How I Came to Write This Book – Part 2
Part 2: Lessons Learned
Dr. Charles Higgins is like an egg fresh from the hen—all hard shell on the outside, but full of warm liquid goodness on the inside.
He is forever “Doc” Higgins to those of us who are alumni of the famous Ohio University Sports Administration Grad Program. When Karen Williams (now Hatcher) and I invited him to lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant (I think maybe the first ethnic food establishment in Athens at that time), he had to work hard to control the fact that he was positively giddy. No students had ever ventured so far! I often wonder if anyone has done so since. But Karen and I (who grew up together…which is a whole other blog) saw right through him. Salt and Pepper, as our classmates called us (because she is black and I am white and we were inseparable at the time), gave that wonderful man a whole new flavor when we were together.
Doc’s Tough Love
Doc had no tolerance for the wishy-washy. He used to get all hot in the face when he was mad at his 30 kids/students, and say, “Make a decision already!!! Then work your butt off to make it the right one.” He was the rock on which Huey, Dewey, and Louie (as in Drs. Higgins, Wilkinson, and Lavery) built the now 50 years strong O.U. Sports Ad Program.
Drs. James Lavery and Owen Wilkinson have since passed, but Doc and our Den Mother, Shirley, are still going strong. Apparently golf and good clean livin’ are the secret chemistry to the fountain of youth… or maybe it’s just the endless tough love he has for the nearly two thousand children he shaped into men and women (who would, in turn, help shape the games we all played into the big businesses they are today).
The man is as good a Christian as they come. I am not. I am a typical Italian Catholic; straight-laces can’t tie me. So one year when I really wanted to attend the class’s annual symposium in May, but the baseball schedule dictated otherwise, I sent a special gift for my mentor who was to be honored at the Saturday evening banquet. I wish cell phones had been invented already, so I could have seen the precise shade of red on his face when he pulled out that pair of smiley-faced Chief Wahoo (Indians logo) boxer shorts.
Honoring My Biggest Influences
When I was honored by the class of 2000 as the Distinguished Alumnus, Doc could not have been more proud. When I addressed him from that podium, I saw the love in his face for a young woman who was half of the team that first showed him it was alright to let his always well-cropped hair down now and then.
It’s tough love from the men and women in my life like him that helped me push past my old ball and chain – fear of failure – and make it to the top tier of the sports world (and later publish my first novel). When I was considering drastically cutting back my teaching schedule to focus on writing, Doc was one of a handful of voices in my head. He was shouting at me: “Just make the decision already and work your butt off to make it the right one!”
God, how I love that man. There’s a scene in my book, FATIMA AND THE SONS OF ABRAHAM, where one of my main characters, Eli, lets his tough ballplayer exterior down for a moment to express his affection for T.P., one of the minor (though my personal favorite) characters. Doc is sprinkled a bit in both of those men at that moment. Thank you, sir, for being one of those larger-than-life people who make living worth the moment it is in time.
Tune in to my next blog post for an introduction to Minor League Baseball in the early ‘80s and some of the best character material a writer could ever ask for (pardon the dangling preposition).