Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pearl 16: Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Dearest Eliana and Gehrig,

Good afternoon, my sweethearts!  It is a glorious day here in Texas, 82 degrees and sunny.  I am thinking about you as you drive up to New Hampshire for Thanksgiving with Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Ron.  I heard you are having snow and nasty weather so my prayer is with you for safe travels.  It is supposed to get really cold here late tomorrow with lows in the 30’s.  Brrrr!

I was reading over my last letter I sent you and wanted to comment on something.  It seemed to me as I read it the tone was fairly somber and a little negative.  Of course, the subject of abuse is a serious topic, so perhaps it was justified.  However, it reminded me of a lesson I learned long ago.

Several letters ago I told you about my experience as the starting left tackle on the 9th grade varsity John Marshall Junior High School Mustang football team.  As you recall, we won our first game with Fremont and destroyed Boy’s Republic.  We actually went on to win two other games fairly handily against Norco and Corona.  Then our next to last game was our final league game against Emerson Jr. High. 

Now Emerson had a high flying passing attack which was the envy of the league.  They scored early and often.  We had a solid running game and ground down our opponents.  Like us they were undefeated coming into the game and this was for the league title.  I was nervous at the start of the game but because of Coach Moore’s philosophy of making a good first impression on your opponent, by the time the first quarter was over, I had controlled their defensive tackle pretty well. 

There were three plays to my side of the line which depended on a key block from me.  The “13F” play was a hand off to the fullback, who then pounded up in the slot between me and the guard to my right.  The “15” play was a hand off to the halfback, who was supposed to go right over my position.  It required me to move my man to the outside so there would be a hole.  Then there was the “15F” play which was a pitch to the halfback in the slot between me and the tight end to my left.  It required me to move my man to the inside.  It was our best play and when I could seal my guy to the inside, even for an instant, Emil Rios would make big yards.

We ran the 15F throughout the first half and were leading at halftime 21-10.  In the locker room, Coach Moore told us to just keep doing what we were doing but he huddled with the lineman and our quarterback and told us to help John out.  He said if we saw an opportunity to speak up in the huddle and tell John what play would work best.  I thought this was a good idea.

After the half, Emerson came out in a different set.  The man that was directly over me or just to my inside during the first half started to shift outside, lining up each play further and further to my left.  John stuck with what worked in the first half and was calling a lot of 15 and 15F plays.  It was getting increasingly more difficult for me to get a decent block on my man.  Then on one play, their tackle lined up a full yard outside of me.  The play we had called went to the other side, but when I went back in the huddle I said, “John, don’t call a 15F”.  John said, “O.K., 15F on 2…Break!”  YIKES, I thought, he misunderstood me.  I told him NOT to call 15F.  As I got down in my stance, my heart was pounding wildly.  My guy was a yard and a half outside me and right in the middle of the 15F slot. 

At the snap of the ball I lunged out at him and tried to reach him.  Too much distance, too little speed.  Rios ran right into the back of me as I went down on my face.  I felt his cleats go up my back and the sickening crunch of pads and helmets meeting as the defender smashed into poor Emil.  The ball popped loose and one of their players recovered the fumble.  I was devastated, which brings me to my sixteenth pearl.

Sixteenth Pearl:   Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

In addition to a good song lyric, these words superbly describe the lesson I learned that day on the football field.  Trotting over to the sideline, John was right by my side.  “Why did you tell me to call 15F? he yelled at me.  “I didn’t” I insisted, “I told you NOT to call a 15F”.   He just looked at me and shook his head and, I must admit, my excuse seemed kind of lame.  Why would I have told someone NOT to do something when it would have been much clearer to have told him what to do.  If I would have said, “Call a 13F”, we would have scored another touchdown.

Right then and there I vowed to myself to always try to use positive frame of reference rather than the negative.  It isn’t always easy to do and clearly it seems our world is not always geared to the positive.  A look at our current political situation is enough of a reminder about that.  But to the extent possible, try to be positive.

Jesus is an example of someone who always stressed the positive in his communication.  Now I understand that many people look at the Bible as a book of “Don’ts”.  But, except for a few “Thou Shalt Not’s” in the Old Testament, the Bible is actually a book of “Do’s”.  After all, Jesus didn’t say don’t hate your neighbor, He said to love him.  His was a ministry of positive affirmation.  “Abide in me”.  “He who receives me receives Him who sent Me”.  “Lazarus, come forth”.  “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die”.  “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free”.  Great positive stuff.

So that day on Emerson’s football field, I learned an important lesson and I pass that on to you, my dear ones…..accentuate the positive and leave the play calling to the quarterback.  By the way, we won going away, 31-10 and got the league championship.  HooHAA!

Love you, bunches and bunches and Happy Thanksgiving 2007,

Grandpa Jud

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