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My Favorite Villian

I love movies.  I love the escape that they provide from reality for 90-120 minutes at a clip.  I especially love the basic formula that is used to tell the story.  If you haven’t guessed yet, I am speaking of the age-old formula of “good vs. evil” that is the blueprint of most theatrical performances.  As a child growing up in the 70’s, every year I could see this formula play out in both of my Easter classics.  One being The Ten Commandments and the other was the Wizard of Oz.

Both had villains that we were introduced to in the very beginning of the films and appeared difficult, if not impossible, to defeat.  To keep things simple I will just focus on Dorothy and her nightmarish situation of waking up in another time and place with just her little dog.  Kids could identify better with her because the age gap wasn’t as far as that of Moses in Egypt.  Minutes into Dorothy’s saga, she is confronted by the evil, wicked witch whom we find very scary, intimidating and unbeatable.

After we are introduced to our evil villain in the first minutes of a movie, we then spend the majority of the film wondering how on earth our hero is going to triumph.  But time after time the hero finds some miraculous way to conquer evil in the waning moments of the movie.  It could be something as simple as a plain old glass of water; we have discovered that from the wicked witch’s demise in the land of Oz.

That all changed for me 35 years ago in the summer of 1977.  My dad took me to the movies for the first time (he left my mom when I was 4) and it just happened to be the blockbuster film that I had heard so much about…STAR WARS!  All I knew for sure is that there was this awesome scene where chess was being played on a board by live creatures.  The rest was all a great and spectacular surprise to my 9-year-old eyes.

Moments into the film we meet our villain and he was like no other bad guy I had ever seen on-screen.  His height, his gait and that voice had me quaking in my Dolby stereo implanted seat.  As soon as we meet him he is killing people with his bare hands and also this mysterious power known only as the “force.”  Immediately my mind starts to wonder how on earth are the good guys going to defeat this evil?

Only this time the evil villain would not be defeated by the good guys before the credits rolled up the screen.  How could this be?  Good has to triumph over evil because that is the only formula this kid has ever known.  But George Lucas had other plans for his fans as he put together the best trilogy to grace the big screen.  And not only does the dark villain, now known to us as Darth Vader, survive the first chapter of the saga, he comes back in the “Empire Strikes Back” (my favorite of all six films) as mean and as ruthless a bad guy as I had ever witnessed.  The guy cut off his own son’s hand for goodness sake.  Then he coined a phrase that will live in moviegoers eternity when he uttered, “I am your father!”

As you can see, I could go on all day about Lord Vader and his evil antics but what the first trilogy left me asking myself was what could have happened to him to turn him into such an evil monster.  Well Mr. Lucas gave us a wonderful back story about how Lord Vader came to exist.  And in 2005, at a midnight showing no less, the reason was revealed…it was love.

Darth Vader chose evil over good so that he could save the life of his wife and unborn child (she did have twins but that was a surprise to everyone).  How many times has history shown us that behind every great moment was a love story?  Love of a woman/man or love of freedom and country have been common themes since the beginning of time.

Darth Vader…evil personified

But today I have a new favorite villain to watch as he conquers his foes on the hardwood of the NBA.  His name is LeBron James and I have watched this man dominate the sport that he loves for more than a decade now.  But to so many people, two summers ago he became the biggest villain in the sport of professional basketball.  Why?  Because he made a choice that he had every right to make as the most sought after free agent of modern times.

Criticize the way he went about it all you like, but at the end of the day he made the best decision for himself, his family and his basketball career.  So many of us are not able to make those kinds of decisions in our entire lives and then this hometown kid decides to take his talents to South Beach and join forces with his buddies on a quest for multiple championships.  Had I chosen to leave my firm when I was as hot as he was in year 7, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would still be at the top of the corporate world today (that “two comma” income did allude me).

In year one of his journey he made the conscious decision to embrace his new villainous role and play with an angry chip on his shoulder.  He even made an awesome commercial about it with his team from Nike.  That earned him boos in almost every arena in the league whenever he touched the ball.

He played hard that season but made a habit of not finishing as strong as he was capable of and his “hater” ranks grew stronger as he failed in the best of seven against the Dallas Mavericks (the Mavs got even from their previous 4-2 loss in 2006 to the Heat).  So this year he had to constantly hear that he couldn’t get it done, about his “Decision” and his prediction of multiple championships (those other two guys said it too).

He could have been unbearable when he finally got the chance to hoist the trophy but instead he was grateful and humbled by his team’s triumph.  He knew that he couldn’t do it alone and he chose the team that he knew he could get it done with.  That line of thinking got him labeled the ultimate villain and that was unfair.  LeBron knows more than anyone that life is unfair at times and he does his part to level the playing field.  This year he made a commercial pleading with young people to stay in school and get an education.

