We all have our things.
And by “things” I mean things that are important to us for reasons even the people we are closest to may not understand.
Maybe it’s a picture. Maybe it’s a keepsake with sentimental value. Maybe it’s a pet. Maybe it’s even a sports team.
What are your things?
Here’s my thing (and why I care)
One of my things is the Indiana University men’s basketball program — has been for, oh, I guess about 26 or 27 years now (I’m 33). It started with me attending games with my dad (happy birthday, by the way) and getting an M&M every time IU scored. It continued when I went to college at Indiana. And it endures to this day with the live postgame show I host after every IU game.
You may think I’m crazy to be this devoted to a college sports team. And I probably am.
I spend many a winter night glued to my television, wearing candy-striped pants (and for really important games, my lucky red IU shoes), cheering and sofa-coaching and jumping up and down and jotting down notes … and basically living and dying with each bounce of the basketball.
And for what? Why? I can’t tell you exactly.
I know a big part of it is simply because being a devoted IU basketball fan is all I’ve ever really known.
I also know that an even bigger part of it is that Indiana basketball inspires calls like this into Indianapolis radio stations:
In case you don’t want to listen, here is the short version of the story:
During the 1984 NCAA Tournament, Indiana played North Carolina. The Tar Heels best player at the time was Michael Jordan. Yes, the Michael Jordan. Dan Dakich, a two-year team captain but certainly no star (and certainly not known for his athleticism), drew the assignment of guarding Jordan in a game few people thought Indiana could win. The Hoosiers did win, in large part because Dakich led an IU defensive effort that held Jordan to 13 points.
Somewhere far away from the court that night, a young girl named Kimberly, 13 at the time, was trying to sleep. But all she could hear was her mother and father cheering the Hoosiers on. Even after the game was over and the TV was off, the celebration continued. Eventually, Kimberley fell asleep. Tragically, when she awoke, her father had passed away. Her final memory of him was the sound of his joy and elation, which to this day she is eternally thankful for.
That game, that moment, means the world to her to this day — because it meant the world to her dad.
This is the story that Kimberly herself tells in the video above. It is a recording of her call into Dan Dakich’s radio show. Dakich responds with predictable speechlessness. What do you say after hearing a story like that?
Once he composes himself, Dakich recounts what his coach, the legendary Bob Knight, used to tell the team.
“He would always tell us, when you didn’t play hard or you didn’t play well, how much Indiana basketball means to people you don’t even know. He was always talking about that. He was always saying that. “You have no idea the effect that Indiana basketball has on people.”
He always told us: “You never know.”
Well, I’m one of those people.
A win can absolutely brighten my night. A big win? That can make an entire weekend. 😉 And losses are just the opposite (though I am proud of myself for getting much better at dealing with the disappointment of defeat).
More than that, it’s about what Indiana basketball represents … or is supposed to represent: hard work, teamwork, sportsmanship, actually being student-athletes and not just unpaid professionals, etc.
I mean it when I say that more than wins and losses, what’s important to me is seeing the players who come and go do their best to uphold these ideals that don’t change and mature from boys into men, like I did in college.
This is what Coach Knight was getting at in his message to the team: that there is some guy in Dallas, over a thousand miles away, who you can make proud by giving your best effort each time you take the floor — and there are tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of people just like him across the world. People like Kimberley, and her parents.
Dan Dakich had no idea he was going to create an epic, lifetime memory for some 13-year old girl a world away from the court that night. Be he did, with the help of his teammates.
Dakich took pride in his personal assignment that night, while maintaining the humility to work within a team concept … and something great happened.
What if he hadn’t?
What if Dakich had considered himself unworthy of the assignment?
Or what if he’d strayed from team defensive concepts and tried to be a superhero?
Then North Carolina probably wins, and the last memory Kimberley has of her father is simply nothing — just dejected silence.
Why this matters to you
I take back my question from above. I actually don’t really care what your “things” are. Well, I do … but it’s really not the point of this post.
And I don’t really care whether you think I’m crazy or not for loving a sports team like I do. I am crazy. And I’m okay with it.
What I really care about, and what Kimberly got me thinking about, are roles.
What roles do I fill in my life that can have a profound impact on people? What opportunities to provide a positive impact might I be missing if I don’t bring my best effort each day?
Take my job. Copyblogger has meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time — long before I ever joined the team. If I do my job half-assed, I let down the people who love Copyblogger, the people for whom Copyblogger really means something.
I hope that on some level Primility is beginning to mean something to the people who read this site. What if I can write something that makes someone’s day better? I let down that person if I create content that is half-assed.
In the words of Coach Knight: you never know.
So I ask you …
What roles in your life have the potential to make a big impact on someone? Even if it’s just one person? Even if you don’t and won’t ever know the person?
Are there any roles you may be taking for granted that could be impactful if you viewed them this way?
We may not all have the platform to give a 13-year old girl a lasting memory of her father being happy just hours before he passes away … but we can all do our daily part for each other.
Our next action can matter to someone.
If we mentally take pride in that, and then proceed with humble hearts, that next action will matter. Somehow.
To whom? We may never know.
Just because our Kimberley doesn’t call us or thank us, doesn’t mean she isn’t out there.
Are you giving her something to remember?
My thanks to Susie Gregory for graciously allowing me to use the photo of her painting in this post.
[Editor’s note: This post has been updated from its original version. Originally, I referred to Dakich as “nothing more than a role player,” which was not accurate. Though no star, Dakich was a two-year captain and deserves a little more respect for his role on IU’s team than I gave him.]