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terry mcdonald: December 2010 Archives

Terry McDonald: Newfoundlander in a strange land

Terry McDonald

Terry McDonald is a graduate student studying in Tallinn, Estonia

How happy are you, on a scale of one to ten? Right then, as his behemothic Hall-of-Fame hand cocoons my eager outstretch, I was a 10. He, who would just the next day be named the Greatest Player of All Time by the NFL, and I, a dented brain on creaking sticks from the true dead end of a dead end road in a fishless Avalon fishing village, were meeting - in England. Terry McDonald was shaking hands with Jerry Rice outside Wembley Stadium. The world is a strange and beautiful place.

Logically, this should never have happened. Had I followed any sort of reasonable, rational, or even Darwin-affirming self-preserving path in life's wilderness, I would be nowhere near this moment. Futures, Mortgages, Pension+ RRSP with an RESP started and another on the way - is this not the path of the righteous modern man? Perhaps it is; there is little doubt this little lamb has gone astray.

It was in my third year of a drifting university existence, a time when all doctrine was not so much rejected as flayed, that this small-town Siddhartha stumbled upon his mantra. Adbusters magazine, the catechism of capitalist-critique, was a monthly indulgence, and it was in those low-gloss pages that I found the idea stream I was to ride.

Like all truly great ideas, it comes not so much as a discovery as it does a revelation: "How happy are you right now, on a scale of one to 10?" Boom - the Happiness Quotient -and I was off to the races.

I changed my major from business to political science /religious studies. I didn't use my degree for work, I played guitar. I didn't marry a nice girl and buy a house, I kept on running - all driven by the quest for a ten. Naturally, like so many jazz-navigators before, I was bound for quite a ride.

I'd never really travelled, and a damoclean student loan was about to come due - decidedly unhappy news. So, in need of a new plan, I was off: grad school in Estonia. The Happiness Quotient is a petulant pilot; buy the ticket, take the ride.

Coming from Colliers, a town of 700, Jerry Rice was an unlikely choice for a boyhood hero. Still, a hero he was, and I was his devotee. A crimson number 80 jersey on my back, a life-size (or so I thought) poster on my wall, and a controller in my hand, all I wanted to be in life was Jerry Rice. He had it all: the skill, the poise, the drive, and the humility - he was the man we all should be. It was strange because there was no football in Newfoundland.

I had never seen a live game, I had never even seen a field. Moreover, I didn't even know anyone who knew the rules, but I didn't care. With John Madden's 16-bit voice and graphics as my guide, and Jerry as my idol, I was going to learn the greatest game on earth. Like any enraptured fool, I dove in headlong. No stat was too trivial, no game too small. Any game Danny saw fit to show on Cable Atlantic's basic package, I was going to watch. Pro or college, it didn't matter; I was the only kid in my Grade 8 class in a University of Michigan football jacket.

Still, Jerry's team, the San Francisco 49ers, literally could not have been any further away from me. I spent years just imagining going to a game, I taught the neighbourhood how to play, just so I could pretend to be him, but it was still just a pipe dream. We all must grow up, and forget our childish dreams, right?

Wrong. Along comes the Happiness Quotient, and I'm in Europe. Then, BAM: another miracle, the NFL is coming back to London. Then, double-BAM: the 49ers are one of the two teams coming. Then, infini-BAM: as the designated 'home' team for the game, they are bringing along some franchise legends for the game, including my man Mr. Rice.

I floated along the ancient English ground, and barely touched it. I slept alongside the sacred Thames, and barely heard it. Jerry was there, and so was I, and four-and-a-half lies later, I met him. How happy are you, on a scale of one to 10? Sometimes it pays to ask.

Terry McDonald is a graduate student studying in Tallinn, Estonia