Friday, August 31, 2012

10 years later...

10 years later and I am starting to think…maybe life is more about the misses…than the makes.

Like a brilliant diamond, it was the thousands of cuts, that made it so magnificent. It’s the refinement process that produces beauty.

ESPN’s top play of the week referred by many Michigan fans as simply “The Kick”, contains more than a singular kick. Actually, there were plural “kicks” in the game that led up to the one that most remember.

I still recall folks telling me after the game that one day people will forget the misses, and only recount how they felt as “The Kick” from 44 yards out, with ESPN College Game Day nearby, split the uprights to give Michigan a two point advantage as time expired in front of 110,000 screaming fans.

I still have the ESPN sport center game review and I find as much meaning in The Kick, as I do in what I will dub “The Misses”…and a couple of them being big misses.

The first miss came in the first quarter. The Wolverines had broken out into an early lead thanks to the legs of Chris Perry. On 4th down I was called in to attempt an average field goal attempt of 37 yards. Good snap, good hold, wind at my back…but wide left. Directly into the student section.  I was a little stumped by the outcome because I thought I made good contact, but during film review the next day revealed that I brought my head up to soon which caused me to hook the kick.

The second miss, well….the term wide left doesn’t do it justice. ESPN Sport Center commentators referred to it as a “wounded duck.” At that point, fans would rather have put stock in seeing their first ever flying pig before they saw me kick a pig skin through any uprights.

Well, after recovering in the locker room after a shameful and down right ugly start to my career as a placekicker at the winningest college football program in history, my fate was looking gloom, quite contrary to the hot, bright sunny day that was Ann Arbor that day.

Warming up before the start of the second half resulted in even more embarrassment as every kick continued to go wide left, but this time each one soaring into the hands of a 19 or 20 something kid that shared that same title as “student” as me. They were my peers, but they were not forgiving of my performance. They began to boo as I had a difficult time kicking the ball straight.

Wisely and maybe a little influenced by the booing fans, my special teams coach decided to bench me for the second half and go with my back-up and best friend to see if luck in the kicking game could change. He too, was also very unproven and had never attempted a kick in the big house during a game.

After scoring a touchdown in the third, his first ever extra point soared through the center of the uprights, which brought a roar from the crowd that almost equaled the sounds you hear as a player when you run out of the tunnel to jump and touch the banner.

The fans were rallying around the new found hope in another kicker, and my stock fell lower than what was experienced by the Big 3 a few years back.  I was down and out, and if it wasn’t for my powerful leg on kickoffs, my career at Michigan may have been short lived, described by a couple of missed kicks, one that most fans could have out performed.

Well, as the game went on the two missed field goals (6 points) started to feel a little more painful as Washington kept the game close and even took the lead at different points. With several minutes left, Washington scored a touchdown to take the lead, 29 to 28.  At that point, most fans were probably strategizing their plan to lynch, tar and feather me. Hmmm…should we nab him before he goes into the locker room or grab him on his way out.

Fortunately for the fans, John Navarre and Chris Perry were on fire that day and led the team back down the field with 1:27 remaining on the clock. With a failed third down attempt, it would come down to a kick from 27 yards out.  Nothing more than a chip shot for a kicker who had been perfect on extra points. This only being 7 yards further, didn’t seem to present many problems.

The kick did not sail wide left, rather, it just missed wide right.  The fans were in utter shock. If there was any reprieve for me after that miss, it was the simple fact that I was no longer going to have to fear the headlines in Ann Arbor News kicker lynched….because at this point my best friend and one time back up kicker was going down with me.

With little time remaining and no kicker who can make a field goal, the only hope found in that stadium was in the word…hope-less. The Wolverines took the field on defense to grind out the remaining seconds, with the only thing going for Michigan was the three timeouts they had left. A Washington first down at this point, would end the game, and solidify the kicker(s) lynching.

With a stop on the first play and a quick timeout, there may have been some fans who started to walk a little slower as they tried to be the first escape the mass exodus from the Big House; trying to beat traffec on main and state street on their way to I94 or US23.

If there was any hope in moving the ball with no timeouts it dissipated quickly as John Navarre had difficultly finding a receiver. With 9 seconds left, some fans started kicking themselves for not leaving earlier.

Washington, wanting to make sure they were perfectly prepared for any last second heroics called their final timeout to put in just the right package to ensure a victory over the #10 Wolverines, for the second year in a row.

