I got up this morning at 4:55 am, and left my house at 5:30 and drove to the Orlando Hilton to have breakfast with Joe Gibbs, Coach Cowher…..and a thousand other people. The breakfast was amazing. Soft scrambled eggs and an unlimited supply of crispy bacon. From a culinary perspective, my only complaint was the absence of chocolate milk.
Joe Gibbs was a pleasant surprise. Gibbs coached the Washington Redskins to three Super Bowl titles, and owns a Nascar team that has also won three titles. He just signed my favorite supercross rider, James Stewart (@js7 on twitter), who got his first win for Joe Gibbs Racing Saturday night in Oakland. I knew all of these things about Gibbs before breakfast. What I learned of Gibbs during the breakfast is that for a man of 71 he has an overwhelming amount of energy and a lively, self-effacing sense of humor. It was clear from his words that at several earlier points in life he took himself a bit more seriously. His current demeanor is likely a product of the comfort he has in the accomplishments of his life. It is also rooted in his failures. Gibbs started his Redskins coaching career 0-5. Early in his coaching career, he all, but went bankrupt buying real estate in Norman, Oklahoma. Pride or something like it, prevented Gibbs from actually filing for bankruptcy and he spent four and half years paying off his debts while crafting a Redskins dynasty.
Coach Cowher is not the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach. He is a former law school classmate from Florida State, and one of the best friends I have had the pleasure to have. We live less than five miles apart, but don’t see each other nearly enough. When I think of it, I am reminded of Bill Russell telling Frank Deford that they could not be friends because Russell knew they did not have the time to commit to true friendship as he saw it. Somehow, and most credit goes to Coach Cowher, our friendship continues. It is not measured in the amount of time spent, or day to day nuances, but in the quality and timeliness of the time.
It is not without irony that the Gibbs breakfast had a religous bent. Coach Cowher has a way of prompting me to these events and discussions, not unlike my father. I am not a church going sort, but he inevitably makes me think. Even in secular terms, he challenges my conceptions and understandings of the world and this to me is invaluable.
In more practical matters, I was in the process of moving several years ago. It was a rush move when confusion arose as to the closing date ensued. Midway through the move I struck me quite sharply that it was not going to be done with available hands. I called Coach Cowher, who likely was vaguely aware that I was moving. He was at my house in twenty minutes, and had everyone laughing and moving furniture in twenty-five.
In pure fun, my parents were in town over a year ago. They have met Coach Cowher and when he heard they were in town he insisted we stop by. I figured maybe thirty minutes to an hour of catching up. What followed was an incredible day of food, swimming, fishing, tubing, and dune buggy driving. A day we all cherished with a great friend.
Thank You Coach….until our paths cross again sooner I hope than later.