Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Announcement

Recently Neil and I watched ESPN Film's "The Announcement: Magic Johnson's Compelling Story" and we highly recommend it.

the official ESPN trailer

see it's TV schedule here (or if you have Comcast - use ESPN OnDemand)
in addition to the film, you can listen Magic's interview podcast here
(both are fascinating)

Three things about it were incredibly powerful and really stuck with me...
*note: I do not remember any of this verbatim and I have very little 'blog'alistic integrity - so I didn't re-watch for direct quotes. Please don't correct me or re-quote me. Just read it like a book report from a D+ student in the 'slow track' English class.

1. the love of  a SPOUSE

Erving was newly married to his on again off again, college girlfriend, Cookie, when he found out about his diagnosis. Cookie had just learned she was pregnant. Magic told her right away that he had made mistakes in his single days and this would be a tough road ahead...and she was free to leave. Cookie stayed. (and this is the part that made me tear up) In relating all of this, Magic said, if Cookie would have left right then, I would have died.

That sounds dramatic, but I get him. When I think of all that comes with having someone say "I'll stick this out with you." - I don't believe he was exaggerating one bit. When he immediately retired he said it was for Cookie and she said she was for him. And that gives life. That makes enduring any number of things manageable.

I also don't think it's a coincidence that their marriage has lasted over 20 years. There's something about difficulty that shows the deep down goodness in the person you love. It cements a relationship.

2. the support of FRIENDSHIP

When Magic was struggling with where he fit in - with the NBA, with society, with peers - he had a moment that changed him. He had been calling up friends to practice with him (friends that always jumped at a chance to play one-on-one), and he had no takers. Then out of the blue Pat Riley, his former coach, called him for some gym time. In the interview, Pat said he worked Magic hard, and at the end he hugged him.  Remember, this was at the same time NBA officials were seeking out medical reports about exactly what fluids spread HIV and fear was rampant. People just didn't know. This was before they fought over if he was even allowed to come back and play. And this was years before I was given the quiz in high school health class "Can you share utensils with someone who is infected?"

This was just a empty gym, where a coach/mentor/friend said, I made sure I hugged him a long time - got all the sweat mixed in - so he knew exactly how I felt.

How a simple afternoon shoot around can change the way a person knows hope and love and acceptance is profound to me. If I stumble into hollywood acting and need to cry on cue, my go-to mental image might be that long sweaty hug between Erving Magic Johnson and Pat Riley.

3. the role of GOD

The press conference was set for Magic tell the world his 'announcement', but he gathered his team in the locker room so they would hear it from him first. He said that facing that group of guys was the hardest thing he had to do. He said it was the first time in all of this he broke down crying. And he told the team, "When God gave me the disease, He gave it to the right person"

When bad things happen, like a freak accident where you get clothes-lined off a cattle car for example, a lot of people offer comfort. They say things like "God has a purpose in this, you'll see" - which is nice I suppose. But do you hear the subtle difference in what Erving said? "When God gave me the disease, He gave it to the right person"

The first has to do with a force of circumstance in which eventually God will work out a new force of circumstances in which you hope good things will come about. The second has to do with a force of circumstance in which you feel you can take what you have from God and make good things come about.

I'm someone who has heard the first example so often I could vomit (because it turns out, if there IS some great purpose, i MIGHT have missed it while I've been laid up in bed for four years - watching 'Lost' on Netflix).  I know most of you readers might not be able to relate much to what Magic said in that locker room - but for some of you - I hope its the gift of another option out of a dark place.

We humans are more resilient than we know and I do believe in my core that a creator made us lovingly with a great capacity to endure.... and then to move beyond enduring and make beautiful things out of broken things. I happen to believe that God wants us active in our pain and I think that's what being 'the right person' means...

Magic went on to dedicate his life to educating others about HIV/AIDS. He was also, quite simply, a good man to the people close to him. I don't want to ruin it all for you (I left out two other parts that made me cry, if you can believe that) so just watch it already.

1 comment:

  1. I remember the day it was made public like it was yesterday. Sat listening to the press conference during a lunch break at work. Everyone took it as an absolute death sentence. Now he owns the freaking Los Angeles Dodgers. Amazing.

    Haven't seen the doc yet, but I'll definitely DVR it.