November 13, 2011


November 12, 2011.  What an unlucky day.  Thousands of fans from all over the world pinned their hopes on the guy in the #12 jersey, Heisman-hopeful Andrew Luck, to lead the Cardinal to certain victory, blazing the trail all the way to the BCS Championship Game.  Sadly, Stanford's fairy tale run came to an abrupt halt, having fallen - once again - to the Oregon Ducks, 53-30.  Of course, this is hardly the end of the world.  Football is just a game, after all.  (Let us lay down our cynicism and disregard the money, the television rights, and the pure evil that is StubHub for the moment ... )  But for the young men on the team, the loss must have been particularly devastating, more so because they are young, and hopeful, and they have come farther along, and closer to the prize, than all of their fore-brothers in recent and not-so-recent memory.  Our student-athletes are bright and intelligent, and I trust that they have the emotional wherewithal to re-group, lift each other up, and finish the season strong and proud.  One day they will graduate, having received a fantastic education, and go on to become productive members of society.  (We can pause for a moment and pick up our cynicism here.  College football is a farce, each year unleashing a torrent of barely literate sociology majors to the workforce.  Some will make it to the NFL, where there's no pretense that it's not all about money, television rights, and the pure evil that is StubHub ... )

November 12, 2011.  It was also a day of celebration, because Joan was in the mood to celebrate, and she wouldn't have had it any other way.  If I heard it correctly, over the din of beer and cheers, it was her 74th birthday.  In Joan, I see a kindred spirit, someone who goes out and does things - even something as un-intellectual and lowbrow as walking into a sports bar with tons of Marina girls and their frat boys / sugar daddies to watch a football game.  If you can let go of being judgmental or self-conscious, if you give up any pre-conceived notion of what having a good time should entail, and just show up, chances are you will have a good time.  It's what you bring to the table.  Joan brought cupcakes to the table.

I walked into The Republic by myself shortly before kick-off.  There was going to be a section reserved for Cardinal fans.  I wouldn't say that I had no expectations.  I thought I was going to meet some hot guy who would buy me a drink and then sign up for my next kettlebell workshop.  But mostly I just wanted to experience the game in a rowdy setting, which meant getting out of the house, and going to a bar.  (Fuck you, ticket dealers.  Fuck you, StubHub.)  I was appropriately attired in school colors, and I made my way to the crowded back room where there were five big screens going, the biggest one showing Cal winning at AT&T Park.  I glanced around quickly in search of a likely kettlebell victim; people seemed to be clustered loosely in the categories of Hipster Start-Up Guys, Marina-Type, and Random.  I chose the Random table.  There was Joan, and a Chinese couple (I thought) that turned out to be brother and sister from Texas.  After a round of introductions, two older gentlemen from the East Bay showed up.  Class of 1969, still friends after all these years, escaping the occupied and besieged town of Oakland to enjoy the game and the camaraderie of fellow Cardinal fans.  One of the guys pitched for the Dodgers, and I told him about the neurophysiology-based training that I do, and he said he wished this knowledge was available back then - it would have helped rehab his bad arm and extend his professional career.  Joan overheard our conversation (with her hearing aid) and walked over to tell me she's a retired physical therapist.  She then returned to perch on top of her seat back so she could see the screen over the Marina men who blocked her view when they stood up, not exactly inebriated but nonetheless oblivious.

Sometime during the second quarter, Joan announced that it was her birthday, and the best gift for her would be a Stanford win.  At half time, she disappeared for a while and came back with a box of mini cupcakes from the store down the street.  Two each of lemon, chocolate, and pumpkin for our table :)  We got half the room singing Happy Birthday together for her.

Every cupcake is a potential birthday cake.
Joan later told us that this was the first time in 60 years that her family could not spend her birthday with her.  But she was determined to celebrate regardless. So she drove across the Golden Gate Bridge from her home in Sausalito and showed up to a sports bar and bought cupcakes for random people.  We became part of her celebration.  And I want to honor that - the spirit and the "Just Do It" chutzpah that shows true mastery of the Art of Living.  (And thanks, Phil Knight, founder of the "Just Do It" empire, for the millions you gave to the University of Oregon, and the not-enough-millions that you gave to the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  How can you make Cardinal fans like you better?)

Live life fiercely and make every day special.  Even when you think all your friends are dead (literally or otherwise), you don't have to stay at home and sulk.  Promise yourself a good time, take a breath, step outside, and make it happen!  When in doubt, buy me a cupcake.  It will make your day!