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Monday, June 18, 2007

What the Black Sheep Knows

While I was in Cleveland covering Games Three and Four of the NBA Finals, I discovered a fascinating sculpture at Contessa Gallery. It is a work by Markus Pierson titled "What the Black Sheep Knows" and it is part of his "Coyote" series. The Peabody Fine Art Gallery website explains, "The Coyotes are a metaphor for people. They are a symbol of your reckless or wild side--a symbol of pursuing your dreams, wearing your heart on your sleeve, and celebrating all of life’s ups and downs. Markus has chosen the Coyotes (versus painting people) because they allow him a broader and deeper range of emotional expression. 'They are like a velvet glove. I can hit you with a reality, even a harsh one, but the Coyotes themselves take the edge off of the impact.'"

At the base of "What the Black Sheep Knows" is this caption written by Pierson:

I am the black sheep. Born with eyes too wide, a heart too soft, ears that hear a different drum, and a brain that dreams both day and night. Many think me a fool, they scoff at my reckless notions about life and destiny. What they say makes good sense, but I am the black sheep and so I carry on, for the only thing a black sheep is certain of is that you just never know.


Pierson almost died of Crohn's Disease and before he became a world renowned artist he was so poor that he could not even afford to buy a shower curtain as a wedding present for his friends, so he gave them one of his coyote drawings. Someone at the wedding saw the drawing and was captivated by it--and within a year Pierson's work was being displayed in over 100 art galleries in the United States.

What does this have to do with basketball? Everything. Consider the life stories of three of the players who participated in the NBA Finals. Tim Duncan was training to be a swimmer in his native Virgin Islands until Hurricane Hugo destroyed the swimming pool where he practiced. LeBron James was born to a single mother in Akron, Ohio, hardly a hotbed for basketball. Bruce Bowen's father was an alcoholic and his mother was a crack addict. At certain points in each of their lives, the idea that they would one day be playing in the NBA Finals would have seemed completely ludicrous. The media room at the Finals was packed with people from many different countries and backgrounds and I'm sure that at one time the idea that they would be covering this event would have seemed absurd.

In life there are people who will help you just because they can, or because they see a certain spark in you or just because helping others makes them feel good--and there are people who will never help you just because they are not able to help or because they don't see a certain spark in you or just because not helping others makes them feel important and powerful. If you have a dream or a goal then you cannot let that second group of people affect you; you simply must go around them or through them. Negative thinking and negative attitudes are as contagious and deadly as any disease you can imagine and they can cause you more harm than any sickness; illness just attacks your body but negative thinking and negative attitudes can rob you of your very soul. So, whether your dream is to be an NBA player or to be a writer covering the NBA--or anything else--the next time somebody laughs at you or closes a door in your face, think of Markus Pierson and "What the Black Sheep Knows": "...so I carry on, for the only thing a black sheep is certain of is that you just never know."

posted by David Friedman @ 9:40 PM

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