The Dream to Be like Mike and the Odds of Achieving It
Leavy, Walter, Ebony
LIKE millions of little boys -- from one generation to another -- I grew up with the dream of becoming a professional athlete, specifically a baseball player. I loved the game (still do) and exhibited some talent at an early age. As far back as I can remember, I was always among the first to be selected when teams were chosen for sandlot games. And by the time I was 16, I could look into the stands and see major league scouts who had come to Northside High School in Memphis to see if I could play shortstop well enough to one day wear one of their team uniforms.
One of those teams represented was the New York Yankees, a team that I began to follow as a 7-year-old. I was so captivated by the 1961 world champions that I could, without hesitation, recite personal and professional statistics about each member of the team. How much better could it get? Not only was I being evaluated by major-league scouts, but by those from my favorite team! This was a magical time in my life. But by the time I graduated from high school -- even with the real possibility of realizing my lifelong dream -- incredibly and inexplicably, I changed course. Not because of an injury or some other situation I couldn't control. I simply lost interest in that pursuit and began to chart a career in journalism.
To this day, I still haven't come up with a specific reason for making such a drastic change. Fortunately, I had been a pretty good student in high school and was able to successfully shift gears when I got to college. I have my parents and grandparents to thank for that. I could be negligent in some areas, but not when it came to my education. When I was in the ninth grade, I remember getting a "D" in algebra (I still say it wasn't deserved) and my parents wouldn't allow me to rejoin the baseball team until I improved. That was the longest six-week period of my life, but I did get an "A" on my next report card.
Only on a couple of occasions have I seriously wondered what would have happened had I continued to pursue that original dream. I'll never know what the outcome would have been, but I do know that -- even though things looked promising -- the odds were against me. And they are against anyone else who has hopes of accomplishing that same dream.
Just as it was for me years ago, today there's a group of young, starry-eyed Brothers in elementary school, junior high school, senior high school and college who dream about a career in sports -- to be like Mike, Deion and Jr. Too many are so totally convinced that they are "the one" who has the talent and enough of the intangibles to make it to the professional level that they have, in essence, bet their lives on what can be described as a rifle shot in the dark. …