It reminded me of my own first judo instructor, Bill Shelton, who I haven't seen in over thirty years, since he graduated from college, married and moved away to teach physical education in Iowa, I think.
As I read Steve's post, of course he mentioned a lot of other people who crossed his path, like Maurice Allan and John Saylor, who were international competitors and coaches. I remember asking both Jim Pedro, Sr. who grew up in Boston and Olympic silver medalist Lynn Roethke, from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the names of the people who had started them in judo, and, years apart, both of them gave me the same answer word for word,
"You wouldn't know him."
It amused me one day to hear someone bragging about his position in a judo organization, proudly announcing,
"People know me, even if they know I'm an asshole. Do you know how many people know my name now? I matter!"
Two things struck me, this morning, as I was browsing the Internet and reading judo books when I really should be finishing up on my last conference paper ...
- We never would have been in the position to meet those people you've heard about if not for the people whose names you wouldn't recognize. This is as true for millions of people as it is for me, Steve, Lynn and Jim, and just as true of Chemistry, mathematics, poetry and computer science as it is of judo. [That isn't always the case, though. I was asking Sensei Richard (Blinky) Elizalde this morning who was his first judo teacher and he answered, 'Hayward Nishioka, when I was a little kid, back in 1962.]
- I suspect my first judo coach quit teaching judo, had a few kids and never thought about me again. He was also Tim Schultheis's first coach, now from Gurnee Judo who you can hear coaching his son in this video. The people who set our lives on a different, and better, path, often, without even knowing it - these are the people who matter.