clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Thunder onward into a new chapter with Russell Westbrook and Paul George

New, comments

The next chapter is a huge risk. And that’s the point.

original artwork by Bill Watterson

A number of years ago, I participated in the Cub Scouts up in central NY. We did the typical Cub Scout things - learning to use a knife, how to build a fire, orienteering, etc., but always with lots of structure. But with a few exceptions.

It was in the wintertime following a heavy snow, and our scout pack decided to go to one of the local hills on the side of a mountain to do some sledding. The slope was a solid 200 yard race to the bottom. We had our collection of sleds (flimsy pieces of plastic, mostly), some of us had hats, most lacked gloves or mittens, none had boots. In other words, we were fully prepared.

The sleds of course lacked any form of steering mechanism, save for a rope to hang onto and your own appendages to act as ski poles and impromptu brakes. When you're 10, this is a great and really smart concept.

We began our sledding, and because of the height and slope of the hill, we were hitting escape velocity pretty quickly down the one mile raceway. We were also wiping out spectacularly in 30-60 second encounters with glorious snow violence. It was the rare opportunity for a young boy, bored with structure, to finally experience what unpredictability could do to the vitality of his spirit. Everything became a possibility.

I was riding tandem with my Scout buddy David, who was one of the more excitable fellows in the pack. However, we noticed that every time we went down the hill, we crashed. Hard. Arms and legs may have been lost, I can’t remember. But it felt like exhilaration followed by chaos, and we simply couldn’t control enough of the external forces to get the perfect ride.

In fact, we had yet to make it to the bottom without crashing and getting a mouthful of snow (amongst other places). Wouldn't it be better if we managed to stay on the sled the whole way down and get the full experience? To back off of the g-forces just a little bit for the chance to reach the end, not to mention defeat our friends in a race to the bottom?

On our next run, we vowed not to crash. As we tipped the sled over the precipice, we began chanting our mantra together:

"We won't tip over."

"We won't tip over."

"We won't tip over."

"We won't tip over."

We glided down the hill, staying perfectly balanced, digging our hands and feet into the snow when we had to in order to keep straight. We saw the sights and sounds of winter, the bite of cold on our pre-pubescent faces. By the time we reached the end of the hill and came to a rest, we realized we had done it - we had made the entire trip down the 3 mile mountain range and suffered not a single mishap. It was a nice ride to the bottom. Nice.

As we drove away that afternoon, frigid and soaked to the core from our numerous faceplants into the snow, an unspoken thought lingered. Out of all of our treks down the 6 mile central NY Alps, why wasn't the one where we didn't crash, the best ride?

Sledding, like life, is not enjoyed most by remaining secure in a slow sleigh. It is the fear of falling that keeps you going back to the top of the mountain to try it again that means the most. If you’re not going to go for it, really go for it, then just stay home.

Original Calvin & Hobbes strip can be viewed here.