Our lives are full of stories; indeed, you could say that our lives are made up of the stories we accept and the stories we reject, all of which make us the person we are. Some stories stick around, consciously or not, and resurface from time-to-time. In the past year, I’ve been living a retelling of the story of my boyhood sports heroes. It began while I was scanning through a catalogue of artwork from an artist that I met once. He paints sports figures and musicians, and I bought an autographed Willie Nelson painting that now hangs in my music room. Well, to my surprise, in his catalogue, I found an autographed painting of Leroy Kelly, the hall-of-fame running back who took over when Jim Brown retired from the Cleveland Browns. The painting brought back memories of sandlot football games, of more organized leagues where I fought to get number 44, and to watching black-and-white CBS games of the week. That painting now hangs in my office.
After Christmas, I started thinking about Willie Mays, about summer days spent reading the Washington Daily News box scores, hoping that Willie had hit a home run. It wasn’t difficult to find autographed photos, including one of The Catch, but somehow that didn’t seem like the right memorabilia for me. I wanted artwork, and I wanted something that I remembered. So, I thought about it, and finally recalled that when he batted, Willie took a long stride and let go of the bat with his trailing hand as he followed through. He often looked off-balance, but actually was making an incredibly athletic move that generated enormous power. After a great deal of searching, I found an artist who captured that power and grace and then got Willie Mays to sign it. It’s on its way to me now.
My relationship to sports has changed a great deal since my childhood, but these guys (along with Walt Frazier of the Knicks, who is next on my list) were formative figures for me, and whether it’s nostalgia or something else, I’m enjoying the search for creative expressions that capture something from my past.