Archive for Thursday, April 5, 2001

Inspiration is anything but random

April 5, 2001

The idea was Jackie's, actually. I wish I had thought of it, but you'll get an idea of how egotistical I am shortly.

If you watched any of the basketball games during March Madness, you saw the ads for Chevy taking nominations for the Olympic torch relay. Seems they want people to nominate inspirational people in their lives to be a torchbearer for the Olympic torch relay on the road to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake.

The ads were touching, often showing an elderly person or a young athlete majestically carrying the most visible symbol of the games. After Jackie saw the ads, she thoughtfully considered folks she thought worthy of nomination. She came up with a great idea: Paul Heitzman, the 70-year-old track superstar who has won national titles for his age group in a variety of events.

Here's where Jackie and I differ: when I saw the ads, I wondered if anyone would nominate me. I already had delusions of grandeur, visualizing myself striding gracefully in slow motion, the American flag waving in the background, Bob Segar softly singing about being bold. All that came screeching to a halt when I got her email suggesting we nominate Paul. Darn do-gooders, ruining my fantasy.

But she's right. What more embodies the Olympic spirit than a man in the best physical shape of his life at 70? A man who got into this shape because, after the death of his daughter, he wanted to run in a charity run in Kansas City and his passion for running grew to national success.

So I looked into how to nominate my inspiring person. I went to the Web site and discovered a little secret Chevy didn't promote in the ads. You could write the most tear-jerking copy, but it would only matter if you were one of the five lucky nominations randomly drawn for the torch run. Then the committee would look at it and determine one inspirational story was more meaningful than the others.

I'm sure it would have been tough to look at all the nominations, but Chevy missed the boat on this one. It should have gotten the local dealers involved by having the dealers collect the entries and choose their nominee for their area. The local newspapers could have gotten involved by running stories or placing ads about "our nominee."

There isn't much inspiration in a computer-generated random drawing. Oh, sure, it's going to look very touching when Chevy runs the ads next winter showing "John Local of Yokel, Maine beat the odds and became a part of Olympic lore" Still, those of us who know the truth realize John isn't any more inspiring than he is lucky.

I am still going to enter Paul Heitzman because he does inspire me. But if he isn't chosen, don' t be surprised if you're driving down K-10 this fall and you see a slow-moving car blaring "Like a Rock" with a 70-year-old man running behind it carrying a flaming, upside down plunger while a sentimental publisher waves a flag while wiping away tears. I hope it won't frighten you. It's just one man living out his dream. An American dream. Cue the anthem. Then, cross your fingers and pray for luck.

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