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Of expletives and extra points

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, November 2, 2006

When my brothers and I were younger, we didn’t have to watch the Chicago Bears’ games. The expletives emanating from the living room told us far more about their performance than Cris Collinsworth ever could from the broadcasting booth.

So while the Bears played at Soldier Field, we played our own football games in our suburban Chicago backyard, arguing over whether or not my brother crossed the threshold of the end zone (marked by the imaginary line between the sandbox and the sidewalk) and kicking the extra points through our makeshift uprights – the swing set.

Many football seasons later, I’ve found myself a couple hundred miles away from my old living room. Although it’s impossible to hear my dad’s profanity from here, I’m fairly certain that he hasn’t utilized his entire lexicon of expletives this year. After all, the Bears are en route to an undefeated season – or so some say.

Hence, each Sunday afternoon (or Monday night) victory is not seen as a victory in and of itself, but instead as one more step toward the almighty goal – the Bears’ first Super Bowl title since the days of Mike Singletary, Walter Payton and Coach Ditka.

The focus is on the “big picture.” It’s a common trend these days.

Case in point: next week’s midterm elections. The focus is less on the issues raised by the candidates, and more on the candidates’ party affiliations and what these will do to the composition of Congress. Perhaps most emphasized is how these elections will affect future presidential prospects – like those of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, now that he’s “not not running” in 2008. It’s big-picture politics.

And what about what I’ll be doing in 2007? What I’d really like to do now – in 2006 – is to live an entire day without being asked about my plans for next year. While I don’t take after my father in his fondness for profanity, the constant barrage of questioning often tempts me to utter a few expletives of my own. All I want to do is to walk through the fallen leaves without being forced to wonder whether next year I’ll be living in a place where trees don’t even shed their leaves.

Walking through the leaves – it’s a little thing. And when we were kids, we treasured the fall foliage. We’d press leaves in between the pages of our hardcover books so that their brilliant color would never fade.

But what happened to the little things? Why do we let them fade away now?

Henry David Thoreau wouldn’t. He said that “the little things in life are just as interesting as the big ones.” I’d like to take that one step further and say that the little things are not only just as interesting, but also just as important, as the big ones.

Last time I checked, the current “big thing” of American politics (a.k.a. George W. Bush) didn’t want to build a fence across our southern border with Mexico. But a majority of the “little things” (a.k.a. those congressmen and -women whose issues you don’t care about) do, and so there will be a fence.

And what about the Bears? Sure, they’re undefeated – but because of a little thing. If Arizona Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers hadn’t missed a 41-yard field goal wide left with 53 seconds to go a few Monday nights ago, neither the big scoreboard in the Cardinals’ new stadium, nor the Bears’ big picture, would look the same.

When it comes to your future, by all means, be ambitious. I’ll be rooting for you to get the job of your dreams, so that you can hang a big thing – your framed Notre Dame diploma – on the wall behind your desk. But hopefully you’ll save some space on that wall for a collage of little things too, complete with photos of friends and a book-pressed leaf.

And as for the Bears, I’ll be rooting (without using expletives) for Brian Urlacher and company to hoist that Lombardi trophy. But you know what? Life isn’t just about the Super Bowl.

It’s about those little field goal attempts too – the ones that fly wide left of the uprights and the ones that sail perfectly through the center of the backyard swing set.

Liz Coffey is a senior American Studies major and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor. Her column appears every other Thursday. She can be reached at ecoffey@nd.edu

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.