My most recent column generated more than its fair share of hate mail. Perhaps the most notable was from a self-described conservative who said he was sick and tired of hearing my views on religion which were, in his view, characterized by an annoying form of “Hallmark Card optimism.” I’ve decided to meet him halfway in today’s column. I won’t talk about why I’m a Christian. But I will talk about why I’m an optimist and about the personal setback that helped make me one.
It’s no secret that I wasn’t the best student ever to attend Clear Lake High School in Southeast Houston, Texas. I failed English all four years. I failed to reach the 2.0 GPA mark. And, needless to say, I finished in the bottom 1% of my graduating class. There was a distinct reason why I performed so poorly; namely, that I attempted to get a “D” in every class and to fail English every year so I did not have to get a summer job (sorry Mom and Dad if you’re reading this). The fact that I got above a 1.0 GPA was due to a bunch of accidental grades of “C” from some overly generous teachers.
My total lack of effort in high school was largely due to my success on the soccer field. At the age of fifteen, I won a state soccer championship together with some magnificently talented players – most notably Joey Gunderson, Sam Hinson, and Peter Royster. After Mike Olmedo and Steve Zobel joined our team we would soon be headed for another state championship game. This time we were heavy favorites with several players who had won a state title previously as underdogs. I was certain that I was one of several players on the team who were headed for the pros. In fact, I thought I was a lock.
But then something strange started happening at the end of my junior year. In April, I was averaging about 60 miles a week on the jogging trail as I was gearing up for a crack at the Houston marathon. As I was training I began to hear and feel a small clicking noise around my left ankle. Over the next few months it began to actually hurt so I went to see a doctor. The news wasn’t good. A bone spur was starting to slice my Achilles tendon which, according to the doctor, would surely rupture without corrective surgery.
So I did what you would expect me to do. I told the doctor to kiss my (backside) and kept on running through the injury. Needless to say, I eventually had to stop running completely. I was so hopelessly out of shape at the beginning of the next season that I could not even make the team.