A few years ago, I was in Central America leading a very small group of Michigan alumni on a tour of Mayan ruins. These folks were mostly retirees, some even in their 80s. Our trip took us to Belize at one point, where we stayed in some beautiful cottages on Chaa Creek in the middle of the rainforest. On one day, a trip was scheduled with a local company to visit the ruins at Caracol, one of the largest complexes of Mayan ruins in the world and also one that has been most sensitively excavated and preserved. Unfortunately, several us came down with a bug the day before this tour and found ourselves barely able to get out of bed on the morning we were to set out for the site. The oldest, a widow from Birmingham named Betty Paige (!) – 82 years old – wasn’t feeling so well, but was so looking forward to this trip that she bucked up and got into the van with the local guide. I mostly hung around the cottages, sipping juices to rehydrate and trying various rainforest remedies to calm my suddenly spastic colon. As is common in the area, storms moved through as the day wore on. Late in the afternoon, the van pulled up and, feeling somewhat better, I went to greet Betty as she emerged. “So, Betty, how was it?” I asked. Betty shook her head calmly and began to tell me of her day, “Well, we started up the mountain road, and about half an hour in we got a flat tire. Fortunately, there was a spare in the van and the driver was able to swap out the tire quickly and we were back on the road. Unfortunately, the spare was apparently punctured as well, and so forty-five minutes later, we were pulled over again by the side of the road. The driver radioed back to the office to send another van and river. About an hour later, he arrived, just as the rain began to fall. So we got into the new van and started up the mountain once again. The rain fell harder and before long, the mud from the mountainside washing across the road made it impassable. Of course, these tropical storms pass quickly so we didn’t have to wait much more a half hour or forty five minutes before we were moving again under clouds that were yielding to blue skies. Perhaps another hour after that we pulled up to the gate of the site. But then we discovered that it had closed early for the day. So there was nothing to do but start heading down the mountain. About a half-hour from the cottages, this new van got a flat and this time there was no spare. So once again, the driver had to radio to base and send for another van. Forty-five minutes more of waiting, the new van finally arrived and we climbed in and eventually made it back here.” “Oh my goodness, Betty, how are you holding up? How frustrating! You must be so disappointed!” Now, Betty was a modest little bird of an old thing. Small and frail and generally very soft-spoken. She said, “You know, Santiago, I have a little saying for occasions like this one” and she gestured for me to come closer so that she could speak more quietly. “But you must promise not to tell anyone that I’ve told you because it just wouldn’t do.” I promised and then she whispered in my ear: “A.F.G.O. Another f**kin’ growth opportunity” and began to laugh heartily. Of course, I also broke into stunned laughter and could find nothing to say or do other than to wrap my arms around her and give her a big smack on the cheek: “Betty, I will never forget what you’ve taught me today.” So of course tonight as I watched the team sink dreadfully in a sea of energetic, jubilant, Miami players and fans, Betty’s vulgar wisdom came to mind. I felt like I was on an especially intense roller coaster having witnessed the stirring victory in Game 5 first hand at what was my first ever Pistons’ game. I knew Game 6 would be tough and I figured the outcome was a toss-up. But I didn’t expect such a lackluster performance. Sitting in front of my TV with my spankin’ new Sheed jersey and my Pistons cap and my thundersticks, I started to feel a little embarrassed, not for them, but for me. As though I’d been a fool. As though I’d actually believed that girl could really like me. What was I thinking? I had to leave at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pick up my son at his school where he was returning from a class trip. And I picked up my daughter at her mom’s on the way. She too was wearing her new Sheed jersey. But she’d turned off the game when we were down 7. It was too much for her. “Are we winning?” she asked hopefully. “Nope. Down 19, I said.” “No, no, no.” she cried, and I really thought she might cry for a second. We turned on Blaha and kept listening. I explained about rally caps and we put them on. We hit a few shots. So did they. We arrived at my son’s school, but the buses hadn’t pulled in yet. So we waited in the car. They hit a few more shots. My daughter went to open the door. “Wait,” I said to Eva, “wait. We’re fans. We’re in this with them.” “I can’t I can’t,” she said, “It’s the Pistons, it’s too much.” So I took her hand in mine, and said, “here, hold my hand”. Miami came down on offense, “De-fense!” I said softly and bounced our held hands together twice on her leg. “De-fense!” she repeated this time with me, and we bounced our held hands together. Miami missed and McDyess pulled down the board. Detroit moved the ball up the floor. “Let’s go Pistons!” I said, again softly, and we bounced our hands in the accompanying rhythm. “Let’s go Pistons.” And Rip drove the lane and scored. Eva smiled. I smiled. But Miami was too much. A.F.G.O. I’m only half of Betty’s age, and I’m sure I’ve only a slight grasp on what she meant by A.F.G.O., but already in my life I’ve held enough crushed hopes and failed at enough endeavors upon the success of which I’d staked great expectations to believe this much very strongly from experience: every failure is a transition, an opportunity to imagine things differently and freshly now that the current configuration has crumbled before your crying eyes. The American novelist Henry Miller once wrote, as I think posted once on the boards, that “Acceptance is the solution: it is an art, not an egotistical performance on the part of the intellect. Through art, then, one finally establishes contact with reality: that is the great discovery. Here all is play and invention . . . the world has not to be put in order: the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order, to know what is the world order in contradistinction to the wishful thinking orders which we seek to impose on one another. The power which we long to possess, in order to establish the good, the true and the beautiful, would prove to be, if we could have it, but the means of destroying one another. It is fortunate that we are powerless. We have first to acquire vision, then discipline and forbearance. . . . the humility to acknowledge the existence of a vision beyond our own. . . . the great joy of the artist is to become aware of a higher order of things, to recognize by the compulsive and spontaneous manipulation of his own impulses the resemblance between human creation and what is called ‘divine’ creation’” A.F.G.O. I wanted so badly for the Pistons to win this Game 6, and, short of that, to at least put forward a heroic effort that would humble Miami. After the inexpressibly thrilling lift of the Game 5 experience at the Palace, I couldn’t imagine that they wouldn’t at least do that. But it didn’t work out that way. A.F.G.O. Humility. A vision beyond my own. What has the universe provided me since it didn’t provide me with what I wanted? First, a little sweet sadness, which reminds me that I care and that I can open my heart and connect to my world. I’m grateful for that. Then, a recognition of what I’d connected to. The Pistons, a marvelously inspiring team for around 90 % of the past three years. I’m grateful for that. Then, these folks on the forum, who have become such good friends, though strangers, that my friends at the game the other night marveled at how sweet and genuinely caring the connections established through the forum threads seemed to be. And of course, for a few minutes, I still got to hold my 15 year old daughter’s hand, both of us in Sheed jersey’s, with our rally caps on, just bouncing our hands together: “Let’s go Pistons.” A.F.G.O.