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The Bell Curve: And we are all connected

June 16, 2010|By Joseph N. Bell

A weekend of contrasts, if anyone was listening, or watching.

Just for starters, the humility of John Wooden opposite the arrogance of Mike Garrett -- with politicians gearing up for the next round of half-truths and slander from the sidelines.

The composed self-assurance of Abby Sunderland against the rage of the elements.

Russian science superimposed on major league baseball--with prayer as an interested observer.

The death of John Wooden, of course, dominated the news. Did you read -- or even scan -- the 26-page supplement the Los Angeles Times devoted to Wooden? I don't recall any heads of state earning an obituary this impressive. It can only tell us how hungry as a society we are for honesty, trust, decency, civility and wholesomeness in our public figures. And how badly so many of them are missing that mark. And how few recognize the overwhelming affirmative response it generates when they do hit it. Like the Detroit ball player who pitched a perfect game last week but was denied canonization by a terrible call from the umpire.

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The same teams played each other the following day, and when the pitcher and umpire met, the umpire tearfully admitted his bad call and the pitcher patted him on the shoulder and they both went back to work. In case any politicians were paying attention, the moral here is the personal satisfaction that comes from acknowledging your mistakes on the one hand and forgiveness on then other. Such honesty might even help to win an election some time.

For Wooden, these qualities added up to the kind of strength that won basketball games at every level he both played and coached, from a rural Indiana high school team to the March Madness of the college game. His first year of five decades of coaching was his only losing season. But he also lived these qualities, too.

"What you are as a person," he said many times, "is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."

Examples abound. When his Indiana State team was invited to play in a national tournament early in his coaching career, he turned it down because black players were banned. The next year they were welcomed -- partly as a result of his action -- and Wooden won the tournament. A few years later, he turned down a coveted head coaching job at his Purdue alma mater because he had committed to one more year at UCLA.

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