After a five hour drive from Augusta, Georgia, we had crossed the rivers and streams of southern Georgia and northern Florida, found the Park and Ride, boarded a shuttle, arrived at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, and made our way through the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party into the relative safety of the inside. Getting there was an adventure itself, but the game and all that surrounds it was coming up in about a hour, and it would be a doozy before the night was over. My daughter, her sorority sister and I were ready for some fun. So were about eighty five thousand other people.
Some of those other people were college students. Yeah.
Many of them had been drinking, probably since the day before. I mean, drinking hard. Yeah. Like, flasks coming out of jacket pockets and mini bottles by the dozens, empty, trashing the underside of the fading blue stadium seats like so many broken glass Christmas ornaments that someone had dropped and never picked up.
We had seats that were way up high in the North end zone section, an area that looked like it was going to be mostly empty until just before the game, when the hard-drinking, fight song-singing, red-wearing masses of college boys and their equally loud dates arrived just in time for kickoff. Now, I was a student once, and I had fun, and maybe I even drank a little (please don’t tell my mother) but there is a limit to all things, you know. To be clear, this is not a post about teenage drinking, the perils of substance abuse in this at-risk population, or any of that. I can write about that another time, while wearing my psychiatrist hat.
No, this post is about being present and experiencing each moment of your life as fully as possible. As a person, a father, a friend, a human being.
I went to this game with my daughter and a friend of hers because we wanted to go and have fun. To watch a fun football game between two fiercely competitive rivals. To take goofy pictures. To stop and get snacks on a long road trip. To meet new people. (The lady I shared seats with on the shuttle back after the game lives in Beaufort, SC, loves football and basketball, and eats at the same restaurants I do every time I visit the Lowcountry!) We wanted to be present, to pay attention to the sights and smells and tastes and action on the field and everything that makes a great SEC college football game what it is. We got all that and more. We enjoyed the heck out of it.
The teenaged college student sitting directly behind me did not.
He was blotto.
The very first possession was a long march downfield that resulted in the first score of the game. Gurley was back. We were kickin’ it.
Blotto Man saw none of that. He was sitting in the seat directly behind me. I turned to see him at one point, eyes closed, swaying like a sapling in a stiff breeze, barely sitting up under his own power. He was so drunk that I don’t think he even knew he was in the stadium. Granted, he had some good buddies around him that were watching out for him that were not going to let him fall or hurt himself, but he was not aware that there was even a game going on, much less who he was rooting for.
As the game went on, he would come in and out of consciousness, literally, and speak up or grunt or even sing a note or two. At one point, I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked around to see his hand extended. “You’re my brother,” he said, increasing my blood alcohol level to at least eighty just by breathing in my direction. One other time he gently punched me in the back again and said something in bad Klingon that I could not even remotely understand. His friends finally directed him up one more row, propped him against the concrete wall that formed the top of EverBank Stadium, and kept a watchful eye out that he didn’t go over backwards.
What did this young guy get out of being at the 2013 Florida-Georgia game? Not much it would appear.
The rest of us saw some good football, a couple of great plays, were happy that we didn’t need the ponchos that we dutifully packed against the fickle Florida weather, and were treated to one of the prettiest orange sunsets I think I’ve seen in a long, long time. We were there, all eighty thousand plus of us, until the last tick on the scoreboard clock. We walked down the gangways together afterwards, hearing, feeling, the roar of the Dawg Nation as it sang and cheered and chanted and laughed and whooped it up after the third victory over the Gators in as many years.
I hope he made it down to the ground in one piece with the help of his college buddies.
It’s important to have fun, to let it all hang out, and maybe to even act a little crazy sometimes (please don’t tell my mother). I have no problem with any of that, and I even wish sometimes that I could go back and re-experience some of that in my own college career.
It’s also important to be present in every moment, every experience in your life.
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
We only have today.
Will you be present in your own life today? Will you grab it, seize it, live it?
Or will you be blotto?
Your choice, my friends.