If Only, If Only…

Bryan Blog Post #11
A picture of former commissioner David Stern. Image from Sports Illustrated.

You will ultimately be defined by the sum total of your responses to circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn’t anticipate and indeed probably couldn’t even imagine. So just keep your eyes on the course and be ready to move in different directions depending upon the crises and opportunities with which you are faced.” -David Stern (NBA Commissioner, 1984-2014) in a Dec. 18, 2012 interview

The quote from now former-commissioner David Stern came a little more than a year to the day that news broke of the trade of Chris Paul to my beloved Los Angeles Lakers, a deal that would have created one of the most formidable backcourts in the NBA and set the Lakers up for a series of successful seasons in the post-Kobe era – if only it had been approved. Instead it was vetoed by Stern for “basketball reasons.” The following year, the Lakers attempted a new approach by sacrificing four draft picks for Steve Nash and trading for Dwight Howard. After a sluggish start, coach Mike Brown was sacked, only to be replaced by the defensively-deficient Mike D’Antoni after legendary coach Phil Jackson was snubbed. The Lakers were demolished in the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs (whose head coach, Gregg Popovich, used to coach the Pomona-Pitzer basketball team before his rise to stardom), Dwight Howard departed for Houston and the Lakers’ roster stands with more holes than swiss cheese, leaving them with one of the worst records in franchise history. In light of the fact that an approved trade for Paul would probably have changed the trajectory of the organization in a more favorable way, Laker fans will find Stern’s quote a bit ironic considering he was one of the “circumstances, situations and events that you probably couldn’t anticipate and indeed probably couldn’t even imagine.”

But in fact, this is not some long-winded expression of a personal vendetta against David Stern in the wake of his retirement (sorry to the Seattle fans looking for yet another outlet to vent their pent-up rage). Stern presided over the NBA during a time that saw unprecedented growth in the image of the game, the international fan base, and the market value of the industry, a period of sweeping change that lends his quote (originally an answer to what he would have told the 1984 version of himself) and his perspective to be an excellent introduction for this post, as well as a nod to his legacy.

I did not foresee coming to Pomona. Up until about halfway through my pre-senior summer, I had never even heard of Pomona. I didn’t foresee myself doing any of the activities that I do now, including writing for this blog. For much of last year, I didn’t foresee myself as a geology major or as a sponsor, two of my most defining experiences at Pomona. I didn’t foresee myself being great friends with the people who are my best friends. Bottom-line: I should not be a fortune-teller or a weather forecaster. In many ways, it’s interesting to look back on where I was and what I thought then and compare it to where I am now, which is like trying to find similarities between a pupfish and a pangolin (two animals I discussed in the elementary science class I teach, both of which are quite interesting and worth a few minutes of surfing the web to learn more).

The essence of Stern’s quote is that life is going to throw you not only curveballs, but also invisible balls, trick balls, and flaming balls of mass destruction, and you need to be able to alter your approach based on what life tosses your way. This is also the essence of my Pomona experience. If you come in with preconceived notions of exactly how your college life is going to play out, you’re going to miss out on the Pomona experience. Pomona is much more than just hardworking students, strong academics, the 5C community, and being confused with Cal Poly Pomona by everyone from cashiers to major news outlets. It’s about taking chances, trying new things, discovering yourself, late-night conversations, sponsor group sleepovers, and all the little random things in between that seem insignificant, but that add up to define the experience as a whole. As I’m sitting here writing this blog, when I should really be studying my amino acids for a cell bio quiz on Tuesday, it’s a bit sad to think that I’m almost halfway done with my time at Pomona. Watching my sponsees exploring and discovering and just wandering aimlessly at times is both rewarding and a bit depressing to watch. Being in an environment, surrounded by other people whose approach to life and vision of college is as wide open as Marston Quad seems during HvZ, is simply unique beyond any explanation. After all that I’ve been through here, I cringe at the thought of what might have been if I hadn’t visited Pomona and had the chance to fall in love with it. Being here is refreshing, relaxing, and restorative, the graphic details of which will come in later blog posts when something more exciting than my first week of four labs has taken place. Most importantly, life at Pomona is a sufficient enough distraction so that I can brush off the pain of the Lakers’ current state of affairs.