Moments

Deontae Cooper came to Seattle in January of 2010.  He was one of the crown jewels of Steve Sarkisian’s first full recruiting class.  His legend had spread among Husky fans before he even stepped on to the practice field.  He was the guy who ran for 7,450 yards in high school.  He was the guy who ran for 388 yards in one game.  When he did step on the practice field later that spring it was easy to see how he racked up those gaudy numbers.  Every practice he would break off an unbelievable run.  He was the talk of camp.  Husky insiders mentioned Cooper, who would have been a true freshman, stealing away carries from Chris Polk, who turned out to be one of the best running backs in school history.

Hype and expectations for a player tend to grow when people don’t have anything better to talk about.  That’s exactly what happened that off-season.  Entering Fall Camp of 2010, Cooper could have passed as Superman to some Husky fans.  Were there unreasonable expectations for a 17 year-old?  Yes.  But, some people were made to entertain with their talent and Cooper seemed destined for that.

A few days into Fall Camp, Cooper was running hard, planted on his left knee and made a cut.  No one tackled him but something was off.  He tore his ACL.  He worked hard and came back in time ready for 2011’s Fall Camp.  A few days in, the same thing happened.  The next year?  Lather, rinse, repeat (just switch knees).  He vowed to work hard and come back.  He said that he would tear his ACL 5 more times and still try to come back.  He went from legend to folk hero.  His perseverance was strong but most people realized that he would never see the field at U-Dub in a meaningful game.

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Felix Hernandez was signed as a 16 year-old Venezuelan by the Seattle Mariners organization.  He threw fireballs and was said to have a hammer of a curve.  As Felix advanced through the minor league system, his legend grew.  He earned the nickname ‘King Felix’ before pitching in a major league baseball game.  He eventually made his debut, still a teenager, and eventually lived up to the expectations that were, probably unfairly, placed on his broad 16 year-old shoulders when he signed with the team.

For years, he was the lone shining star on a team that celebrated mediocrity.  He loved Seattle and gave the team and fans everything he had when he’d step out on the mound.  It didn’t matter that his offense probably wouldn’t score runs or that the bullpen would eventually blow his shutouts, Felix pitched, and still pitches, like he’s leaving everything he has in him on the field.

On August 15th, 2012, I watched from a rented beach house as Felix threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays.  It was a performance that Mariner fans will never forget.  A perfect moment that showed Felix’s perseverance against a ball club’s continual mediocrity.

By the end of the year, the Mariners were 77-85.  They finished last place in their division, a place that was all too familiar.

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The other day, I was in a McDonald’s, with my wife, about to order some breakfast.  We were in a rougher part of Seattle, a block or so away from a Methadone clinic.  I know we were that close to the clinic because the guy in front of us in line told us he had come from there.  He was dressed in some worn down clothes and seemed like a guy who had gone through his share of struggles.  I noticed he was holding a dollar and a few coins.  He was studying the menu intently, trying to find something that fit his budget.

In front of him was a lady who had seemed like she might haven’t gotten caught up in the wrong part of town.  She seemed a bit frazzled, to put it lightly.  She was frantically looking through her purse, trying to find the money that would pay for her meal.  Amongst the scramble, a few belongings from her purse had fallen on to the ground without her noticing.  By the time she had noticed, the gentleman in front of me had picked them up and hurriedly gave them back to her, in a nervous and shy sort of way.  It was a moment of genuine kindness from a person that the world usually doesn’t expect to see kindness from.

She said, “Thank you.”  They both went on with the rest of their day.

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I’m not sure why we all get caught up in the pessimism.  None of us watch the news to see what’s going right with the world.  Even in sports, ESPN and other sports outlets are generally leading with stories about someone cheating or getting cut from the team instead of the feel-good moments.  In the media’s defense, that’s what the consumer demands.

This isn’t a call to always be positive, the Mariners will probably keep sucking and people do bad things.  Life isn’t easy.  But, I think we all owe it to ourselves to enjoy the moments.  Soak in the little things that aren’t ordinary.  There are plenty of things in our day that aren’t ordinary, no matter how big or small.  It’s just a matter of us choosing to see them before our routine sets in again.

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Last Saturday night, in the second quarter of Washington’s 2013 season opener, Deontae Cooper jogged on to the field.  The center snapped the ball and the quarterback handed it off to Cooper.  He barreled up the middle for a one yard gain, showing a little less zip than what he used to have but a determination that I wish we all had.  The play would be called back because of a penalty.

Deontae Cooper flashing the smile, and optimism, he's famous for among Husky fans.

Deontae Cooper flashing the smile, and optimism, he’s famous for among Husky fans. 

It was a moment that I’m sure he cherished.  A moment he had waited and worked so hard for.  Fans stood up and cheered.  Cooper received an ovation that he was more than worthy of.  Then, everyone sat down and the next play began.

– Andrew

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