Eight words. Just eight little words and my world completely changed, immediately and permanently upsetting my schedule and leaving me to deal with both the stigma of failure (at least in my own mind) and the embarrassment of telling my friends what my varsity basketball coach had just told me, “Rodney, we won’t need your help this year.”
I’ll never forget sitting there across the desk from him, shocked, trying to process the meaning of his words, completely and totally unsure how to respond. I remember, simply standing, not saying a word, and walking out of his office to re-join my friends in the school’s cafeteria.
As I sat down, my best friend asked me, “So, did coach tell you what style shoe the team’s ordering this year?”
“No,” I said. “He cut me.”
“What! That’s bullshit! What a jerk! How can he cut you as a junior?”
“I don’t know, but he did.”
“Aren’t you mad? Aren’t you going to go in and argue?”
And that was pretty much that. One day I was on the basketball team – practice every night after school, games on the weekend – and the next I wasn’t. Boom. Done. Finished. Over.
The weird part was I wasn’t really upset. In fact, when I looked into the deepest part of me, the part where you have to be honest, I realized I was actually relieved to be off the basketball treadmill. I didn’t particularly like the other guys on my team. I didn’t particularly like the coach. Most telling? After I was cut, I didn’t pick up a basketball for any meaningful length of time for almost 20 years.
One moment, I was religiously shooting in the driveway, dreaming of leading Louisville to the Final Four (only in the TV era could a kid from Ohio dream of playing for Denny Crum at Louisville) and the next I’m auditioning for the lead in the school play (I made it, but was awful) and learning how to ski (a passion that still burns bright – my wife and I moved to Colorado for a few years and to this day we ski/snowboard most winter weekends with our five kids).
In retrospect, I deserved to be cut and, in fact, may have wished to be cut. Once I was, my life really took off. I tried new things. I made new friends. And, best of all, I started to re-shape my image of who I was. For too long, I viewed myself as a basketball player. Now, I had the chance to start over with a clean slate and build a new me.
It was interesting, scary and fun.
I became a more well-rounded athlete (the baseball coach didn’t cut me and we ended up advancing all the way to the state-semifinals my senior year), student (it was awful nice to have time for all that homework) and person. In the end, I didn’t necessarily slow down, but never again was I so completely focused on one thing – well until I got married and had kids, but that’s another story.
I’ve carried this lesson with my through life. It helped when I realized as a sophomore in college that I wasn’t going to be successful as a business major because I didn’t really like any of my classes, but that I loved to write and ask questions, which as it turns out, is another word for journalist.
And, it continues to help each month as we work to shape a magazine that is interesting, helpful and fun. After reading all the copy for this issue, I think we’ve got another winner on our hands. But, of course, that’s for you to decide.
If you like it (or if you don’t), drop us and e-mail (email@example.com), send us a letter (PO Box 1166, Medina, OH 44258) or give us a call (866-444-4216) and let us know what you think.
Till next month,
Rodney J. Auth