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Beating the Odds

A Brush With Greatness

Have you ever heard the story of Eric James Torpy? In a way, it is the story of too many people.
Five years ago, Torpy was facing a 30-year term for shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Torpy didn’t want 30 years. He wanted 33 — to match the uniform number that basketball legend Larry Bird wore.

“He (Torpy) said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird’s jersey,” the judge explained.
So how can Torpy’s story be the story of too many people? Most of us are not facing a long prison term, and most of us haven’t been menacing anyone with a gun. No, here’s why Torpy’s story is all too familiar: People are like Torpy in the sense that they long for a brush with greatness.
They root for championship teams like Bird’s Boston Celtics; they collect autographs; they wear pro sports attire; they attend games; they hold out their hand for a high-five from the players; they visit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, where Bird is enshrined. They’re always looking to touch greatness.
Unfortunately, this is the closest most people ever get to greatness, and that’s a shame. They don’t know that greatness is available to anyone willing to pursue it.
Look at baseball statistician Bill James. He began researching while he worked as a night watchman in a pork and beans factory. He examined baseball questions night after night, and didn’t give up when hardly anyone paid attention to his work. Finally, people began to notice, and James wound up revolutionizing the way players are measured. Today he works as a consultant for a big-league team.
It’s a dream journey — from a pork and beans factory to a big-league office, all through hard work and perseverance.
But not everyone is willing to work as hard as James did. They want their greatness without cost — through the wearing of a jersey, or through the purchase of an autograph.
None of this is meant to suggest that people shouldn’t enjoy a ballgame or root for a certain team. That’s part of having fun. But no one should care more for the deeds of others than they care about their own potential.
If you want to be like Larry Bird, then practice like he did!


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