They say first impressions are everything, but I've gotten off to a great start with people plenty of times, only to find out that the one I thought was something special was, in fact, not.
Quality individuals can be few and far between. It certainly feels that way when everything isn't quite going the way you want it to, but one person who was great to me from the start was Van-Far Athletic Director Kevin Baldwin. There's no point in getting fancy about describing Baldwin's style because he's definitely a no-frills kind of guy. He's as forthright a person as I've ever known and what you see is absolutely what you get.
Finding the genuine article like anyone who finds Baldwin does is kind of like finding a fine wine because not only do you want to enjoy it now, but you know it's only going to get better with the passage of time. Age is only going to bring wisdom and perspective. Now that he's retiring after serving as the Indians varsity football and track and field coach I worry nobody is going to realize exactly what we all had until he's gone.
Certainly nobody is perfect. But, for example, when I needed a team photo in the middle of my first summer and he had no idea who I was, Baldwin still did everything that needed to get done so I could take that picture for the Football Preview tab. Quite honestly he's been just as giving whenever he can be ever since. Like most coaches he does what he does for the athletes. I realize none of this was for any other reason but those kids.
When you understand someones motivations and can work with them it's so much better than whatever the alternative to that might be. I'm still trying to track him down for one final conversation, but, regardless of whether or not that happens I hope his time in the area is appreciated because, as corny as this may sound, everything's better with Baldwin. Certainly my Friday nights were for close to three years.
A Different Breed
World championships may be the things dreams are based on and legends are forged from, but there's also a limit to what the human body can actually achieve. Mind over matter is sometimes just three meaningless words put in a specific order to define something that really comes down to so much more than a simple turn of phrase. That seemed to be the case after Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins took a puck to the face in a game four loss during the Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues, 4-2.
Instantly the talk was how hockey players are a different breed. That Chara was an absolute animal that would rather be caged than held out of game five last Thursday. Nobody was hearing those words come out of Chara's mouth, though. Probably because his jaw was broken. Instead the defenseman was more than likely drinking his meals, taking his pain pills exactly every four hours because waiting another minute would be agony and picking out which Golden Girl he liked best while sitting home.
Certainly the Blues didn't mind seeing the opposing defense down a man because after winning that fifth game 2-1 to take a 3-2 series lead on Boston the team probably wasn't minding much of anything. But, expecting anyone to return that quickly after getting pelted at near point-blank range the way Chara did wasn't reasonable. Now play Gloria!