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Tyronn Lue and the Leopards
I was born in a hospital but I take pride in telling everyone I encounter that I was born under a banana tree due to abject penury! My father was a World War 2 veteran who worked with the Customs Department in Cameroon (West Central Africa). He was a self-made man with a second grade education but would go to the bank and conduct his financial transactions with help from nobody; filling out forms and making deposits or withdrawals as the case may be. He would work from dawn to dusk on his garden and rental properties during his free time. The phrase “Dawn to Dusk” is not anathema to Africa in the 1980’s. The military would seize power (Coups d’Etats) in some African countries and junta spokesmen would impose “dawn to dusk” curfews while suspending constitutions and disbanding national assemblies (Lol). As age took its toll on my dad, he would sometimes stand up with difficulties and scream due to back pains. Yes he had strong work ethics. He imparted some lessons/wisdoms in me one of which goes: “Sometimes you have to poop, sit on it, cover it and look at people with a smile as if nothing has happened but you have pooped”. The moral here is one of not being loquacious but intuitive, reserved, knowing when to tell a lie or the truth to save your skin. In fact being a chameleon. I was not strongly built like some athletes but my father also advised me to desist from ever throwing the first punch in a situation for it might land on a dead man walking. Once he receives the punch, comes crashing down to his death, one will be faulted for having killed meanwhile the guy was a dead man walking! The comedian Tracy Morgan re-echoed a similar message during an interview stating “It is good to reason with your brains rather than with guns and fists”. Again as kids we were even encouraged to always sell COCKS (roosters) and never the hens. Why? Hens were natural incubators that would likely lay eggs and hatch chicks thus bringing in more money! My father preached love for kids and had 16 of them with two wives. He would not put out tenants who owed him back rents and had children. He would spare teenagers who picked his fruits from mango and other trees. One of our neighbors-Mr. Peter was childless. When kids trespassed on his property or picked his fruits, he would chase after them with pebbles to the dismay of my father.
I did not turn out to be a Mr. Peter as the kids I served in Brooklyn were treated like my biological children and it was a blessing to mentor and see them grow up. I learnt a lot from them as they would beckon their rowdy friends to ‘show some love to Mr. Wewe’ when they were acting up and they would comply. When doing a book talk in 2008 on “The First Part Last” by Angela Johnson at Boys and Girls High School now Nelson Mandela High School for Social Justice in Brooklyn, I asked the class that was 98 percent black if they would dump their girlfriend/boyfriend if he/she became a vegetable due to chronic illness! The whole class said no to my pleasant surprise. On Wednesday July 18th, 2018 Nelson Mandela (the late president of South Africa) and global civil rights icon would have turned 100.Co-incidentally, I wore an African outfit emblazoned with Nelson Mandela’s portrait. Everybody showed me love as if I was the real Mandela from the subway to the Eastern Parkway promenade in Brooklyn! From young black males to young white college students and a white granny pampering her two granddaughters I heard “Happy Birthday”. I accepted the wishes on his behalf! In Mandela’s Xhosa language I say “Ndiyabulela” for Thank You!
I attended Pitt (University of Pittsburgh) and after graduation, I served as a librarian with the University of Yaounde, Cameroon and then moved to Brooklyn, New York for greener pastures in 1993. Brooklyn gave me a daughter in 1996! Backtracking to my childhood, I was skinny, lanky and nerdy and attended St. Joseph’s parochial school in Bamenda, Cameroon. I fondly remember some childhood friends lying to their illiterate parents to get some allowance by stating that they had broken “Osmosis” and “Metamorphosis” at school. Some parents would give them money to pay for the broken “Osmosis” while others actually came to the schools to pay for it. My friends were busted! In the 1990’s, I would watch different sports with my family and would even write and send inspirational cards to different teams and players. In one instance, I did not eat for a day after the Dallas Cowboys broke my heart and those of other Steeler fans during the Super Bowl with Neil O’Donnel as our quarterback. I supported the Arizona Wild cards Cinderella team that won the NCAA championship in 1997 and specifically Mike Bibby. We showed the same love to different sports, teams and coaches. John Calipari, Mike Anderson, Mike Krzyzewski to name a few have been very humble in personally writing back to acknowledge the gesture! Humility knows no bounds your background not withstanding! I watched one championship that Michael Jordan dedicated to his then eight year old daughter Jasmine. One other NBA finals caught my eyes as my household supported the underdog Philly Sixers and Alan Iverson against the Lakers. One player who was paired against Alan Iverson came to my attention. He was light skinned, wore braids and did a great job neutralizing Iverson. He would leap into the stands like a leopard, chasing lose balls and causing irreparable damage to the Sixers. His name was Tyronn Lue. I would follow his career over the years just like those of other sports figures -veterans and rising stars alike.
