The Thrill of the Grass: A Clemson Easter story
|Sunday, April 12, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
The thrill of the grass.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney has come under fire recently from the eternal pessimists who hate his always-sunny attitude as the nation battles to get back to normal. Swinney has said he believes in our country and is hopeful that college football will be played this season. For some reason, that angers people, who think that a football coach should keep his opinions to himself.
People asked and he answered.
As politicians battle over the lives of everyday Americans and people argue with each other over social media, I am more and more drawn to the simple things as I push away from the insanity for simple mental health. The simple things, things I can now take the time to notice, have more meaning. And the more I agree with Swinney as we celebrate the Easter weekend in our own ways.
I was walking out of my front door earlier this month and stopped as my son Eli noticed his first Monarch butterfly. He bent down to take a closer look, and I grabbed his hand as his finger traced an arc to the slowly beating wings and he smiled the kind of smile that only a child can muster. And I was reminded that no matter what is going on in this crazy world of ours, the caterpillar crawls into a cocoon and soon a new and beautiful life is reborn.
Eli became restless Saturday and we went for a quick ride and wound up on campus and noticed that no one was on Bowman Field. That is unheard of this time of year, and my thought was that as long as other people stayed away, my little one could run as much as he wanted.
As he ran in the afternoon sunshine and a cool breeze tousled his blonde hair, the echoes of a child’s laughter pealed in time with the bell clock from Tillman Hall as it rang the 5 o’clock hour. Life goes on, and at some point, the students will be back and we will have Homecoming on Bowman and my child will once again run in the cool grass as the long-honored tradition of float-building goes on in the background.
Earlier in the day, I took a little personal time and watched the movie “Field of Dreams.” As someone who grew up loving and playing the game of baseball, I love this movie. There is a part where the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson speaks to the things he missed…..
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Man, I did love this game. I'd have played for food money. It was the game... The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?
Ray Kinsella: Yeah.
Shoeless Joe Jackson: I used to love traveling on the trains from town to town. The hotels... brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I'd play for nothing!
Ray Kinsella: I bet it's good to be playing again, huh?
Shoeless Joe Jackson: Getting thrown out of baseball was like having part of me amputated. I've heard that old men wake up and scratch itchy legs that been dust for over fifty years. That was me. I'd wake up at night with the smell of the ballpark in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet... The thrill of the grass.
A quick ride by Death Valley saw one person gazing longingly through the locked gates, and the words of Shoeless Joe hammered at me, and I put them into football context.
There is nothing better than the environment in Death Valley during and before a big game. The very ground seems to vibrate with electricity and, much like when the ball is hit deep in baseball, the crowd emits an audible gasp when they see a receiver break behind a defender and Trevor Lawrence drops back to throw. You can see the touchdown you know is coming in slow motion, and as the ball crosses the goal line the fans quit holding their breath and erupt in a cacophony of noise that makes the very ground shake.
The thrill of the fans. It’s a beautiful thing.
Once we got back home, my child escaped the car seat and once again began to wander all around our yard, the warm spring the perfect tonic to a wet winter of being cooped up. A leaf on the ground means a big smile. A frog jumping beside the garage merits a round of laughter. And in the background, kids all over the neighborhood laugh and play and I am once again reminded that spring is a time of rebirth and of revival.
I stopped in a sunny spot and closed my eyes and lifted my head, soaking up the rays of the sun, and realized that when football and baseball return, there will be a newfound appreciation. Like Swinney, I think we will play football this season. The spring warmth will turn to the heat of summer and the heat of summer will soon give way to the cooler air of autumn, and with autumn the cheers in the Valley will once again echo off of these hills.
Life goes on.