Lifetime Decisions

The last time I turned on an NBA game on TV, I’m pretty sure Hakeem Olajuwon or Michael Jordan played in it. I watch the NCAA Tournament every year; however, the pros hold no interest for me. Except for the slam dunk competition at the All-Star game… now that’s exciting. Last night’s 28th edition will be remembered for Blake Griffin leaping over a car for the winning jam. I’ll remember it for another reason.

At the end of the broadcast, when you had changed channels or gone to bed, Ernie Johnson read the credits for the production crew. Half listening, I heard the name of a talented gentleman who directed many of the telecasts I worked on as a rising producer. He’s been part of the TNT team since the network launched. Then Johnson mentioned the executive VP… and my mind immediately jumped back to 1988.

You see, in March of that year, my former mentor – who had gone on to become the executive producer of Turner Sports – offered me a job as coordinating producer of the NBA. After much deliberation, including spending two hours in an empty church listening for the right answer, I turned him down. There were many reasons: I liked my job and was starting to work bigger events; I loved living in Fort Worth; I wasn’t open to relocating. The biggest one, though, was the night before flying to the interview in Atlanta, I went on a first date and something deep inside told me that I was supposed to stay near her.

As you might have guessed, that young lady became my wife 15 months later. We have three children. I’ve changed careers a few times during our marriage. She’s supported every one of them. We moved to Houston in 1998… met new friends, discovered new things, found ourselves called to serve new causes. Like any marriage, we share wonderful joy and tragic heartache together.

When I didn’t take the job, Turner hired someone younger than me. He’s apparently done great things the past 23 years: it’s his name I heard announced last night as their executive VP. That moment reminded me that each major decision you make truly does impact many people. Things would have been quite different had I said ‘Yes’ to Don McGuire instead of ‘I do’ to Kathy Lott. I’ve always known my prayers were answered that day. It’s a wonderful life.


Wonderful Memories

Bob Jones. That’s an ordinary name. Google lists 10 million results.

When I was a kid growing up in what is now the heart of the DFW Metroplex – it was country back in the 60’s and 70’s – one Bob Jones lived around the corner from our property. His wife Chris and he raised three kids. Their youngest was six years older than me, so we didn’t do a lot together. The two girls had quarter horses, and mom drove them all over everywhere to show Skippa Streak, a Grand National Champion. Bob stayed home to run their family business… and often would bring us the best homemade potato soup you’ll ever taste.

My understanding is his bio went something like this: father died when he was three and his mother raised seven children alone; had a ninth grade education; joined the Navy at 17 and served on Guam at the end of WWII; earned his master’s electrician license on the GI Bill; started a lighting fixtures business; became an early distributor of Casablanca ceiling fans; invested their money well, especially in local real estate; and, accumulated a net worth in the millions. Pretty much a Horatio Alger story thanks to hard work, street smarts and the Midas touch. The greatest generation.

In the last few years, Bob had health issues. They moved 100 miles west of Ft. Worth to the ghost town where Chris grew up, named for her great grandfather… Farmer, Texas. Their home sat atop a hill and looked out on 700 acres they owned. My three siblings and I visited them two Decembers ago. Bob’s sight was just about gone, yet his memory was perfect. He shared quite a few stories about our youth.

Bob Jones died yesterday at the age of 82. I’ll be heading to Ft. Worth for his funeral on Friday. You see, Chris is my late mother’s youngest sister… and Bob Jones was my uncle. It will be an honor and joy to celebrate his extraordinary life.


And The Winner Is

What if you got thisclose to the brass ring and weren’t able to grab it? Sort of like that recurring dream you have in which you’re prevented from success because of blurry vision or your feet are trapped in cement or just as you’re about to win you awaken. If, in real life, you performed high above your own lofty expectations and someone else claimed victory, would you be thrilled…or sad that the rousing applause and falling confetti weren’t for you?

Those are the thoughts I had last night while watching the finale of “America’s Got Talent.” It’s a show I never had seen until the past few weeks. Yet, there we were, family of four, with our eyes fully focused as the 10 finalists were dramatically whittled to five, then four, three and two. Ultimately, a former ‘chicken chaser’ from Kentucky took home the one million dollar grand prize, as voters selected his country singing the best this year of more than 100,000 wannabes.

My thoughts, though, were on the second place finisher. Imagine being on the cusp of becoming a millionaire and ending up with nothing. I envisioned holding a lottery ticket matching all six numbers, only to have it fly out of my hands on the way to the claims office. Surely, something like that was going through the runner-up’s mind when she didn’t hear her name announced.

Of course, the penultimate performer has much to celebrate. She survived cancer. She has a beautiful daughter and loving husband. Plus, now America knows her name, and she’ll probably be able to pursue her dream of performing professionally. By the way, I have an inside source that says she is going to be just fine. You see, she’s a member of my church here in Houston…and that’s why we tuned in to watch. Way to go, Barbara Padilla. Prince of Peace Catholic Community celebrates today with you.