Posted by: thebylog | March 12, 2005

Taking Adulation

Think of the person who’s getting pandered to and praised and fawned over, because of an extraordinary skill that this person possesses.

For example: athletics.

In athletics, a young boy can be pegged as being an incredible basketball talent – when he’s in 6th grade. The same with the girl gymnast or the phenom tennis player. With the nature of children and peer groups, and with the state of athletics in this country, that “chosen” player becomes the object of flattery and sycophancy to the point where you would think that this person has no chance of keeping his/her head.

The last two evenings, I’ve gone to watch the boys high school basketball state tournament in Eugene. I don’t have any particular team allegiances in the tournament, but in my view, the fascinating part about high school basketball is watching players who are really good, who have a chance to make it big, either in college or even in the pros.

Case in point. When I was in 6th grade, I played basketball with a youth team in our local town. We played another team from a nearby, slightly larger, town that had a star player – Luke Jackson – who is now a rookie (though on the injured list) for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Don’t believe me? Look. Still don’t believe I played against him? You’ll have to take my word for it – no pics.

Anyway, in addition to playing against him, I watched him a few times in high school. It’s fun to watch a high school star and to hypothesize about his potential in college or even in the NBA.

Back to this year’s tournament. One of the main attractions is a sophomore phenom, Kevin Love. And in a basketball sense, he almost deserves this sort of hype. In the high school context, he’s Shaquille O’Neal with an outside shot and better form on his free throws.

Last night he played brilliantly, leading his team to the championship game.

He gets so much attention. He’s a 16-year old who is famous, considered one of the best basketball players in his class in the country. He’ll likely play in the NBA someday. People tell him that kind of stuff, at least implicitly, all the time.

So you’d think he’d let it go to his head.

He knows he’s good. That’s obvious in the way he’s clearly the leader on a team in which he’s not the eldest, or in the way he carries himself or in the way he lobbies for a foul to be given to his teammate instead of him because he knows that foul trouble’s one of the few things on the court that can slow him down. Before the game last night I told my brother that I can easily see how he’d be someone easy to dislike, just because of his self-confidence that could be read sometimes as arrogance (it doesn’t help that he plays for a high school in one of the most affluent suburbs of Portland). After the game, he had two or three reporters (40 or 45-year olds) sticking microphones in his face, interviewing him.

What has kept his healthy-sized ego from spiraling completely out of control? More relevant, if you or I were in a situation like this, how would we keep our egos in check? I mean, What is humility in that situation?

“Oh, I’m not that good.” Right. That doesn’t cut it. But neither does talking about yourself in the third person.

Most of us know how hard it is to live with our identity placed squarely on the shoulders of Christ. Imagine if you had ability that made you the constant center of attention when you were out in public.

How about this for a theory: Parents have the greatest impact in whether a person can handle things such as this in a healthy manner. Klove has good parents, I think, so he has perspective.



  1. Wow By, you must be busy. I think this is the longest I’ve seen you go between posts.

    The Baritone

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