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Sunday, April 03, 2011

My Picture With Bill Walton

I just got back from the R.I.S.E. conference in Dayton. There were some pretty good sessions, and my students got a lot out of it (as usual). The highlight for me was hearing Bill Walton (the "World's Tallest Grateful Dead Fan") speak -- I grew up a Boston Celtics fan, and he closed his career (as the quintessential Sixth Man) with them.

He was an exceptional speaker - since he's only 5 years older than me, his illustrations and anecdotes were a real trip down memory lane. Also, he's gone through some major stress: he's had over 60 surgeries on his back and feet, and spent almost two years on the floor due to spinal problems. At one point, he was so depressed and in despair that he contemplated suicide. So I get where he's coming from.

Now, only a few years after having his spine pretty much surgically reconstructed in an amazing medical procedure (they basically built an internal support cage around his spine), he's cycled 100 miles across Death Valley.

And yet, the recurring themes of his talk were family ("there's nothing like the pride of a father") relationships, and a whole lot of John Wooden memories. There's something about major crap happening to you (and I know that of which I speak) that gives you perspective.

As a father, cyclist, beate up former jock, and child of the 70s, I can say that I've heard few talks that affected me as much.

Afterward, we (I and my two students) got a chance to get our picture taken with him. Since I operate under a pseudonym, I cut out everyone's face. But just to give you a sense of proportion everyone's head (except for Walton's) is cropped just at the top of the head - I'm about 5' 7"", and the taller of my two students (the one to my left) is 6'2"". The top of my head was about a good half a foot below Walton's chin- it looks like he's standing on a chair. He is an absurdly tall man.

Now THAT was cool.

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