That was my private little mantra that helped keep me motivated when things were going terribly wrong for me back in the mid 1990s.
A Colorado boy living in northeastern North Carolina, I was working for a small daily newspaper that was slowly killing me and, unbeknownst to me at the time, my first marriage. I was working 60-80 hours a week and becoming a zombified, miserable wretch. I had bosses that I hated, an unrealistic workload, and the stresses of being a new father and having purchased a new home. I spent a couple years trying to get by on an average of four hours of sleep at night, and a lot of that was interrupted by a crying baby.
I felt that I was losing my identity. I was experiencing very little of the things that made me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love my little girl and I loved her mother, but we were sinking roots in a place I didn’t want to be and I was slaving away at a job that gave me little personal satisfaction. I felt I had to work long and hard to be a good provider for my family and employee for my employer.
I eventually learned to take my guilty pleasures wherever I could find them. I steadfastly went to church and kept my quiet time for Bible reading and prayer. (Although, I often fell asleep in church, but shh, we won’t tell the pastor – it’ll be our little secret.) The Denver Broncos were my favorite team, but it was very hard to get them on television on the East Coast. They were also at a down time between a string of Super Bowl losses and their upcoming back-to-back championships, so even when I could follow them, it was often disappointing.
That brings me to Garth – as in Garth Brooks. I grew up listening to country music and hating rock and roll. In high school, that changed, and I learned to love ’80s rock. Throughout that decade I rarely listened to country music. When I moved to North Carolina, however, country music started making a rebound, led by this pied piper in a big ol’ cowboy hat. Brooks brought an arena rock feel to country music and forever changed the genre. I loved it! His music made me feel alive again and brought me back to my country roots.
When it was announced that he was going to perform three nights nearby at the Hampton Coliseum in October of 1993, I knew I just had to go. I couldn’t afford tickets and the shows sold out quickly, so that meant trying to get in as a member of the press. I made some phone calls to the agency that handled him and not only did I get a pair of tickets to the opening night show, but I was invited to his press conference. There, I got to ask him a question. He answered and asked me my name. I told him, but I did not say whom I worked for. I was too angry and ashamed.
I got to shoot pictures from the front of the stage during the first three songs. I then found my seat, which was on the side but level with the stage, so I continued to take pictures throughout the concert. It was the best show I had ever seen. I can count on my fingers the number of times in my life I’ve experienced pure ecstasy (excluding sex) and that night was one of them.
That was the impact he and his music had on me and it sustained me for a long time. Three years later, my marriage in shambles, I returned to Colorado only to find he was going to be in concert at Denver’s McNichols Sports Arena. I got tickets and went to the show. It just made my triumphal return to Colorado that much more exhilarating. On top of that, the Broncos were winning again and I was discovering this organization called Promise Keepers, which pushed my faith in God to a whole new level.
God, Garth, and the Denver Broncos – man, life was good! As the years progressed, my faith grew stronger, as did my football fandom. My interest in Garth, however, waned. He put out a couple of lame albums and then retired. He was such a staunch family man that I respected him for wanting to stay home and raise his daughters. Unfortunately his first marriage ended and he later married Trisha Yearwood.
There were more than a few rumors at the time that Yearwood was at the heart of the failure of Brooks’ first marriage. I don’t know that, but I believed it and it soured me on the man. As much as I like his music, it just doesn’t have the same feeling to me anymore.
Flash forward to now and Garth Brooks is out of retirement, recording music and touring again. He did the opening and closing shows at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. On Sunday I used my press tickets to take my wife to the closing concert. It was my third time to see him live and Sandy’s first. We had a great time and enjoyed the show. He brought Yearwood out for a duet and she sang one of her songs. As we watched the show, I had a ton of mixed feelings. I enjoyed seeing Garth again but I no longer have the same awe that struck me 25 years ago. He also lacks the energy and pizzazz he had back then, but then who doesn’t? No more running around the stage or swinging over the audience on a rope. There was very little interaction with the audience. He mostly stayed on stage and sang.
Although it’s of little consequence, Brooks has become a control freak. He did not allow any press photography and had the rodeo send out an email telling us that the only picture we could use was the single press photo they included. Yeah, right …
There is a lot more to the back-story on this, but I’m not going to get into that right now. For the moment I’m going to enjoy the memories of a great show and make plans for more wonderful events coming up this year. And while God will always be first and foremost, the rest of my plans have little to do with Garth and the Denver Broncos. I find better motivation in a great wife, super kids, a good job, and life in Texas.