Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Life Takes You In Circles

I came to Baylor as an undergraduate in the Fall of 1987.  While a student here, I had to take four P.E. credits and so my sophomore year I took a one hour course in volleyball.  My roommate and eventual best man in my wedding took the class with me and it was an absolute blast.  We had played volleyball recreationally as high school athletes in other sports and even occasionally travelled to beach tournaments in Galveston to play.  By no means was I skilled at the game, but the one hour volleyball class didn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know.  It was 100% about fun and not having to focus on calculus homework or being in a lab or writing a computer program.  Baylor Volleyball was in the process of moving from Marrs McLean Gym in the center of campus to a newly constructed facility out on the edge of campus named the Ferrell Center.

My Baylor graduation ceremony in May of 1991 was in the Ferrell Center.  A few short months later, I was married, moved to Dallas, and had begun graduate school at SMU and a new phase of my life had begun.  Imagine what my 22 year old self would have replied if some stranger had pulled me aside that graduation day and said:

“You’ll be back here one day in the winter of 2019 and again in 2022 – some thirty years from now – and you’ll be calling an NCAA Volleyball match for the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack Volleyball team from Nacogdoches.  Calling the match, you’ll sit within fifty feet of where you sat today waiting for your own name to be called. It will be one of 225 volleyball matches that you will have worked on television and/or radio”

I would have laughed.  I would have told the stranger that he or she needed to get serious about quitting drugs and maybe they should consider finding Jesus because they certainly weren’t talking about me.

Yet here we are.

Circles.  Life goes in circles. 

I’m someone who is REALLY pensive when I am physically back in the same spot – the exact same spot – that I was in 10, 20, 30 years ago.  The athletes I cover haven’t lived long enough to experience it, but they will.  It’s not déjà vu – it’s stronger.  You are PHYSICALLY occupying the same space you occupied decades prior.  It’s not just that you feel like you’ve been there before.  You ACTUALLY have been there before.  These “full circle” moments just blow me away.  They consume me temporarily.  As I write this, I am in one of those moments.

Why does this happen?  Why does life lead us back to the same spaces and places entire years, decades, or eras down the road in life.  Why are we allowed to experience such? I have a theory.

A circle encompasses a contained space.  The area within a completed circle can’t escape.  When life makes a loop like this you are forced to look at what is contained within.  If  one day I walked across the stage in the Ferrell Center picking up a diploma and then 31 years later I walk in the same physical space across the Ferrell Center court watching a game, then the question gets begged:  What happened within that loop in time?  Completing the circle forces you to contemplate that which you’ve encompassed.

In the 31 years since I began this Baylor to Baylor circle, I’ve done a lot more important things than call a collegiate volleyball match on the sports’ biggest stage.  I guess that’s actually the point.  My life is full because of what God has blessed me with during those 31 years.  So full that as an extra bonus in life I get to have the hobby (this is all really a hobby and not a job) of writing and broadcasting about college volleyball. 

People often tell me that I call matches so forcefully and confidently.  They’ll joke about how passionate I am on the air or comment on my expressionate tone.  There’s an easy explanation for that.  Every minute of this is a hobby for me – a serious one – but SFA Volleyball is “extra” in my life and I’m extremely grateful and fortunate to have experiences like the one I am having now outside of my main line of work. I’m not looking to call another match.  I’m only excited to call the current one.  I’m not actually working, so no one can really fire me, so I never feel nervous or anxious at all.  I can honestly say, I have never been nervous before going on the air.  Not once.  I mean, why?  Nervousness never emerges during moments of pure joy.  They are mutually exclusive – think about it.  Once the joy really fully takes over there is no more space left for nerves.

I’m blown away with gratitude and happiness because SFA Athletic Director Ryan Ivey or Head Coach Debbie Humphreys could walk up to me tomorrow and tell me that I’m not allowed to do this anymore and I’d still have racked up sufficient memories, made more friendships and laughed more times than I deserve.  It’s all gravy, man… this is all gravy.  I don’t HAVE to do this.  Instead, I GET to do this.

I enjoyed volleyball as a recreational sport as a teenager.  As a young adult, I began bringing my oldest son to SFA games to give my wife a break from chasing a toddler all day.  I got to know Coach Humphreys, her family, the athletes, and many other fans.  I was a baseball guy – still am – and knew the right people to get me the public address gig at Jaycees field in 2006 when SFA resurrected its baseball program.  That led to doing PA for volleyball in 2006 – another year where we made the NCAA tournament (and so that’s ANOTHER circle completed in 2022 if you really think about it). 

In 2009, I began writing this blog.  Nobody had to read it, but people did.  A lot more than I realized.  Soon, I knew most all the administrators, coaches, and many of the players in the Southland Conference.  In 2014, I bought a subscription to a radio service from a company called Mixlr and began broadcasting SFA Volleyball matches through the Internet.  No one had to listen, but people did.  A lot more than I realized. 

In 2015, SFA began broadcasting home volleyball matches on the ESPN platform.  At that point, I could say that I was on the microphone for the first ever SFA baseball game at renovated Jaycees Field and the first television voice of SFA Volleyball. In 2018, I radio called SFA’s first NCAA tournament match in twelve years from the stands in famous Gregory Gym at the University of Texas.  A year later, I did the same sitting courtside at the Ferrell Center here in Waco.  Now, in 2022, I’ll be on the air in the NCAA Tournament for the third time.

A kid at Baylor horsing around to get a PE credit playing volleyball.

A middle aged adult who gets to talk about volleyball on television and radio as a hobby. 

The same person? Did that really happen?

Oh, it did.

Circles.  Life goes in circles. 

I don’t deserve or even need any of these experiences.  I have no needs in life that haven’t already been fulfilled scores of times over.

I was in the Farrell Center in 1991 with life sending me on a new journey as a college grad .  I’ll be in the Ferrell Center in 2022 completing another one of life’s circles calling our match. 

When I reflect on what is encompassed within this circle, one phrase keeps coming to my mind:

“Oh, man. I really get to do this?”

Here’s a piece of advice:  Whatever you choose to do in life, do it with zeal.  Do it with passion.  Love deeply what you do.  Your faith.  Your family. Your jobs and hobbies:  Love BIG, because when life circles you back around to the same place at a different time - you will be so, so glad you did.