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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, June 13, 1998

Doing the impossible—
even only once

WATCHING the NBA playoffs and listening to everybody sing during commercial breaks how they want to "be like Mike" makes a guy a little jealous.

Michael Jordan does the seemingly impossible on the basketball court. His material rewards are immense, but I sense that his greatest satisfaction comes from simply doing something so cool so well.

To achieve Jordan's fame and fortune, you must do the impossible day after day. Few of us will ever get that. But you only have to do the impossible once to get a taste of the satisfaction Jordan must feel on the basketball court. Most of us have a few of those fleeting moments of greatness in our lives.

I most cherish the small moments -- insignificant except for the intense joy and amazement they produced.

In high school once, I got involved in a two-on-two pickup football game. I wasn't much of a football player, but my teammate was the starting fullback on the school team.

He did everything for us. He kicked off the ball. He returned kickoffs. He ran every play on offense. He made every tackle on defense.

Finally, I got tired of standing around and watching him play and insisted on handling our last kickoff. He grudgingly handed me the ball. The guys on the other team laughed and moved up about 20 yards to receive my puny punt.

I got into that ball like never before. It spiraled 30 yards over their heads -- so far that my speedy teammate raced past them and beat them to the ball.

I have no idea where that kick came from. I tried hundreds of times to repeat it and never came close. All I know is that its memory never fails to put a huge smile on my face.

Another time in high school, some administrative goof landed me in an art class. I'm terrible at art. I can't draw the stick figure in "Hangman."

One day we were working on pencil drawings and I grabbed a magazine mug shot of Yogi Berra, the Yankees' colorful catcher, and started doodling.

I became engrossed in the enterprise and got in that zone where time stops and the mind goes on auto-focus, totally entranced by the task at hand.

When I came out of it a couple of hours later, I had drawn an impossibly good portrait of Yogi Berra. I nailed his impish eyes and every fold in the complex texture of the little man's round face. The drawing made the school art show and my teacher suggested a career in the arts.

Who knows how I did it? I've never since drawn anything that bore any resemblance to what I was aiming for.

I took up golf for relaxation and found yet another talent I lacked. Hours of practice and play produced no improvement in my humiliating scores. But every round, I would make one shot that was so good and so satisfying that it would bring me back.

THE last round I ever played, I reached the fringe of the green on a long par-5 hole in two strokes. From the fairway, it looked like an easy chip and putt for a rare birdie.

My heart sank when I saw my ball had come to rest on the side of a mound in a deep divot that some lout had neglected to repair. I took out my sand wedge, crossed my fingers and tried to dig it out with a flop shot.

The ball landed three feet from the flag, bounced sharply to the left and plopped into the hole for my first eagle.

I hear Michael Jordan is even more consumed by golf than by basketball. I'd like to see him make that shot.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.
Volcanic Ash runs every Saturday in the Star-Bulletin.

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