When your heroes collide (Post #3)

It’s a slam dunk

A long time ago I used to idolize NBA superstar Doctor J, in many ways I still do. I consider him a gentleman that handled his success with style and grace.  My memory of him is starting to transition from legendary to mythical.  Some of the things he did with a basketball are almost impossible to describe, because it sounds like “you’re making it up.”  Here’s a short clip from the NBA slam dunk competition in 1976.  Doctor J would regularly do this kind of stuff in games with 9 other players on the court. In my opinion he is one of 5 players who changed the game dramatically.  Changed it forever into what we know as modern day basketball.  That’s pretty amazing.  I’ve never felt that much admiration or thrill from watching any sports player before or since.  Especially not in basketball.  

I even had the unbelievable opportunity to meet Julius Erving at a game.  When I was saving my pennies doing a 5am paper route for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I would use some of my salary to buy tickets from a friend who had seats that were court side. My friend had a friend who worked for the Philadelphia Daily News and he did a short story on how my “hero worship” had altered the path of my young life. (more on that in a future post)

Rearing an ugly head

Before I had a chance to meet Dr. J, my Dad had asked me a question when we were alone. Just one on one. He flatly said…”Why couldn’t you have picked a white player to admire?” Wow! I couldn’t believe it as I felt my enthusiasm immediately drain from body. Growing up in an all white town in the 60’s and 70’s, I was well aware of the “color line” but my parents never preached hate and didn’t try to actively indoctrinate us with any specific views. I remember saying something like “Because he’s the best”. He was still disappointed or maybe it was disapproving.

Take the good and leave the rest

What does this have to do with personal finance you might ask?
I ask myself the same question. It’s more about having someone that you admire in your life for all the right things. Intelligence, work ethic, honor, loyalty, but having a single critical flaw that can never be reconciled. You have to love and accept that person for what they are and who they are. It doesn’t matter how much you might want them to change. The change needs to come from them.

Do you think my Dad might think that it’s cool or be proud that I worked hard to become a “millionaire”? Might he simply say… “You sacrificed too much.” in achieving this goal. I’ve touched on parental “guilt trips” here in some previous posts. I’ve also worked hard to make sure I’m doing everything I can to better understand all points of view. I also sometimes try to remember that in sharing my wealth.

In the end

There is a scene in “Field of Dreams” where the lead character, Ray Cancella, played by Kevin Costner, recounts saying to his Father, “I could never respect a man whose hero was a criminal”, referring to his Dad’s admiration of “Shoeless Joe Jackson” who was thrown out of baseball for his participation in players throwing the 1919 World series.  It’s not this connection that connects my story with my own Father, it’s what he says next.  “The son of bitch died before I could take it back.”  My Dad died before he ever knew that I got to meet my hero and how much that meant to me.  I didn’t want to take anything back, I always hoped that he might have been able to eventually see things differently.  I learned a lot from both of these men of legend.

I keep photos of both in my home office and they inspire me still to strive to be the best I can.  I often see these mental conflicts as a reason for deeper introspection.  In the end, we each find our way of managing our life the way we think best.  It’s never easy and it’s never black and white. 

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