Perspective is a funny thing. It can distort and warp your impressions of things. And it can teach you important lessons.
That was the case on Saturday when I drove my wife, Cary, and son, Ben, to Denver to cheer our beloved Air Academy High School’s boys soccer team in the state championship game.
It’s the same drive we made in 2010 under similar, yet very different circumstances.
In 2010, we were proud members of a special group of families who had sons playing on the team.
However Peter suffered a devastating knee injury in the semifinal game and we made the drive then knowing he wouldn’t be playing in the championship game.
We were somber on the trip up. And I admit shedding a tear during the opening ceremonies as the teams paraded down into the stadium as triumphant music blared and fans stood and clapped. Peter was unable to keep up as he hobbled along on his crutches and trailed far behind.
I sat in the stands holding a little pity party, lamenting the unfairness of it all.
This is the first lesson provided by the perspective of time. The injury reminded us what we already knew — life isn’t fair.
Further, Peter was reminded what it was like for the boys on the team who spent most of the season on the sidelines, watching and cheering. He’d been lucky to be a starter throughout his career. The view from the sidelines was an unusual perspective, and valuable, to remind him every team member is important.
Then there was the whole lesson on adversity. Everyone faces adversity in life. The question is how you respond to it. I was as proud of Peter for the way he responded to his injury as I was for any save he ever made. It showed his true character and was an experience that will serve him well the rest of his life.
Which brings me back to Saturday’s game. We made the drive with much happier hearts. We were hopeful, perhaps overconfident, because the Kadets were facing a familiar foe in Cheyenne Mountain. It was a team Air Academy had beaten earlier in the season and I fully expected history would repeat itself.
Of course, Cheyenne Mountain High had a different idea and ended up winning, 2-1.
As we headed south down Interstate 25 toward home, we were disappointed. We hated seeing members of our team — good, hard-working and talented kids — collapse on the field in despair as the final horn blew.
We felt especially badly for the seniors who had played, as freshmen, with Peter. We ached for Coach Espen Hosoien, a great coach and even better man. And I admit I may have groused a bit about the officials and maybe some rough play.
All our whining came to an abrupt end as we reached the south edge of Denver.
As we cruised in the far left lane at 70 mph, Ben and Cary noticed a small red car packed with five teens starting to drift into us.
We watched in horror as the little car full of teens started to shimmy, freakishly, back and forth as the terrified girl behind the wheel looked frozen in fear.
She over-corrected and, in a heartbeat, the car swerved into the far right lane then made a sickening hard left turn across three lanes, spinning completely around before slamming violently into the median.
It came to rest with a metal-crushing thud against the concrete barrier, facing the wrong way in the southbound lanes.
Just like that, all thoughts of soccer vanished. Instead of moaning about bad officiating, we were only concerned about getting police to the scene and finding out if the passengers were safe.
Later, as we completed our drive home, we talked to Ben about what we’d seen. He’ll be driving soon and it’s a valuable lesson to see how quickly a tragedy can occur behind the wheel.
And it was a great lesson for me. How petty I felt to have gotten so worked up about a soccer game. How silly I was to whine instead of just cheering on good kids who worked and sacrificed just to get there. They may have lost the game but they are all champions.
I’m glad to report the kids in the wreck all walked away.
And Peter recovered from his injury. He celebrated his 20th birthday Tuesday as a proud member of the Mountain Lions men’s soccer team at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
And I was reminded to keep things in perspective. Soccer is a game. Life is what really matters.