YOU NEVER KNOW

Do you? You never know what’s around the corner, in life. One moment you’re on top of the world, the sun is shining, you’re feeling good in so many ways, giving thanks for your blessings and good fortune, and literally the next moment, it can come crashing down in the most horrific way imaginable. Now everything, everything, is different.

I was reminded of that in, of all places and times, the middle of watching the NBA playoffs. The announcing team on TV is the best there is and even if you’re only mildly interested, tune in and pay attention to their repartee. Ex-coach Steve Van Gundy is sometimes so funny I laugh out loud, and ex-star player and coach Mark Jackson is the perfect foil, sometimes questioning and needling him and sometimes, after the proper pause, declaring, “I can’t believe you just said that.” At which point Van Gundy will double down. Calm veteran broadcaster Mike Breen keeps their circus in three rings and floor reporter Doris Burke is one of the best in the business.

MEMORIAL

But during the last game Jackson took a moment to send love and healing wishes out to Wisconsin U. assistant basketball coach Howard Moore, whose family car was hit head-on by a wrong way driver on the freeway, killing his wife and 9-year-old daughter, and the family dog (and the other driver). He and his 13-year-old son were injured but are recovering.

In the midst of the fun of the best kind of hoops, it was sobering. Jackson didn’t dwell on it, just a couple of sentences, a kind act, but the brief evocation was unsettling to me. There, was a moment in time that completely changed lives. Certainly for Moore and his son, their whole lives are now — before the crash, and after. And it happens every day to someone. That phone call you cannot believe, that rips your heart out. “We regret to inform you…”

I had a similar experience years ago, when I was in the car with my dear girlfriend Judy, with whom I lived with my son Chris; just that hour we were reunited after a separation of both of us moving from Albuquerque, to SoCal and NorCal. She made a panicked-reaction sudden left turn to her turnoff road that she was about to pass, and an oncoming truck slammed into my side of the car. But when I awoke in the hospital — that completely disoriented, what happened? moment — with very minor injuries, they told me she didn’t make it.

TOO DARK, CHARLES!

Sometimes it goes the other way, too, in an instant. Your screenplay is green lighted, and a whirlwind year later everyone knows your name and envies your bank account. You win the National Spelling Bee. (Actually, this year, it was an eight-way tie, so that was a long “instant” — they “broke the dictionary.” I was in my state spelling bee but flamed out in the second round.) That unattainable girl for whom you risked total humiliation by asking her to the prom — said yes! With one long three-point shot with under a minute left, you take the pass from Kobe and erase a career bad boy legacy by beating the rival Celtics in game seven for the championship. Metta World Peace, baby.

I always say one of the things that fascinates me about sports is the uncertainty. But life is like that too, isn’t it? Many will never experience that explosive moment, but I know it can happen at any time to any one. To be aware of that, even to have experienced it, I think is a good thing. I try to always appreciate and savor my good fortune, but never become complacent about it. Nature is unforgiving and impersonal — tornadoes, floods, fires — but human nature is too. Every day more names are added to the long list of those whose lives are torn apart in an instant by gun violence.

ARE PEOPLE BY NATURE EVIL?

There would seem to be a lot of evidence. I was having that discussion yesterday with a friend on his birthday, an opportune time for reflection. I told him I felt that too many politicians and business people seem to be driven by greed, we seem to be surrounded by it, drowning in it, greed and the corruption that enables it, but that they represent a small percentage of humanity. I still believe in the goodness of human nature. But also in the ease with which it can be debased.

So for my part, as a columnist, I try to remember to condemn the actions but not the people. But like a mad dog who won’t listen to reason or kind words, sometimes you just have to lead someone away to where they can’t hurt others any more.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Did I thank everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes last week? I did not. It was a lot. So — thank you, all!!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

“Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to get himself envied.” ― Mark Twain

“Human nature is to blame for everything, innit? We’re just a disease on this planet.” — Lemmy

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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