As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald. N. Guy Jr.
The bar door creaks open. A middle-aged couple walks in, both squinting as aged eyes adjust to the dark ambiance. The tables are packed, but a broader scan of the room reveals two open stools at a well-worn bar – the perfect landing spot.
After a few minutes of small talk, it becomes clear that the drinks sitting in front of the lovebirds aren’t their first of the evening. The energetic pair soon pull the quiet soul sitting next to them into a jovial conversation. It was a timely meeting. The melancholy soloist was a newlywed on the first business trip since his nuptials and was in need of good vibrations. The couple was celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary and was bursting to tell their story.
They had met at work, nearly 25 years prior. It was more like at first sight, than love. He was in a serious relationship; she was about to start one. They had caught one another’s eye, though, developed a friendship and, ultimately, as other love interests waned, they had gotten together. The resulting journey had been amazing. They had two kids, one in college, the other about to graduate high school. Their family had transcended various challenges – loss of loved ones, medical curve balls - and lived through a scroll of cherished memories – first steps, LEGO builds, school plays, sports, band concerts and family vacations. Tears had been shed and shared along the way, but there had been far more smiles. It was their story – so far.
The newlywed listened intently. He even offered to buy a round to keep the conversation flowing. They politely declined and instead bought him a drink for good luck. What he found more captivating than the major milestones of their lives, were the details around how they had arrived at their employer at exactly the same time. The husband had started at another job after college, one he enjoyed and that paid well; he only sought a new one after a corporate merger created considerable employment uncertainty. He spoke with a friend about his predicament; his buddy noted that his company was hiring and suggested that he apply. He did…and found much, much more than a career reboot.
The wife was in her last year of college and, on a whim, decided to attend a spring festival near her school. While there, she ran into an acquaintance at a popcorn stand who mentioned an upcoming job fair and encouraged her to go. She did…and then she met the recruiter for the job at the place where she met…her husband.
Two lives were completely changed (for the better judging by the flow of elixirs and genuine affection), and new human life was created, by a corporate merger and random meeting that happened only because of a shared hankering for kettle corn. This was their story. The newlywed had his. We all have ours. Life, man…it is so dynamic.
Which, of course, brings us to sports. While reading this and contemplating your own incredible journey, hundreds of young men from all over the country will be transfixed by this weekend’s NFL Draft. Some will be in attendance anticipating a grip and grin with Commissioner Roger Goodwell. Many more will be watching with family and friends. All will be waiting for their name to be called – the moment when a childhood dream is realized and their lives are immediately uprooted and sent to an unfamiliar place, where they will meet new coaches and teammates, work for an unfamiliar organization, and engage with a new community.
The NFL Draft is largely consumed and analyzed in football terms. But there is a profound human element in play. As names methodically fill out the draft scroll, lives reach an inflection point, an experience with a distinct before and after. It isn’t farfetched to imagine these newest NFL players sitting at a bar 25 years from now, perhaps with a significant other on their arm, celebrating the amazing personal journey that began when their name was called. Hopefully they will buy a drink or two for the night’s stranger-turned-friend who listens intently to it all.