Twenty-Five Years Later

Not quite the Three Stooges.
Photo by Adrian Massi

Twenty-five years ago I learned that sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you think it will and that sometimes change can be a very good thing. I could tell you a million stories about where I thought I would be and what I thought would happen but that would be fiction and this post is about fact.

Technically I have known the two old guys standing next to me for about 30 years but the event that brought us together for this picture didn’t become a part of our lives until the Fall of 1987 when we rushed and pledged ZBT.

Yep, we are all members of the Gamma Beta Chapter of the mighty Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and today we gathered together for Turkey Bowl.

What It Is and What it Was

Turkey Bowl is  the day the actives take on the alumni in a game of tackle football and it is one of my favorite events of the year.

When I was younger I loved it because of the game. As a pledge and younger brother we were told that pledges/younger brothers never won and then we did.

We beat those guys and we loved it. We ate it up like candy and strutted around.

And then when we graduated and moved over to the alumni side of the fence we took great pleasure in teaching the young bucks to stay quiet because we were always going to be dominant.

They who were 18, 19 and 20 thought of us 25, 26, and 27 year olds  as being really old. They told us that we were out of shape and couldn’t play, but we proved them wrong.

Of course the cycle continued and those of us who kept playing through our twenties, thirties and into our forties still engaged in the trash talk because it was fun but we  started to admit some things had changed.

Life Catches Up

Every year fewer old guys would haul out our cleats and mouth guards not because we didn’t want to play but because life catches up. The joy of the battle is tempered by the time required to recover from the pounding  we gave and took.

This year I conceded that the toll Father Time is charging was a bit too high so I chose not to play.  If you go back through the past twenty-five years you can find three years in which I didn’t play for part of the game.

It wasn’t easy but I have responsibilities that don’t care if I am sore, battered and bruised, especially if I am the source of that pain.

You see my children are on vacation this entire week and since I have a home office I get to work and keep an eye on them.  I didn’t want to remove my ability to ride a bike, play catch or kick a ball with them.

But it wasn’t easy to stay on the sidelines. The siren song of the game always calls out to me, but I promised myself that next year the 44 year-old version of Josh will take the field.

A Different World

As I wandered the sidelines talking to guys I thought about how our world and worlds have changed on both personal and a global level.

Worlds is sort of a funny/interesting term to use because the world has changed and not just because so many of us have gotten married/divorced and become parents.

We who are called Generation X started our freshman year with President Reagan, watched the first Gulf War break out and said goodbye to some friends who shipped out to take care of business.

There are lots of big moments we could include here 9-11 and two more wars but we’ll save those.

Facebook Meets Face-To-Face

In the pre-Facebook days Turkey Bowl played a major role because we didn’t go onto Facebook and maintain a connection with a million different friends. If you didn’t write/call someone you probably didn’t know what was happening in their life.

Sometimes it wasn’t a big deal because you really weren’t close with them so it didn’t matter. But sometimes you were close but life had gotten in the way so you really looked forward to seeing them to reconnect.

Facebook has changed that somewhat. If you didn’t show up at Turkey Bowl you could still sort of keep an eye on things, but this year reminded me that is not the same.

There is no substitution for looking someone in the eye and listening to them tell you about what is happening in their world. That personal connection is important, significant and powerful.

Almost 25 years ago.

Just for the heck of it here is a shot from 1990 that includes all three of us and our fraternity brother Gallo, who I might add isn’t standing on a chair. He is a big fella.

With a bit of luck you can come back here in 2037 and see these two pictures plus the one to come in which I can guarantee we will all look a bit older and wiser.

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  1. Hajra December 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Life doesn’t always take the turns you hope hey would, but then when we learn to appreciate what it is has given us, we learn to be more happy.

    Just the other day, I looked at high school photos from ten years back and kept imagining the things we thought we could make happen!

  2. Mary Stephenson November 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Josh

    The cruel trick of time, we all get older and no more can we do what we once did. Great that you were able to stay in touch with people you once knew.

    I recently found a gal from my class of 64 (yikes…that does age me). I knew she did well in school, but was very surprised to find she is a professor at UBC. Never would have guessed that.

    Time changes us all and we find that life gets in the way. Maybe it is the time in my life that I reflect back on what paths I took and maybe some I never should have ventured on. If in fact there is no accident of where we are supposed to be, then I am learning some very valuable lessons. Really hoping the learning quits being so intense. Need to start having a bit more fun!

    Hope you have a great time this week with your kids off.


    • Josh November 20, 2012 at 7:08 am

      Hi Mary,

      When I play ball with guys who are more than a few years younger than I am I sometimes wonder if my memory of what I could do is in line with reality. Time colors our perceptions.

      What I am certain about is that my ability to recover has changed. Twenty five years ago I needed a day or two and all was well, that has changed.

      It is fun to find people like your classmate who end up doing things that surprise us. I have a few friends like that.

      I hear you about the lessons and would prefer to have more fun too. Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Gina November 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Probably a smart idea you didn’t play for the reasons you mentioned. A week is a long time, full-time, with busy kids plus you want to enjoy them without cringing. Loved this…”There is no substitution for looking someone in the eye and listening to them tell you about what is happening in their world”. It is exactly how I feel!

    • Josh November 20, 2012 at 7:04 am

      Yeah, those kids kept me busy all day long which is why I am a day late replying to your comment. It was fun to have them like that.

      Turkey Bowl was fun too, a bit surreal to realize how much time has passed. Age is a relative thing, but it killed me to find out how much older I was than a few of the kids I talked to.

      This 19 year-old’s mouth dropped open when I said I started in ’87. He said, “that was before my parents met each other.”

      I guess the days of being the kid everywhere I go are gone. 😉

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