Kubb is a game. It’s also a gift. And every game is a gift. Whenever I win a game, I say “thanks” to the other team. Not because I’m a jerk (I might be) but because I really mean it. Every game the Ringers have ever won has been a gift from our opponents. They could have beaten us, but they didn’t. Thanks.
In Mid-February the Ringers were hit with some surprising news.
Our senior member was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer.
We promptly scheduled a healing trip to Zihuatanejo, you know, the Mexican beach idealized in the movie Shawshank Redemption. The kubb set was already packed.
To my knowledge, no overt decision was made to keep the situation under wraps. I, however, kept it mostly to myself. And here’s why. When you tell someone the you or someone close to you has cancer, people almost always go to a place of fear. And it doesn’t help. My attitude was, and remains, that this was a temporary blip in the flow of life. A phase. An opportunity for healing and education. Of course, it wasn’t me going through the treatment procedures, either. But I wanted to provide an unwavering baseline of positive support to my dad, to my best friend, to my kubb partner.
And so it became to be known, that as we slugged it out with the Knockerheads in the finals at the Loppet just a few weeks earlier, cancer was raging through Dave’s body. Back in Dallas, with Sweden’s Amateur Ringers, his body coursing. Back in Des Moines, the meat grinder, Dave rose to the top with his partner and took it all. Arguably the toughest tournament in North America was taken by a man raging with Cancer.
Suddenly there we were, on the beaches of Zihuatanejo. Our daily ritual of packing the kubb set along with the towels, shovels, buckets and sunscreen. Not acting like nothing was wrong, but behaving as though everything was going to be all right. Relaxing. Playing kubb. Teaching folks, sharing the game. Focusing on what was important. And discovering, once again, that kubb IS important. Not just for us, but for the earth as a whole. We gave it our all, and in the end, we even gave our set to an enthusiatic learner, a native Mexican we met on the beach.
When we won the US Championship back in 2010 it was an incredible gift. You don’t need to know my life story, but let’s just say I was at a point in my life that I thought was rock bottom. That night, after the tourney, I drove across Wisconsin to meet my family, tears in my eyes and a medal on my chest. I stopped at the Horicon Marsh, parked my car and stared into the night sky. Surrounded by the wild calls of nature, I said thanks. And I made a commitment to myself – to give the gift again, to pass it on. My plan? Play as much kubb as possible. Play my best. And give as many people as possible the opportunity to “beat the champs.”
The next day, I gave the first gift. In a friendly game I missed a king shot and my opponent came back to beat me. I felt the smile on his face as we shook. I said “Thanks!” And later, I heard him say “I just beat the National Champ!”