This is a year-end wrap-up. December 31 is a day for memories, for retroactive assessments. January 1 is for resolutions — which will be forgotten by December 31 (or May 1).
I begin with a principle: fame is not worth pursuing, especially when you are young. Fame is sometimes worth attaining, but not pursuing.
American public high schools center on sports. We know this in high school. The boys know it. The girls know it. Pairings are made in terms of this.
High school does not last. The relationships do not last. But they seem crucial at the time.
For no particular reason, I looked up Ezell Singleton yesterday. He was a quarterback in southern California in 1957-59. He was spectacular. Here is a good article on him, written by a man who spent his life in public education. It came from a chat in a barbershop. Singleton was also a very good basketball player on a very good team, and a very good baseball player in high school and college. He did not make it into the pros. He died in 2012, forgotten, in Texas.
He was not the best athlete that year in Southern California. One major newspaper voted for Dee Andrews, a great running back on a championship team, and a gold medal hurdler (120 and 180) at the southern California CIF finals (not including Los Angeles). He was also a starter on a very good basketball team. Today, he is a city councilman in Long Beach. This article impressed me.
LONG BEACH (AP) — Dee Andrews still has some speed.The former track and football star, 66, chased a suspected flasher Thursday, using a cell phone to direct police until an arrest was made.
“I’m tired. My back hurts, my legs hurt, even my toes are hurting,” said Andrews, a newly elected member of the Long Beach City Council.
Down, but not out.
Then there was Kenny Hubbs. He was an All-American quarterback, an All-American basketball player, and so good at baseball that he was signed by the Chicago Cubs after graduation. He was a great second baseman — rookie of the year in the National League in 1962. But his life was cut short in a 1964 plane crash. His Wikipedia entry mentions only his baseball career.
There was Anthony Lorick. He was football player of the year in Los Angeles. He was a 24′ 8″ long jumper: gold medal in the city championships. He made it into into the NFL: Baltimore Colts. He died in Texas in 2013. There were no headlines.
Finally, there was Robert Hernandez. Even on the Web, he has left almost no trace. He led his team to an undefeated season in Los Angeles. He was a tailback — a position rarely heard of today. When he entered the game for the city finals, he had passed for 15 touchdowns. That had tied the city record. At the end of the game, he had 22. He raised the city record by almost 50% in one game. Yet there is no trace of this achievement on the Web. I remember it, because I was there. I saw him do it.
They are mostly forgotten. Only old-timers remember them — Andrews excepted. Yet in their day, they were giants. They were in the sports pages.
Michael Jordan is now worth $1 billion. Magic Johnson is worth half a billion. They gained fame and fortune. They have kept both. They are abnormal.
So, I wish you a happy new year.
Stay sober. Don’t get run over by someone who didn’t.