Former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill once stated, “To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”
In each of our lives, we all get one or two of these Churchillian “taps on the shoulder;” in many ways, how we respond to these taps, will determine our lot in life.
Let me give you two examples from a couple of friends of mine.
Anthony “Spud” Webb played 13 years in the National Basketball Association (NBA), though only standing five foot seven inches tall (which was and still is unheard of in professional basketball). Spud is most known for being the shortest person in the history of the NBA to win the slam dunk contest (1986). He defeated his then Atlanta Hawks teammate, Dominique Wilkins who stood at six feet eight inches tall.
Spud was told his whole life that he was too short to play basketball, though he could dunk the ball when he was only five foot three inches.
Despite averaging 26 points a game on his varsity high school team, Spud received little interest from college and university basketball programs. He ended up playing for a junior college, Midland College in Midland, Texas. He was named a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American.
He was then offered a scholarship to play for legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach, Jim Valvano.
After college, Spud was told by most NBA scouts that he should play in Europe because of his size. He ended up being drafted in the fourth round of the 1985 draft that began his illustrious NBA career.
Ray “Mick” Mickens played eleven seasons as a cornerback in the National Football League (NFL), though standing only five foot eight inches tall and weighing a mere 180 lbs.
Mick was a standout corner for Texas A&M University, as well as a sprinter for the track team. Considered one of the top corners in the country, he was named an All-American and All-Southwest Conference player in both his junior and senior years.
Mick was drafted by the New York Jets in the third-round of the 1996 NFL Draft and went on to play over a decade in the NFL against all odds.
By all the professional metrics then and today, Spud or Mick should have never played professional sports. They didn’t fit neatly into the boxes that the establishment had set up to determine who could play on the professional level. Neither was of the right height or weight; but how do you measure a person’s heart or determination?
In a similar manner, based on all political metrics set up by the establishment, Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee for president. He had never run for any office before, was never active in the Republican Party, and was not a part of the “good old boys” network.
But how do you measure a person’s ability to connect with the public at large? How do you measure a person’s ability to connect with the people in a language that they understand? How do you explain the ability of a billionaire to connect with the working class?
On paper, Spud and Mick should never have played pro sports, let alone, play for over a decade, each at the highest level.
In a similar vein, on paper, there is no way anyone could have predicted Trump’s ascendancy to become the Republican standard bearer for president; it defies all conventional wisdom.
Spud, Mick, and Trump all changed the “conventional wisdom” approach to basketball, football, and politics. Sports are one of the most egalitarian institutions in the world: either you can play or you can’t; either you can help a team win or you can’t.
Politics is less egalitarian than sports and is more subjective. Politics is more answering the question: “Can I trust you and can I believe you are going to do the things you promised?” Politics is about answering the question: “Are you going to make my life better and provide a brighter future for my children?”
Spud and Mick would have a much more difficult time breaking into professional sports today. I would go so far as to say that they would not make a pro team today simply because the leagues are so data driven, despite a person’s level of accomplishment. Basketball players at various positions should be of a certain height and weight; football players should be at a certain height, weight and speed based on their positions played.
If a player doesn’t fit neatly into these metrics, in many instances, a coach or scout won’t even look at a player. This explains why and how the political establishment overlooked the Trump candidacy. The Democrats made the same mistake with Bernie Sanders.
Spud and Mick have proven that they were prepared for that tap on the shoulder; thus far, I would say Trump has proven he was ready also.
Often times, making history is as much about timing as it is skills. Could it be that Trump was born for such a time as this?
Raynard Jackson is founder and chairman of Black Americans for a Better Future (BAFBF), a federally registered 527 Super PAC established to get more Blacks involved in the Republican Party. BAFBF focuses on the Black entrepreneur. For more information about BAFBF, visit http://www.bafbf.org. Follow Raynard on Twitter @raynard1223.