Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crossing the Bridge with Nick Collins

By Mr. Vergaro, Guest Reporter

Life was good, and it was about to get better. I was on my way to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for a Packers’ Shareholder meeting. Green Bay, the center of the football universe! For a fan, it was a bucket list trip. I had been to games years ago, but now I had a chance to attend a shareholder’s meeting at Lambeau Field and the in the Hall of Fame.

I had an exit row seat on the flight out of Detroit, and even better yet, I was alone in the exit row. Leg room and privacy were mine. The flight attendant offered a seat in the exit row to another passenger, assuring him that he would welcome the extra space. I made room for a twenty-something (28, in fact) black man wearing an Angles baseball cap (slightly sideways). The guy was obviously an athlete, and with training camp opening up in two days, I didn’t need to be a genius to figure out this was one of the Green Bay Packers.

The football player glanced over. He saw what I I see in the mirror every day. He saw a conservatively dressed, 55-year-old white guy with a military buzz cut. He immediately pulled out an iPod and put in his ear buds. Seriously, what could we have in common with each other? He sees a fan and expects the same tired questions, so he sends out the message with his ear buds. He wants his privacy. I respect his space, and pull out the book I was reading, A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin.

The professional athlete glanced over at my book, a nd then I see the double-take. Out come the ear buds. He asks me about the book. He is watching the adaptation of the book in the form of an HBO series. And so it begins. I get an hour and a half talking to Nick Collins, a Superbowl winner, and the starting safety on the Green Bay Packers.

The book was the bridge. We did have something in common. We had a story, a fictional world and a narrative that drew up both in. And once we crossed that bridge, we found that we had much more in common. At the end of the flight, when we shook hand and I said, “It’s been a pleasure,” he responded with a very genuine, “Yes, it really has been.”

The moral? Read. It will enrich life and provide connections that cut across age, race, professions, and every other barrier life tries to put up. Reading bridges our differences and provides one more piece of common ground.

Oh, and of course, “Go, Pack, Go!”

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