Celebrating the Extraordinary Tom Brady and LeBron James but Focusing on the Ordinary
Getting beyond the residual and lasting impact of racism in America and elsewhere takes all of us. On the surface at least, it appears we can do that together in sports with the following and adoration of Tom Brady and LeBron James. Tom Brady is the most successful quarterback ever in American football. His teams won seven Super Bowls in the NFL (National Football League). He just retired. LeBron James just reached the top of a mountain no one thought possible by becoming the all-time career points leader in the NBA (National Basketball Association). Neither record is likely to be broken anytime soon.
As extraordinary as they are, Brady and James started out their careers entirely differently. Born in California, Brady redshirted his freshman year at the University of Michigan and was a backup for the next two years. He was frustrated and needed a sports psychologist to help him remain hopeful. An athletic assistant coach worked with Brady on his confidence and performance. Brady finished his fifth year in college successfully beating top teams but was not regarded highly in pro football recruiting. He was drafted as the 199th player in the sixth round of the NFL draft yet became a football legend.
Born in Ohio, James moved in to live with the family of a youth athletic coach when he was nine, at the behest of his mother Gloria who could not find steady work. James was a prodigy and was featured in the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16 and while still in high school. He led his high school to state championships in three out of four years, and was being compared to Michael Jordan. Straight out of high school James was drafted as the #1 pick in the NBA. Expectations were sky high, and twenty years later, James has met or exceeded almost all of them.
It is not without hard work, perseverance, skills, intelligence, timely support, and certainly, a bit of luck that Brady and James have achieved so much. It is easy to see the lives of Brady and James and believe in a meritocratic society today where everyone has the opportunity to reach high aspirations if only they had the capacity and tried hard.
In this Black History Month, it is also easy to see the progress from the life of the incomparable Frederick Douglass — whose famous autobiography chronicled his escape to freedom from the throes of slavery in 1800s after being denied learning to read and write — to the life of LeBron James. But the hard truth is that the extraordinary are just extraordinary! What we need is a society where the mere ordinary like Tyre Nichols have a chance to eke out a decent living without fear and prejudice.
Victims of the ongoing Ukraine war and the Syria-Turkey earthquake can use all the help we can give! Consider your local organizations involved in benefitting them or international ones, such as care.org.
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