The other day, my friend’s sponsor told him to “stick with the winners.” Then the sage old-timer shook my hand and patted me on the back. I took it to be his endorsement of me as a winner and one of the folks with whom my friend should “stick.”
This struck me odd coz I’ve never considered myself a winner.
When I was in the third grade, I liked to draw. My mom thought I was quite good. And I think I had a knack for sketchin’ people, animals and cartoon characters. One day, a little girl classmate asked me to “draw a horse.”
She loved it and showed the picture to her friend who said, “Ugly. I can do better.”
I believed her. I mean, why would she say it if it wasn’t true?
When I was fifteen, I started boxin’. I went into trainin’ coz I was tired of gettin’ beat up. Even though I wasn’t enrolled in the program, I was allowed to join the Clearfield Job Corps Boxing Team. My coach was Jimmy Gee.
I was the smallest guy on the squad and, believe me, I learned how to take a punch. I also developed a little bit of skill and, somehow, I ended up in the finals of the Utah Golden Gloves 1969 and, that same year, was on Las Vegas television during the regional championships.
My boxin’ coach, Jimmy Gee, said, “Joe, you’re the first white guy I’ve met in a long time with any guts.”
Then, in my senior year of high school, some loud mouth said, “You in the Golden Gloves? I could beat your ass with one hand.”
I believed him. I mean, why would he say it if it wasn’t true?
That same year I was called into my class advisor’s office. He wore glasses and he goin’ bald. He said, “You’re test scores are impressive. But you’re failing your core classes. Why?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
He showed me a blank form. He said, “This is your ‘Plan for the Future’ form. You were supposed to fill this out. Tell us what you plan to do after graduation. You wrote your name and nothing else. Why?”
I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m goin’ to do after graduation.”
He said, “Well, you’ve got to put down something. I don’t care what you say. You can say you’re going to work full time. You’re going to medical school. Divinity school. The Jar-Head Marines. You can say you’re going to be a rock star. Heavyweight Champion of the World. You can say you’re going to drink yourself to death. Shoot drugs. Be a pimp. Be a whore. A murderer. Commit suicide. I don’t care what you put down on this form as long as you put it down on this form. It has to be completed before you graduate.”
I took the form and filled it out in his office. I plagiarized his pep talk, word for word. Once finished, I handed it to my counselor and he placed it in a folder on his desk, closed its cover and put it a bin marked ‘to be filed.’ He stood, shook my hand and said, “Get to class.”
I left his office smilin’.
This winner was goin’ to graduate.