Sunday, November 20, 2005

Legends

One of the ways I pass my time and use my energy is competing in masters’ track and field. Like most special interest areas of our lives, it has its own set of conventions and ideals, a distinct culture and a colorful cast of characters. This past year, while competing at the World Masters Games in Canada, I was able to spend some time in conversation with track and field legend Bill Collins.

I had admired Bill and his reputation for many years, joining a legion of folks that think very highly of him.

While in Canada I experienced the good fortune of somehow twisting his arm into being my personal coach. He is a demanding coach. My tired body is beginning to understand the requirements of working toward my best possible performance.

I may end up embarrassing Coach Collins a little here, but he needs to know that many people in our sport want to be ‘like Bill’.

Why? I personally think it is more than the World and American records and what seems as if it is the most remarkable run of excellence in the sport in recent memory.

Bill has a warm manner of respectfulness about him. A sense that those of us that chase him down the track with persistence yet always fail to catch him, are deserving of his respect, his time and his attention. It is a very special quality and I admire it.

In Canada it seemed that every athlete in the stadium stopped by to meet him and talk with him. I was amazed at his unfailing good cheer and politeness, even while he was trying to prepare for a race.
Legends are important to our culture. Legendary individuals cannot be copied or replaced; the definition itself precludes the possibility.

Today is my coach’s birthday. The following anecdote about Louis Armstrong has been printed in different places over time and is retold below in recognition of Bill’s birthday.
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Louis Armstrong was once asked whether he objected to the impressions of him frequently given by other singers and comedians. “Not really,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa, but people still line up to see the original.”

Happy Birthday Coach Collins

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