Tuesday, February 22, 2011
He is huge. I don’t know all the Lakers anymore, but his physical presence is so graceful and powerful you can not mistake him as a Titan. I did not know who he is, but he was to kind to not laugh at me. I notice he is wearing the double hospital bracelets. The delivering room kind, where all three of you are tagged. The plastic wristbands are to identify the infant to avoid mix-ups and to avoid strangers in the facility.
“You had a baby?” I point at the blue and clear bands.
His face lights up slowly and builds the most amazing smile.
“Do you want to see her picture?” he answers.
“Oh yes. I still have those bracelets hanging on a jewelry rack.”
He opens his phone and shares images of an angelic dark haired infant in peachy soft pajamas.
“Do you have more?” He responds with sitting up straighter like a kid, excited. He bounces in his seat. He scrolls through pictures of the gorgeous newborn, Mommy, and himself. He is a lucky man to lavish in the joy of being a new father.
In the plane trip he tells me he thought he might have written a book or been a photographer if basketball did not work out. Then he tells me his life story.
Root with me for the happy conclusion to an American Dream story.
Derrick grew up in New Jersey in a tough neighborhood. His mother and grandmother raised him. He says nothing negative about his father, but I understand. As a young boy he had to stand out in a crowd – what is he now six foot nine? He played football and baseball but did not settle on basketball as his real talent until middle school. He went to a private Catholic High School, we have much in common.
Then the draft rules change, the NBA requires high school boys to attend a college for a year, then draft from that arena. He changes High Schools senior year to a prep school that will get him more academically on track to enter a college. He goes to Louisville. He does not say a single negative thing about Pitino, I know the news about him in Federal Court, but we don’t go there. Derrick is still basking in the choice to be a Daddy.
Hard knocks, yes Derrick has marched through them and going to a smaller arena in Texas might have been for someone else the end of my story. Raise the flag, the rally call. Derrick congratulations. I was proud to sit next to a man of courage. Now with a little beauty to care for and provide for I think his passion on the court will be unstoppable.
After a weekend of no sleep he says,“I am not complaining, I was happy to stay awake all night with my new baby.”
This gentleman is a gem.
If anyone says a single negative word about Derrick Character this season, I will box your chin, all 111 pounds of me. Derrick if you read this, remember all you need is one sentence, ten words a day and in a year you will have double the amount you need for a novel.