Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Pistol

Since we had a snow day yesterday, I was able to finish Mark Kriegel's Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich. For someone who knew more about Pistol Pete by reputation than personal experience (I didn't start paying attention to the NBA until 1981 when the Houston Rockets made it to the NBA finals; Pete had retired the year before), I found the book to be a useful introduction to one of the most prolific college scorers in the history of basketball.

But Kriegel's story was much more--it was really about the difficult relationship between Pete and his father, Press. The father had groomed Pete to be the first million dollar basketball player; through the intense practice (Homework Basketball) to the intense criticism and perfectionism, Press shaped Pete's world. This shaping, however, was not positive--rather, it taught Pete that he could never measure up to Press's exacting standards and hence, was not worthwhile.

The result was a pattern of destructive behavior, centering mainly on fast women, fast cars, and booze. But it also resulted in Pete struggling to find something or someone outside of himself that would "take him" away (including UFOs--he actually wrote "take me" as a message to UFOs on the roof of his Atlanta condo). His behavior become increasingly destructive, extreme or bizarre and centered on crazy fads until he finally retired in 1980.

Then, in a life without basketball, Pete was left to review all his "failures," the games where he could have been "perfect," the destructive alcohol abuse, the relationship with his father. At the end a long, dark night, Pete prayed for God to save him--and God did. Everyone testified that Pete's life radically changed: for the first time in his life, he seemed happy and at peace. And though it seemed like Christianity might be just another extreme fad, Pete's faith commitment "stuck" and led to his father and wife both professing faith in Jesus. He poured himself into Bible study and other spiritual disciplines and shared his faith constantly.

That part of the story made me nearly cry several times--this insecure boy-man who was transformed by a security found in Christ. And because this story was written by a sports biography who had no real interest in "faith," but great interest in his subject, I believe this story was worth reading and sharing with others. It also led me to find other sites dedicated to Pete Maravich: two of the better ones include the official Pistol Pete site and a YouTube site that a very cool 6 minute video of Pete highlights.

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