Who will light the fire that I need to survive?
Who will be the life blood coursing through my veins? - Strength, The Alarm, 1985
Sorry if this one is a little too personal today. Life doesn't always go as we plan. But we do have the choice to try to make the best of it, and sometimes success in the face of adversity makes it feel that much better.
Consider a certain French gynecologist working in Paris in the early 1800's (yes, that is quite a leap, just bear with me...). Napoleon I decided it was time to conquer Europe so he went around and signed up a lot of people to go fight for him, including this particular doctor. He was a noted physician and very skilled in gynecological surgery, and Napoleon figured he was going to have a need for a surgeon. A lot of need, in fact. Invasions are like that.
The War of the 6th Coalition pitted Napoleon I against pretty much everyone else and promptly went south when the French invaded Russia (if only they'd listened to Vizzini) and wasted nearly a million human lives on both sides, but it did result in the greatest statistical map ever, one of the greatest books ever, and in at least one pretty important medical discovery.
That French surgeon realized quickly he wasn't going to be doing a lot of the gynecological procedures he pioneered and the academic position he coveted was indefinitely on hold, but he did make a pretty incredible contribution to science all the same. As he was amputating the tenth or twentieth or hundredth gangrenous foot of a calvary soldier who fell (or was shot) from his saddle with one foot stuck and twisted in one stirrup, he realized that this common injury pattern resulted in a very high rate of vascular compromise to the end of the foot. That injury pattern resulted from a loss of integrity of the joints at the base of the 1st and 2nd metatarsals, either by fracture or ligamentous tear, allowing the lateral four metatarsals to displace laterally from the proximal part of the foot, effectively cutting off the blood supply to the lateral distal foot. After the war, Napoleon was exiled to Elba and this surgeon went back to his day job in Paris, but he also published a paper describing his operative procedure for all those foot injuries, and in effect, alerted the world to the importance of recognizing an unstable joint at the proximal 1st and 2nd MT and the need to stabilize the midfoot to prevent ischemia and gangrene and loss of the foot. That joint and injury are now named after that surgeon, Jacques Lisfranc de St Martin.
So, though it was surely still a net negative, a few good things did come out of the war, which is how the War of the 6th Coalition ties into U.C.L.A. Football. See? I told you to bear with me.
Now if Lisfranc hadn't written it up, someone else some other time surely would have, but he was the guy who dealt with his less than ideal circumstances, didn't freeze to death in Russia, and provided something of benefit from a crummy situation. That's why it's his name that is immortalized and not the team of some similarly drafted French pediatrician.
I wrote a lot last Sunday about dealing with adversity against BYU. Then IEAngel went one better on Tuesday in the Eye Test when he included the news of Lisfranc's legacy costing us our best cornerback. When he titled his article Overcoming Adversity, Part 1, it really bothered me because the clear implication from his usual outstanding analysis was that there would be a part 2, and I'd had enough adversity already. But it was just a few hours later near midnight that I first heard some whispers that there was an even bigger injury about to come to light.
I, like most of Bruins Nation here and abroad, was shocked, dismayed, and totally gutted for our incredible linebacker, and secondarily, worried like hell about our team. It was hard to imagine a way that we could be successful against an offense like Arizona, to say nothing of Stanford, Cal, or Southern Cal after losing our best DB, our best LB, and one of our two fantastic DL. What team could overcome that? And since the answer was obviously "none", why even try?
Well, because the answer wasn't "none". And it's never "none". And at some level I knew that. We all knew that. But in tough times, it can be hard to realize that the answer is never "none". Mora talked on Thursday about how he was sure his team was going to play a great game, and I started to take heart a little bit. But it wasn't until yesterday morning, hours before the Arizona game, that it really became clear to me.
(another big jump coming here, so again, please stick with me...)
Many of you are too young to remember when MTv actually played music. You did know the M stands for music, right? Well, I can't blame anyone for not making that connection anymore, but way back in the day, they played music videos all day and all night. No reality shows. No awards shows. No crap. Just music videos, like a radio with moving pictures. Sometimes they even showed concerts. and the single very best concert they ever showed was one played right on our own beloved campus. On April 12, 1986, The Alarm was one of the biggest British folk/rock/punk acts from the U.K., second in popularity only to their friends and contemporaries, U2, and on that day with 25,000 people jamming the quad between the Dance Building and the Men's Gym and the IM field to Janss' Steps, MTv televised one of the first worldwide live satellite broadcast concerts. The Alarm at U.C.L.A. It was awesome.
I was a big fan of the band and their music, though not quite big enough to skip my senior prom that day to go to the concert, though 3 of my classmates did. But the event was edgy and epic and it made U.C.L.A. look like the absolute coolest place in the entire world. And the more that I listened to The Alarm over that summer and the next years, the more their music and message grew on me. It helped that they were Welsh, as my family tree sprouts from Wales and I like to claim that my peoples also have been oppressed by the Crown for centuries. Much more importantly, their lyrics sang a message of hope and perseverance that really resonated with me during tough times the next couple years when that prom date stated dating someone else, and I browsed majors for a bit, and generally had to come to terms with living on my own and making big boy decisions about education and life and the future when it would have just been a lot easier to hide from it all.
I saw The Alarm in L.A. and San Diego several times during my college days, until, as bands do, they broke up in 1991, the year I graduated with life pretty well planned out and on track for the time, in part due to their music providing some much-needed inspiration during those early rocky years in Westwood. The lead singer, Mike Peters, resurrected the band's name 9 years later in 2000 to promote some old material and advertise his new music and new musicians, though they never reached the popularity of the 80's-90's version.
Peters was first diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 and did well with treatment, but cancer returned in a bigger way in 2005. For trying to maintain a musical career while facing a recurrent deadly disease, you couldn't fault someone for at least asking himself what person could overcome it all. But that lasting message from 3 decades of amazing music was clear, and that answer sure as hell wasn't "none".
Peters cofounded the Love Hope Strength Foundation in 2007 with the mission of building and supporting cancer centers around the world. Peters' and his organization sponsored fundraising and awareness raising events and treks across the globe, and set up registration booths at concerts venues around the world. Getting on the registry only takes a few minutes and a cotton swab inside your cheek. The adjacent beer lines take longer than that. It has been a successful approach. To date, LHS has registered over 110K potential donors and nearly 2000 matches have been identified for people needing life-saving bone marrow transplants. Those lyrics from the prophetically titled song and album Strength at the top of this article suddenly became a lot more literal.
LHS organized an event at Red Rocks Park here in my land of exile yesterday morning, a combination hike and musical event led by Peters and several other professional musicians. The Red Rocks Amphitheater is widely known as a great concert venue, but the surrounding park is even more special. It's the kind of place you take good friends when they are passing through town for a bit. Peters led a hike of fundraisers though the Park trails with stops to enjoy some musical interludes along the way. With the help, in part, of some very special Bruins, I was able to raise some funds for LHS and participate in the day, and if you brought your own guitar, you could even join him in playing. I brought my daughter and I brought my Washburn.
Now we're back to U.C.L.A. because I can't hear Mike or The Alarm without recalling that legendary concert on campus that made my soon-to-be University so freaking cool, or without seeing myself on Bruin Walk with their music ringing from my Walkman, or without remembering the times that Peters and The Alarm inspired me during some frustrating and directionless times with some love and some hope and some strength.