Jim Valvano, Forever Relevant

(my website: rickmaloy.com)

Life should mean something. Every life. Beyond tiny personal circles, most don’t, at least not in the everlasting sense. For a few anointed souls, like Jim Valvano, fate decides otherwise.

In the two days leading up to the 1983 title game, college basketball coach Valvano’s team was universally pitied by the sports media. Houston’s talent-packed Cougars wouldn’t just beat the NC State Wolfpack, they’d humiliate them in front of fifty million viewers. Didn’t happen. NC State won on a last-second shot and reminded us that every now and again little David gets to hoist Goliath’s severed head.

But triumphant underdog isn’t Valvano’s legacy.  It was a basketball game, for godsake. That one, though, was preamble, a setup. The explosive celebrity earned from that single game provided a platform for this telegenic, New York wise-cracker. Even after his days at NC State ended in 1990, Valvano thrived in the public eye. Speaking engagements and color commentating for ESPN filled his time and wallet. Life as good as it could get.

In June, 1992, Valvano awoke with pain in his groin. The following April, bone cancer killed him at forty-seven. Dead, but never gone. He left something huge for all of us. Here’s the link to his short speech at the Espy awards on March 3, 1993 (http://www.warriormindcoach.com/blog/tag/jim-valvano/). Some of you may have seen a snippet of it, but watch and listen to the whole twelve minutes. Admire and love this dying man, a stranger you know you’d treasure as a friend. Be awed by his grace and humor, by his message of hope, and strength, and acceptance. Imagine yourself being able to carry off such a gallant, cheerful, dry-eyed farewell. To my fellow writers: how challenging would it be to create such pathos through the printed word? I couldn’t.

(my website: rickmaloy.com)

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