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When I was a kid, there were few things I enjoyed more than watching Kobe hit a fadeaway jumper. Something about his pivot step and the way the shot always seemed to fall was mesmerizing to little me, and the way he ran his mouth always had me in stitches. Despite being a lifelong Bulls fan, I would always pull for him on the basketball court or in a court of law. Watching the Mamba deteriorate the last few seasons has been difficult, but knowing he won’t be suiting up come next year makes me long for my youth and simpler times.
Sport is a perfect metaphor for life. You are born (signed), you live (play), and you die (retire). You even pay taxes (fines from that son of a bitch Goodell, as well as union dues). As an outside observer, you get to put people on a pedestal and see them succeed, or crash and burn. Last week, when I saw that Arian Foster, a player many consider pretty great, had been cut by the Texans, it got me thinking. In our lifetime, we’ve witnessed the grit of Favre, the strength of Shaq, and the big swinging dick that was Derek Jeter. All of those guys are gone, and we’re only 20-somethings. Soon, guys like Peyton, Brady, and even my beloved Jay Cutler will be hanging up the cleats and moving on to bang their wives more and probably be ESPN analysts. It’s something you see coming, but it never really sinks in until it happens.
As fraternity men, there are always guys who make a similar impact on us. Maybe it was that pledge brother who taught you the fish tank line, or maybe an officer who made IFC get on their knees and beg forgiveness. It could even be that guy who was just kind of there but always had a great story and a cold one ready for you. As you move through college, caught up in getting that degree while finding as much strange as possible, you can forget that they won’t be around forever. It’s why a lot of alumni ceremonies are brothers only and feature more hugging and dusty eyes than we would like to admit.
The guy who inspired me was the pledge educator when I joined. Unlike your typical behemoth who’s probably a little touched in the head, this guy was all business. He could push you without screaming himself hoarse, and reprimand you without reverting to juvenile insults. He is both one of the nicest and scariest people I’ve ever met. Seeing someone bring that much professionalism to an organization was refreshing. In high school, the most professional thing I’d ever seen was a KEY Club officer take five bucks out of a charity lockbox and put it back. He probably didn’t even do it out of morality, but out of fear of getting caught. Our pledge ed transcended that, and helped me model myself to what a Greek should be. If it wasn’t for him, I might have even dropped like a little bitch. There have been other sources of inspiration, but he was chief among them.
Growing up, in life or in college, can be a pain in the ass. You take on more responsibility and things speed up. Sometimes you nod off in lab and wake up to see your best friend walking across the stage with a degree in hand. The secret is to slow things down once in a while and enjoy it. Tell that guy who made you a better man how much you appreciate him. Don’t be afraid to say “I love you” to a brother, because it’s what family does. Most of all, try to be a guy that leaves a lasting impression because some day, and it’s coming sooner than you think, you might be walking across a stage while one of your boys in the stands thinks “that guy was my inspiration.”
Hazing heals and good times fade, but legends never die. Make your mark one worth leaving, and enjoy it while it lasts..