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Irons in the fire: Mourn with those that mourn

Paul Marchant Published on 24 November 2015

I like to complain about the weather. So, with the changing of the seasons comes ample opportunity for dialogue – or at least monologue – on my part. The transition from fall to winter always offers up plenty of conversation fodder.

However, lest you get the impression that I’m all about the negative, there are a few good things about winter.

First of all, the colder temperatures get rid of the flies and gnats. That, in and of itself, is enough to rejoice in the winter months. Besides the absence of insects, with winter comes the beginning of basketball season.

Admittedly, I spend too much time and expend way too much effort on my irrational infatuation with the sport.

Sports in general, and basketball in particular, though, have always served as relationship bridges for me. Regardless of how strained my relationships with my sons were because of undone chores or homework or questionable life choices, we could always communicate about sports.

We can always commiserate in the losses or regale in the victories of our teams, or scrutinize the decisions of coaches and marvel at the athleticism – or lack of it – of players anywhere from the smallest NAIA school to the NBA.

Our NBA loyalties unabashedly lie with the Utah Jazz. With our geographic proximity to Salt Lake City, the Jazz is the only major league professional team within 800 miles of Oakley, Idaho. It’s the only thing close to a natural fit.

In 1996, I won a pair of tickets to a Jazz game when I called a radio station with an answer to an obscure college basketball trivia question. My oldest son, who was 9 years old at the time, and I loaded up and gladly made the nearly four-hour drive to Salt Lake to watch the Jazz play the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It was long before the LeBron days, but the Jazz were in the midst of their golden age. John Stockton, Karl Malone and Jeff Hornacek were picking and rolling and assisting and scoring their way to the top of the NBA food chain.

My son already loved the Jazz, but the trip to the game, regardless of the eight hours of driving, cemented the team’s place in his heart. We lived and died with the Jazz during those glory years.

Were it not for a chump named Michael Jordan and his push-off of Bryon Russell, our dedicated fanaticism would have most surely been rewarded with at least one NBA championship.

When the Jazz lost early in the playoffs to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2000, my then-13-year-old son spent 10 minutes crying into his pillow because Jeff Hornacek was retiring at season’s end. My son could hardly bear the thought of Hornacek losing his last game.

He wasn’t alone in his grief, as I’m sure thousands of championship-starved fans across the intermountain West sincerely felt his pain.

Twenty years ago, my dad had a heart attack in the middle of haying season. Obviously, he was laid up for a while and ultimately underwent bypass surgery. Over the course of that summer, neighbors and friends rallied around my family.

I was working as the county extension agent at the time and was spread pretty thin.

One neighbor, without being asked, finished baling and stacking 160 acres of hay. Another neighbor offered to let us graze 100 pairs on some irrigated pasture for a couple of weeks, at no charge, so we wouldn’t have to mess with running them on some poor BLM ground before we went to the mountain that summer.

Others brought meals and prayed in church and tended kids and offered rides.

As I have been when I’ve seen the ranching community come together in times of crisis, tragedy and celebration, I was overwhelmed by the generosity and love of people who still had their own lives to live and their own problems to deal with.

It’s an awe-inspiring thing to watch and experience charity personified. It works every time. In other words, “charity never faileth.”

I’m not sure if God really cares about whether or not the Jazz go 3-79 this season, or if Clemson or Notre Dame makes it to the College Football Playoff, or who wins the bareback average at the NFR. I am sure, however, that He knows how each one of us feels about it.

I think He cares about how we care for each other, how we revel in each other’s triumphs, suffer in each other’s sorrows and bear each other’s burdens. I think that’s why he allowed the most transcendent event in history to occur more than 2,000 years ago. It wasn’t so we would marvel at the event.

I think it was not so much for me to find my way, but more for me to help others find their way, and in so doing, finding the way myself. That’s what I’m going try to remember this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas.  end mark

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