. He said what so many were thinking. This was a game. It will end. But life goes on forever. It cannot be won or lost. It must be navigated and accepted. Understanding this fact is essential to basic survival. Untoward doom and gloom are a fact of life. To captain this notion is paramount.
To open these thoughts I referenced John Milton. It was a passage from his brilliant work “Paradise Lost”. It will ring true for two families. One dealing with the loss of life. The other trying to soothe what will become a lifetime of guilt and sorrow.
There will never be paradise for either.
The innocence of normalcy is lost.
Yet for a fleeting moment, a team of men playing a kids game won. And with it, the hopes of a better visualization of life. And death.