When American astronaut Alan Shepard stepped onto the moon, he marked the occasion with "It's been a long way - but we're here". It's a seemingly obvious statement, but when you dig a little deeper, his carefully chosen words summed up his life's determination to overcome many obstacles in his way to the lunar surface.
America's first astronaut, Shepard had been poised for a stellar career when he was suddenly grounded by Meniere's Disease, an inner ear abnormality that causes the world to spin relentlessly - not a good trait for a pilot. Consigned to desk work, he watched for the following decade as junior flyers piloted the prime flights in NASA's race to the moon.
Eventually, an experimental ear operation fixed the problem and he worked hard to regain his fitness and flight status. Shepard was all set to fly Apollo 13 when he was bumped for the ill-fated flight crew - one more obstacle avoided. Having survived all of these impediments, he finally landed on the moon, and even hit a couple of golf balls into the immense gray sand trap.
I was grounded myself for a few years when San Jose's soccer team was taken away to NASA's hometown of Houston. I watched as the displaced squad won a couple of MLS Cups that should have belonged here - the crew was the same. After a couple of years watching soccer from my living room couch, I resumed my season ticket holder status when the Earthquakes returned to San Jose in 2008.
I expected that my butt would be parked in a comfy seat in the new stadium within a couple of years. But, just like Alan Shepard, there were many obstacles on the journey to the stadium - endless planning meetings, appeals from NIMBY neighbors, and unexploded ordnance on the construction site. My lower back was contorted from seven years on the bleachers - not a good trait for a happy fan.
Finally, with all the "t"s crossed and "i"s dotted on the paperwork, the ground was broken by thousands of fans, and the path to the stadium has been paved and lined with trees. Cast your eye around Avaya Stadium, and you'll see the stadium coated with ancient, thousand year old lumber - another tie to NASA; it was recycled from the demolished giant blimp hangars at nearby NASA Ames. There have been times it seemed as though the fans would wait just as long for the new stadium.
So, when I step through the turnstile into Avaya Stadium on Saturday, I will channel my inner astronaut, and mark the occasion with Alan Shepard's phrase "It's been a long way - but we're here".
I'm "Over The Moon Brian".