Seeing ‘Used To Be’s'”

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 April 6, 2013


My son and I are in Atlanta this weekend for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. The Final Four weekend is “an event”, complete with a convention center filled with exhibits, people wearing orange (Syracuse), blue (Michigan), red (Louisville) and gold (Wichita State). There is intense team loyalty. David and I don’t care. We’re just enjoying the event.

Another thing about the Final Four weekend is that there are a lot of tall people walking around. Very tall! For some of them age has not been kind! For others the resemblance of who they are now compared to twenty years ago is striking. Danny Ferry doesn’t look much different now than he did when he played at Duke in the late 80’s. Of course, he looked like he was about 40 when he was in college. Now he looks like he’s about 40 with minimal hair.

I found myself walking around “Bracket Town”, the name of the place where the exhibits are at, looking at tall people and wondering “Did he used to be someone?”No one asks that about 58 year old 5’6” white guys. (Okay! I’m really fix foot six and a half inches!) When you see someone six foot eight you wonder, especially when it is at a place where basketball people congregate.

I saw Rolando Blackman, who has been retired from the NBA for twenty years and yet I recognized him right away. Christian Laettner looks a little more domesticated than when he was going through his “bad boy non-conformist” days. Of course, my opinion is still filtered by my pain over seeing his buzzer beater shot against Kentucky. I was a Big Blue fan back in those days. Laettner was the enemy. Twenty years later it was hard to look at him and still not regard him as the enemy.

But then there were the hundreds of 6’6”, 6’7”, and 6’8” guys who were walking around the Georgia Dome who looked like they might used to have been someone.

Fame is fleeting in this world. People follow you for what you are doing for them currently, not for what you used to do. Our culture is very much a “in the moment” kind of people. History is not valued by many folk. One day in basketball practice I mentioned Larry Bird to my 14 girls who were crowded around me, and I was met with 14 blank looks. I then asked “Doesn’t anyone know who Larry Bird is?”

Fourteen pauses.

And then one brave young lady responded in question form, “Birdman?”

My mouth dropped open. It may have been the first time that someone had confused Chris Anderson with being Larry Bird. History is not valued.

It also tells me that my purpose is not necessarily to be remembered, recognized, or even memorialized, but rather to live my life with purpose, passion, and responsibility. I may not even be recognized as a “used to be”, but God has gifted me, graced me, and called me to make an impact in the lives of others. The impact may happen in small ways, or in one lasting conversation at just the right moment in one person’s life. It may be an impact that happens after a multitude of “reflecting Jesus” moments. The difference between wondering whether that 6’9” balding giant who just passed me use to be somebody and who I am is that I’m called to lead people to knowing and remembering Jesus for now and ever. It’s the best philosophy for a former point guard: Give it to the Big Guy!

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One Comment on “Seeing ‘Used To Be’s'””

  1. janet Says:

    Fan or follower is the question as well. Even though I well remember Larry Bird because I was a definite basketball follower during his era, now most of the time I am just a fan. May I be remembered as a follower of Jesus not a fan.

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