You Have to Play the Game

By Laura Edwards

Tonight is the first of two annual regular season men’s basketball games between the University of North Carolina – my alma mater – and North Carolina State University – my dad’s, younger brother’s and uncle’s alma mater.

My mom, a neutral party by virtue of the fact that she didn’t go to Carolina or State, asked for my prediction when I mentioned the game to her on my way home from the office tonight.

I follow my own teams religiously, but I do more than just that. I read Sports Illustrated cover to cover every week. I follow the national sports tickers. I read the local sports news.

Taylor and Rameses

Nevertheless, when my mom asked me which team I expected to win the year’s first Carolina – State game, I didn’t make a pick.

Because you have to play the game.

People often ask me how Taylor’s doing. And almost as nearly as often as they ask, I don’t know what to say. That’s not to say that their question – their concern for my sister, for my family, for me – means any less. It just means that I don’t know the answer, at least not in the big picture sense.

I can always tell people how Taylor’s fighting. Because she’s always fighting hard. I can always tell people how she’s doing that day, though I won’t always do that if it’s not a good day. I can give them statistics and facts about Batten disease. But statistics and facts don’t have much to do with Taylor. Statistics and facts are numbers and letters. They’re not living, breathing children with laughs in throats that can’t speak and smiles in eyes that can’t see.

I can tell them that Batten disease is fatal. That once a child is born with Batten disease, a child will die from Batten disease. End of story.

But I can’t predict the future. And I’m not fighting this fight just for the hell of it.

Whether you’re talking about basketball or Batten disease, one thing’s for certain:

You can make all the predictions you want. But you still have to play the game.

The Possible

By Laura Edwards

Thanks to Jim Dunlevy, Raymond Felton, Rufus and the Charlotte Bobcats for bringing smiles to Taylor’s face last Friday night. Taylor and my 10-year-old nephew, Joey, had a memorable night at the arena – one that included access to the pre-game shoot-around, dinner in the Back Court, high fives to the players as they ran through the tunnel from the locker room to the court and lower level seats for the team’s win over the Washington Wizards. It was Joey’s first NBA basketball game and possibly T’s first since her world went completely dark. It didn’t matter. She still cheered and clapped when the Bobcats did well. She still smiled from ear to ear when Raymond Felton walked over to our seats at the shoot-around and said her name. And she still had a big hug for Rufus as soon as she felt the team mascot’s big, furry arm draped over her shoulders.

T knows that Raymond Felton was my favorite player during my years at Carolina. And despite all of the obstacles standing in her way, she still believes that someday, she will walk the same campus that her older sister and the Bobcats’ starting point guard once did.
To me, that’s what dreams are all about. Believing makes the improbable possible. Having faith AND working hard can make the possible come true.

The Road that Leads Us There

By Laura Edwards

Last night, UNC won the national title with what was, for me, the sweetest victory I’ve ever experienced as a sports fan. Now, if you happen to be a Michigan State fan, or if you’re just not particularly fond of my alma mater (it’s okay), I hope you’ll continue reading. This post is not about college basketball. Not really.

Last October, the Tar Heels celebrated the return of its six leading scorers, including the reigning national player of the year, from the ’07-’08 Final Four team. The squad was anointed as one of the best ever before its first practice. There was talk of an undefeated season and an easy run to the title.Then, amazingly, the invincible team from Chapel Hill slipped up. Tyler Hansbrough was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his shin and sat out a couple of games. Marcus Ginyard had foot surgery, tried coming back unsuccessfully and took a redshirt. Tyler Zeller broke his wrist. There was the 0-2 start in conference play. A mere two hours into the ACC season, at home against Boston College, the dream of an undefeated season vanished. And the Heels, by all appearances at least, were on their heels. Panic ensued in the hearts of Carolina fans everywhere.
Bit by bit, though, the team pulled it together. There was the detour late in the season at Maryland and the near-loss at Florida State (sans the late-game heroics of Ty Lawson, Florida State would have won) and the loss in the ACC tournament, albeit without the services of Lawson. But there was the sweep of arch rival Duke and the emergence of Wayne Ellington and the hustle of Bobby Frasor and the usual Everyman performance of Danny Green and the inside presence of Ed Davis and Deon Thompson and the workmanlike grit of Hansbrough. After that loss in the conference tournament, the Heels still earned a number one seed in the NCAAs, but most experts predicted that the champion would come out of the powerful Big East.
If you’re not a Carolina fan, and I haven’t lost you yet, I feel pretty good about keeping you till the end. And I still say this post isn’t about basketball. The point is, the team didn’t panic. They played for each other, they learned to play better defense, they ran a balanced attack, and they listened to their coach. They played for the seniors at their last dance and the underclassmen who came back for one more song. And though they didn’t take the most direct route, and though they encountered some twists and turns in the road along the way, in the end, they were still national champs.

Sports aren’t everything – not even close. But they’re a pretty good analogy for life more often than not, and the best part is, they occur in a strangely beautiful alternate world where hard fouls hurt and losses hurt even more, but none of it really matters in the end, relatively speaking anyway. I can’t ever walk away from the painful truth that my sister has a devastating illness – one that has permeated her life and mine and those of everyone who loves her and even some who don’t know her well enough to love her but have seen the fight in her. I’m not living my life the way I once imagined because of my twists and turns in the road. And in many respects, that’s okay. How often does life turn out just the way we imagined? And do we really want it that way, even if it was possible?

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the next day or the next. I don’t know when the cure for Batten disease will be discovered or if it will happen in time for my sister. I wish I could quit taking detours, but I can’t. This disease hasn’t done much good for me or anyone compared to the way it’s robbed her, and I’d like to think God has an easier way of teaching us lessons and will decide to go soft on me one of these days. But until He starts to show signs of letting up, I might as well listen up.
Those twists and turns in the road on the way to your destination are what make you who you are. How you live them – how you face them – is sometimes your best shot at reaching your desired destination, whether that’s a spot on the podium during One Shining Moment or a spot next to your little sister on her wedding day. No one ever told me this was going to be easy. But there’s one thing I know for sure, all on my own – and this only works for as long as I believe: once I get there, it’ll be that much sweeter for the pain I had to endure along the way.