15 February 2006


I've been catching up on my Esquire reading, which reminds me (1) how very, very good Esquire is right now, and (2) how very removed I am from the world of high fashion in which the Prada and Dolce & Gabbana ads make any sense.

This article on speed-skater Apolo Ohno from the February issue set off a train of thought. Here's the key quote:
He does it because he's one of the lucky ones in this life, having found something he's monstrous at. Unlike most of the rest of us, he wakes up each morning with the chance to be perfect. "There's not one day I don't want to be on the ice," he says, and that's because for two minutes at a time, he is as good as it gets.
That word--"monstrous"--stuck in my head because of a conversation I once had with my good buddy Paul. We were talking about the famous 1978 playoff game in Fenway Park between the visiting Yankees and Paul's beloved Red Sox. That game is best known for Bucky Dent's three-run homer, which put the Yankees on top in the seventh inning.

What's less remembered is the home run that Reggie Jackson hit in the eighth inning--a solo shot that provided the Yankees their ultimate one-run margin of victory. Paul was watching the game as it unfolded, and he remembers the Jackson hit as a "monstrous" shot to centerfield. (Paul and I had this conversation a couple of years ago, and I can still see the way he rolled his eyes to the heavens as he said this.) It was incongruity that made Dent's homer famous, because Dent was such a light hitter. Jackson's blast was to be expected because he was, in a word, monstrous as a hitter.

Most of us never find our "chance to be perfect." This is another way of saying that we never put ourselves in a Category of One. Apolo Ohno has found his, and once the Torino Olympics are over, he'll have to figure out what else to do with his life. Reggie Jackson became wealthy and famous because he lived out his chance to be perfect for so many years on such a big stage.

Most of us certainly won't ever find fame and fortune in athletics, but somewhere, lurking in the shadows or staring us in the face, is our chance to be monstrous. Let's find all commit to find it.


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