Mr. James, you became the type of villain that, when it is all said and done, there won’t be anyone around to claim that they ever hated you.  I look forward to you leading our country to Gold in London and your next NBA campaign as you embark upon the hardest challenge in pro sports…repeating as champion.

Lord Vader made a tough decision that led him down an evil path that forever cemented him in our minds as the top member of the Evil Hall of Fame.  LeBron James made a tough decision that will cement him in our minds as one of the greatest to ever play the sport and a guaranteed Hall of Famer.  For different reasons I have found a way to love them both.

LeBron James…NBA Champion

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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Business, Life, Love, Movie, Sports

 

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The Train

The story comes in many varieties but it always ends the same way…with a missed opportunity.  If you’re lucky, I mean really lucky, your chance may come around again but the odds are not in your favor.  My favorite story that I like to tell others about missed opportunities is “The Girl on the Train.”

If you are a guy reading this, you have probably been in this situation at least once in your life and missed out.  You are on the train and a beautiful girl catches your eye.  You stare at her intensely until she glances your way and then you look away and play like you were not aware of her.  Your initial hope is that she gets off at the same stop you are so that you can win some sort of dating lottery.

This “staring and then look away” game goes on stop after stop as your prayers are repeatedly answered as she doesn’t rise from her seat to get off the train before you.  The knot in your throat tightens as your own stop is drawing closer and closer.  You wonder if she is really going to get off at your stop because, of course, that is when you plan to make your move.

Suddenly, your stop is next and she is making no preparations to get off of the train.  Now your mind starts to race with questions.  The biggest one is why you didn’t make your move several stops ago.  Now there is no time for a rushed introduction because the train will soon stop and your  momentum, should you gain any, will be lost as you exit.  And remember, you are still not even sure that there is any interest from her side.  Oh, what to do?

You decide to not take the chance and just rise to exit the train for your stop.  After you pass through the double doors and find yourself on the platform, you can’t help but take one more look.  You look at her, she looks at you for what seems like hours, and then she knowingly smiles to let you know that had you shown the courage you would have been rewarded.  Of course that smile comes as the doors close and the train is pulling away with you powerless to stop it.

This is where the accounts can and usually differ.  When that happened to me many moons ago, my next move was to look at my watch and note the time.  If I could be on that very same train at the very same time tomorrow I would be able to have my chance encounter, right?  Wrong. The truth is I will probably never see her again and another agonizing truth is that I don’t deserve to.  She’s thinking, “he had his shot and he didn’t take it.  Too bad…maybe the next one will have the cojones needed to ask me my name and number.”

Two summers ago, LeBron James was on the same train and he did the courageous thing.  He asked her for her name and number.  She said her name was Miami and gave him a number that started with area code 305.  For seven years LeBron had been taking the same train in Cleveland and ending his season without the championship he coveted.  The only way to break that cycle in his mind, and in my opinion, was to start taking a new train that had a different destination with different passengers.

LeBron James has already made it to the top of the mountain in one sense.  He has become like the teams and the players that everyone tunes in to see whenever they are on television.  The Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Lakers are 3 of the teams that everyone tunes in to see.  Most want to see them win but many want to see them lose.  Either way the games are almost always highly anticipated and highly rated to boot.

Tiger Woods was, is and will probably always be the golfer that everyone tunes in to see win or lose.  First because of his greatness but more recently because of his human failings.  Kobe Bryant sort of fits that same mold as Tiger but he managed to get new sponsors, get more rings and gain even more popularity since his legal troubles of a decade ago.

LeBron James is disliked for exercising the freedoms that we would all like to have.  He honored his contract and then he took another train.  We, not me necessarily, just didn’t like the “way” in which he chose to make and then announce his decision to the world.  He’s gone on record as admitting he would change  some parts of the process if he had it to do over again but I liked his decision to join his friends and go for it all in Miami.

The major hangup was, and will probably always be, the arrogance surrounding the “Decision” and then the “Promise.”  At the end of the day, people always want you to do things the way they would have done them if given the chance.  Those people just need to get over it.  LeBron James did not leave the Cavs with nothing like it is always reported.  He allowed the Cavs to sign him and then trade him to Miami for future draft picks.  He did not have to do that.  He could have been a jerk like his former team owner was very upset over the news he was losing his superstar.

It is not always easy to know when you are on that fateful train in life but ask yourself if you will have the courage to ask her “for her name and number” or will you let the train pull out of the station.  You only get one life so I say live the one with the least regret and the one that says you left everything you had out on the playing field of life.

 
 

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