This oft-quoted statement quickly came to mind Mondayafter I heard about the passing of sports great R.C. Owens. “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
There are variations to the same statement quoted by various people, but the sentiment is the same.
I’m not a sports fan, never been one. I only glance perfunctorily at sports stories in newspapers and magazines, and don’t go looking for them online. And I have yet to watch a Manny Pacquiao fight in its entirety and have only seen snippets of at least one pay-per-view bout.
However, I do enjoy watching the Olympics.
But, having said all that, after being introduced to pro basketball, football and hockey years ago, I became familiar with some names and faces which somewhat caught my attention and interest. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Ricky Henderson, Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Phil Mickelsen, just to name a few. I’ve watched Michael Jordan at a game in Washington, D.C., once. I’ve also been to a National Hockey League game in Maryland but I don’t remember any of the players’ names. I think the Jordan-Bird game was also in Maryland, but it’s been many years ago I’ve forgotten. And I’ve been to maybe a couple of Oakland A’s at the Coliseum, and perhaps another couple of Giants game at the old Candlestick Park. I still have the pre-digital pictures somewhere that I’ve taken during those games.
My American sports pro acculturation, though, does not go back to the years when the Hall of Famer with the oft-mentioned famous moniker “Alley Oop” was at the peak of his career. But even after he has left the playing field and has made a name that immortalized him in the annals of sports history, and he went on to do philanthropic work to improve the lives of many most especially the youth, I still did not gave much attention to his name in the many stories written about him since these primarily appeared in the publications’ sports pages.
Not until he moved to Manteca where he became a household name because of his numerous philanthropic involvements in the community. But except for one assignment to a Manteca Hall of Fame event where his name was the big draw, I really never had any encounter with him.
Except for that one morning in the Manteca Bulletin newsroom.
The other reporters were out on assignment, so I was by myself pounding on the computer keyboard and concentrating on a story. I was quite absorbed I barely noticed one of the girls up front accompany a man into the newsroom. He sat in a chair by the desk next to mine so it was hard to ignore his presence.
I turned around and smiled at him and asked if I could help him. He explained that he had an appointment with someone in the newsroom. I have since forgotten if his appointment was with the managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, or with one of the other reporters. Since it was morning and the sports people don’t normally come in early in the morning, I concluded his appointment did not have anything to do with a sports-related story.
I introduced myself and, in turn, he did the same. As I said before, I was familiar with his name. But this was the first time I had this close encounter on a one-on-one basis. At first, though, his name did not register to me as that of the Hall of Famer. I have since forgotten the small conversation we had. Part of the reason I continued talking to him was because I did not want him to think he was being ignored.
Throughout the conversation, he was very engaging and smiling the whole time. With legs crossed like that of a perfect gentleman, he sat relaxed in the chair.
Later, as I recalled that brief conversation with the sports giant, I could not help but marvel at the total lack of arrogance or hauteur in his demeanor. Others who have much less reason to act arrogant or haughty have acted the exact opposite.
And that is why, when I heard of his demise, my memory zoomed in to that particular morning when I met a man who, to me, embodied the saying that the measure of a man’s character is shown in how he treats the “nobodys” in the world like me. May you rest in peace, Mr. Owens.