Their package worked perfectly as John Navarre overthrew everyone, including the 12 Washington defenders that were on the field. With five ticks remaining on the clock the official picked up a yellow flag signaling this grave error by Washington, and eventually announcing that 12 Huskies were on the field, one too many...all of this following their timeout, of all things.

The official marched the field a full 15 yards closer to the uprights, the ones that were in throwing distance by half the student body. The distance from the uprights was set at 44 yards, left hash. It was still no easy kick, especially by two kickers who still hadn't made a career field goal in three earlier attempts that day.

With not enough time to do eeny-meeny-miney-moe, Coach Carr had no choice but to call #34 (Phil Brabbs) into the game because he had a stronger leg, which gave a slight advantage for him over the guy who just missed the last kick.

Although the Big House had been witness to many college football games for decades, it had never been home to a game winning last second field goal, oddly enough. There was a shot at it this day, but the odds were more in favor of a former soccer player randomly picked from the student body making this kick than anyone sporting a winged helmet from the sidelines. 

So at a moments notice, Coach Carr told me to get into the game and attempt a kick that could redeem both kickers for the day.  I took my steps back and to the left, recited Phil 4:13 as I always would do, motioned to Navarre to take the snap, and then headed toward what would end up being my most defining moment as an athlete in the thousands of hours of competition I had totalled...and this play would only last 5 seconds. Talk about pressure.

That kick was up and extended over two Huskies defenders that were reaching for the sun, and as I looked up, I saw the ball sailing perfectly through the uprights (watch it here). All of a sudden time seemed to stop. I couldn’t hear a thing, probably because the stadium feared an inevitable outcome of a fourth missed field go attempt by the guy who botched two in the first half.

Then, as both refs motioned that the field goal was good, I entered back into reality, probably when my 6'6" QB and holder started to grab and shake me like a rag doll. The reality that something big hit us both and every fan in that stadium at the exact moment, and I (or my right foot) was part of it. I knew instantly that this wasn’t just my first career field goal, but this was something that was going to be imprinted on Michigan Football history for years to come, just like the game announcers had commented.

After being pulled from the bottom of a 100+ person pile on at the center of the Big House, which I would have been content with being my final resting place during that moment, I was found smiling and screaming with joy. The picture to the right shows just how charged I was in that moment. 

After my rescue from the bottom of the pile, I was instantly swarmed by the press. I recall the media shoving all their microphones towards my face as if I had the solution for world peace on the tip of my tongue and I was about to share it to the whole world. As most of the team returned to the locker room to sing The Victors, which is a great Michigan football tradition, I needed to be rescued. So none other than D-line coach Brady Hoke came to my side to pull me through the barrage of press. To this day both of us have the photo the right on our office desk. 

Well years have come, a full decade worth to be exact.  That play was determined to be with of the top 20 in the Big House. So yes, it indeed was a very big moment. For me, it gave me hope in the impossible. It taught me that in what can be your weakest moment, hope can ride you through the dark night and carry you through. That you can go from goat to hero in this world in a moments notice. That you need to remain positive when surrounded my negativity.  That those closest to you: your teammates, family, friends, will be there when you are in the middle of the improbable fate that looks to lead to know where but devastation.

But in this entire game experience that led to The Kick, I am now thankful for the misses, because to this day, they are helping guide me through some of life’s toughest challenges. Yeah, football is just a game and those were just a couple of kicks, but the emotions I experienced were real and it was on a stage were millions were glued to the outcome.

Let’s raise our glasses to the many misses we have in life, whether missed field goals, snaps that got away from you or an occasional botched hold. Those dark moments may just be the predecessor of a really great moment. So hold on, keep the faith, remain hopeful and expect the impossible.

God Bless and Go Blue!!! (10 years later)


P.S. #BeatBama

Friday, August 17, 2012

un(Like) Cancer Day

One thing I have realized about living with and being around those affected by cancer, is it has the tendency to pull out a lot of raw emotion. Although I try to steer towards positive emotions by driving on the path of optimism, filled with hope, I at times will hit a bump in the road, that sends me a little off track.

