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Right choices come at odd times

April 23, 2002|BY BOB PARASILITI

The beauty of sport is the chance to replay and review events.

That's what writers and fans alike live for - those times to analyze and criticize every play, every move and every outcome.

Sports are the everyday soap opera. The results are always remembered, at least by someone in some form, but the decisions have a habit of shaping the history of the game.

Want some examples?

Why do the Buffalo Bills need Drew Bledsoe?

Why did the Cleveland Indians have to trade Roberto Alomar?

Why did Alomar have to spit in a ump's face?

What were the Minnesota Vikings thinking when the gave up all those draft picks for Herschel Walker?

What would have happened to the New York Knicks if Willis Reed didn't limp out on the floor?

Would the Washington Wizards be in the playoffs if Michael Jordan didn't suffer a season-ending injury?

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Would the Baltimore Orioles have won a World Series if it weren't for Jeffery Maier?

And why, oh why, did the Cleveland Browns choose to play the prevent defense against John Elway, a move which turned the quarterback into a legend with the help of "The Drive?"

Those are just off the top of my head. Still, someone's choice shaped the outcome and, in some ways, a destiny.

It doesn't matter if it's a national or local contest, opinions sprout because of decisions. Believe me, my phone and e-mail reflect that every day.

So, last Tuesday, I took a little time to re-evaluate and reflect on a little-known decision which shaped an obscure corner of sporting history.

It happened nearly three decades ago. A man chose sport over practical issues. It was a decision that started an odyssey, of sorts.

In a split second, part-time labor was sacrificed for fun and sporting knowledge. It came from a belief that there is more to sports than just playing the game and one has to work the rest of his life. Talent wasn't measured in athleticism and ability. It was more of love and confidence.

Monetary needs were overlooked because of another belief - things have a habit of taking care of themselves.

The decision didn't result in a first-round draft pick, a big money contract or international fame. Somehow, it led to a college education, a diploma and a chosen career.

The snap judgment had an ever-so-small bearing on the 1981 AFC Championship, the 1983 AL Championship Series and the 1983 World Series.

It had a sliver of impact on Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Robinson, Pat Gillick, Patrick Ewing, Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, former Oakland Raiders football coach Tom Flores, Texas Rangers manager Jerry Narron, Deion Sanders, Lou Pinella and Jay Gibbons to name a few.

That one decision didn't change the course of the lives of those athletes - it just added a obscure footnote.

The decision led to relocation. It allowed some local sporting events to be printed for the record for ever more.

It was a decision that has effected many people, started many friendships, made a few enemies and even led to a recent marriage and parental obligations.

The decision was a day in October 1973 when my father decided that I didn't have to be a star athlete to benefit from the fun and discipline of sports. It was the day I got cut from my high school's basketball team and he allowed me to take the job as team manager.

I continued the job in college, got my degree and the rest is, well, history.

He didn't sway world events, but his decision turned what can be one of the most devastating days in a young boy's life - being told you aren't good enough - into something positive. Gone were the sometimes-phony perks of all-star trophies and newsprint accolades.

I was not going to be a pro athlete.

Instead, my dad's choice allowed me to participate in a different way. It developed a different love of sports, exposed me to writing and led me to the realization that I shape a career and a future.

It allowed me to see great sporting events and meet famous athletes, new friends and, eventually, my wife, JoAnn, and stepdaughter, Brianna.

It's a testament that one man's foresight proves someone doesn't have to be a star to be a success or to have an impact on sports and life.

It all might sound corny, but it all came to mind on April 16, which would have my father's 71st birthday.

If it weren't for my dad - and my mom - I wouldn't be where I am today.

My dad never played the games, but he was proof that everyone can change a small piece of someone's history with the subtlest of decisions.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Tuesday. He can be reached at bobp@herald-mail.com or 301-733-5131, ext. 2310.

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