I am yet to read “The Vanishing American Adult” by Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska but a blurb of the work highlighted American work ethics and capitalism, travel, moderate consumption and lampoons youth who fail to mature as adults. I am enamored by a system that encourages everyone to try new things from businesses to science, sports just to name a few even if you fail and never give up. My athletic ability on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being excellent is a paltry 4! With the spirit of Americana, I tried to carve my niche elsewhere as an independent artiste, self-publishing and producing African themed documentaries.In 1999, I befriended one of South Africa’s statesmen and elder politician-Dr. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Zulu prince, chief and head of the Inkatha Freedom Party. He treated me the same way my dad treated kids and I have looked up to him as a male figure and role model for almost 20 years. He turns 90 years young in August. Taking up the challenge of my new country (The USA) and inspired by the questions from elementary school students about daily life in sub-Saharan Africa, I wrote and produced “Welcome to Alphabetic Africa”. It was edited in Pittsburgh but shot in the United States, Cameroon and South Africa. We garnered 3.5 stars out of 4 from Video Librarian Magazine and also got rave reviews from School Librarian Journal! During our shoot in South Africa, Prince Buthelezi participated for free and shared his dose of wisdoms as well. Former first lady and presidential candidate-Hillary Rodham Clinton resorted to some African wisdom in her work “It Takes a Village”. Indeed it truly takes a village to raise a child and I for one can corroborate this assertion given that I enjoyed the extended family system and its best practices growing up. Prince Buthelezi mentioned that his political ideology focused on “UBUNTU.” The complete phrase is “Ubuntu Umuntu Ngabantu”-which is Zulu for ‘a person is a person through other people’. To round up my shoot I asked Prince Buthelezi for his favorite adage and got “One hand washes the other”. This is a great tie-in to community partnerships, mutual help similar to the Harambees of Kenya and beyond. I also asked him the symbolism of leopard skins loved by African chiefs and was told that they represent royalty. Leopards are reserved and can disguise and pounce out of nowhere when you least expect.
All of us are unique and our hands can wash the other. Through social media I befriended Deandre Jordan of the La Clippers during his 18th birthday. He was playing the FIBA championship in Serbia but personally showed his true southern gentlemanly side in his reply to me: “Yes Sir! Thanks for the birthday and other wishes. My job is to inspire everyone and make them even better than I am”. As a fan I equally befriended Brazilian 7 footer Lucas Riva Amarante Nogueira who was playing in Spain in his late teens. He snapped one day on social media after a break up with a girlfriend. My age and maturity came into play when I offered free advice that he appreciated. He fumed that his ex-girlfriend was nothing but evil as she would wear skimpy and other short dresses and party every day. This type of company was a liability to his career. I watched one NCAA championship game won by Duke featuring Nolan Smith. The New York Daily News ran an article “Like Father Like Son” about the tragic loss of his father Derek Smith who was affiliated with the Washington Wizards. I sympathized with Mr. Smith sending him a clipping of the article and requested his autograph stating how I was same age with his late father. A month later, I received an envelope addressed to me in my own handwriting from Washington DC! It was from the very humble Nolan Smith granting my autograph request! That humility speaks a lot about his late father and the humility of the VILLAGE raising him in the true spirit of UBUNTU.I would even opine that the apple truly does not fall far from the tree. In Pidgin English (lingua franca) spoken in Nigeria and other West African countries we would say “PUSSY (cat) no Fit Born Dog”. That can literally translate for “A cat cannot give birth to a dog”. On my 56th birthday, I was playing around Facebook and randomly pulled Michael Jordan’s profile. It was one of the rare times that this world legend, super star and family man logged on his page and I sent him a friend request! He approved it! What a rare privilege and honor! I noticed that his friends were limited but most were around our age-the fifties. Mr. Jordan asked us to kindly excuse him as he is always and extremely busy with no time for social media. I complemented him and his whole family stating how he is a world legend but very humble! He liked the feedback.
Before I end my anecdote I wish to share something that happened to me in January 2016.Tyronn Lue, one time Alan Iverson nemesis was appointed as a coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.I sent him a congratulatory card and letter stating how I was mesmerized by his championship performance against the Philly Sixers in 2001.I got a very courteous and humble reply from Coach Lue thanking me for thinking about him. He delivered a championship to Cleveland in June that year! My father indulged in back breaking chores! Every endeavor or career is 99 percent perspiration and 1 per cent aspiration. Thomas Edison (one of the greatest inventors) states that genius is 98% perspiration and 2 % inspiration. A young star and University of North Carolina commit-Nassir Little in one interview stated that people see stardom in him but do not know that his day starts at 4 a.m. in the morning with practice, hitting the books, drills and more practice ending at 10pm.He might have spoken for all our athletes pro or otherwise. While I am an average Joe with a 9-5 schedule, I cannot be indifferent to the reports of grilling schedules, jet lagging, morning drills, practice, injuries, fatigue, depression, insomnia prevalent in athletes. I remember a player battling sleeplessness as a result of this schedule and coming across the new sleep product “Som”. As most athletes and stars unwind and enjoy a well -deserved rest this summer, I and you can only wish them the best. Yes-the ESPY awards were on July 18th while the World Cup finals were on Sunday July 15th. Congrats to Kylian Mbappe and the French national team (Les Bleus) and their symbol-The Cock on their World Cup Championship. A special shout out to President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation for hosting, FIFA the organizing body and all the teams/nations that participated. As we gear up for Qatar 2022 we sports fans are optimistic even if mischievous souls claim that the Al-Wakrah Stadium- a hosting venue’s architectural design resembles a vagina!
In March 2018, Coach Tyronn Lue temporarily gave up his coaching job to cater to a health condition ranging from chest pains to insomnia. Minnesota Timberwolves super star Karl Anthony Towns stated in an interview last year that NBA and other stars are not super humans and do get sick and could use medical marijuana for a panacea! Before I am asked if I needed to use a canon to kill a butterfly by penning an anecdote to say Feel Better, unwind, rest and play Coach Lue and others, I would preempt you by saying yes! To anyone who is sick or recovering regardless of your walk of life and status, I say God Bless (Mungu Akubariki) as one would say in Swahili!
Yours Truly: Boniface N. Wewe, Brooklyn, New York
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