This was one of those weeks where Myeloma got under my skin. To be honest, I can probably count on one hand the times Myeloma pissed me off. I can’t explain for certain why this count has been so low, but I have my theories. One being, I have personally chosen not to “fight” the disease in the traditional sense. I am not looking to muster up additional gusto to “battle” with Multiple Myeloma. Rather, I am choosing to #dominateLife, which may help me to be more positive and not get pulled into the negative thoughts that surround anyone fighting to live for another day, week, month or year.  The struggle for me is held deeply within as I try to live a life that contains passion and fulfillment to a greater purpose; clinging the moments and time that I can still have a little say in.

BUT, then every once in a while the raw emotions such as anger and sadness will come knocking on my door; and they are unavoidable. I struggle to contain these emotions because I don’t have much experience in this department. Simply put, I feel mad and sad at the same time and I don’t know which came first. I do know that the root of it is watching others with Multiple Myeloma (and cancer in general) get knocked off the road and at times crash very quickly and painfully. The longer on this journey, the more I am presented with the reality that people die of Multiple Myeloma, and they die young.

Keep on the path, be real and dominate what life you have left,



Saturday, August 11, 2012

anatomy of a cold or two

We used to be SO GOOD at this, you guys! Hand sanitizer everywhere, no face-touching, wash wash wash those hands... and we avoided lots of little sick germies. Sadly, I've been slacking in this department lately as evidenced by the awful summer colds (yes, PLURAL) that we've all been passing around.

The biggest lasting, perceptible physical change in Phil since his diagnosis and subsequent treatments has been his lowered immunity. For someone who never used to catch so much as a sniffle it is disconcerting to have him come down with every nasty bug that the kids bring home. And often he brings it home first. And then he shares. By choosing to lie on my side of the bed. But that's beside the point.

Here's a rough representation of how things have looked here the last few weeks:

Day 1: Ocean wakes up with green junk in his eyes. He begins coughing and complaining of an ear ache.
Day 3: Iris wakes up with green junk in her eyes. Both kids get diagnosed with pink eye and Ocean has an ear infection.
Day 6: Phil starts coughing.
Day 7: Ocean complains of ear pain in the other ear. Yup, another ear infection.
Day 8: Phil wakes up with bloodshot eyes and, you guessed it, green junk. Still coughing. A lot.
Day 9: Ruby has green snot and a cough. (Note my fatal mistake... I thought this was the same coughing bug from Day 6 but OH HO HO NO it wasn't. This was bug #2.)
Day 10: Cassie starts coughing. (Bug #1)
Days 11-14: MISERY.
Day 15: Ocean starts coughing. What the..... didn't he start all of this?!
Day 16: Cassie starts with the runny nose and sore throat. (Bug #2)
Day 17: Iris starts with the runny nose and cough. (Is it #1 or #2?! 1 OR 2?!?!?! There's no way to know!!)
And here we are on Day 18. In bed, watching movies, drinking lots of fluids and praying that #1 AND #2 quickly and quietly make their way to the nearest exit.

I guess this is probably normal for households with kids, and there's no way to know if things would be different had Phil's immune system not taken a thrashing but I guess I notice it more because I'm not used to Phil coming down with the crud. I suppose it's time to start being more proactive in our preventative measures again, especially with Phil back on chemo.

I wish you all a healthy, germ-free weekend!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Day + 4 Years

8.8.08 seems like a such a special day. One of our close neighbors gave birth to her son. It was just a day past my 28th birthday, but for us, it was a wake up call to something our doctor called Multiple Myeloma. We were confused, lost, and in utter shock. We didn't know where to go from there.

Well, four years have past and I can say with ease, I hope we never have to go through that again! It's been a roller coaster of a joureny with many emotions, several scary emergency room visits, a ton of stress, plenty of chemo and much uncertainty.

But, we are still here. We continue to make family our priority and grip everso tightly to the hope that the Myeloma will not return to my body.

I am so greatful that in the last four years I have been able to see Ocean grow into being a kid. Iris continues to impress me with her independence and ability to get whatever she wants, when she wants. And Ruby, wow, she was far from our radar at diagnosis, and now we have a two year old full of life and happiness.

Moving forward from today, our tanks are full, our children are healthy and we are geared up to dominate Multiple Myeloma for many more years.

Thanks to everyone for all the support, kind words, meals, you name it, over the last four years. Our continued domination goes hand in hand with all the love and support people continue to pour out on us.

Much love and continued domination to you in whatever life throws your way!