But two things left me speechless and of a mind to reevaluate a lot of stuff. The phone rang while I was in my hospital bed Monday night and the voice on the other end said: "This is Jeff George. I was calling to tell you I'm thinking of you and praying for you." Yep, Jeff George. No. 3 in your program. For years and years, especially during his brief time in D.C., I was pointedly critical of George. I'm sure some of it was over the top and unnecessary. Yet he was big enough to put that aside and call with get-well wishes. He told me about his father having a heart attack when he was about my age, 49, about lifestyle changes and how families respond with support.
George sounded like an expert on the topic and on recovery. He talked and I listened.
I've also, in this space and on TV, been pointedly critical of Kobe Bryant. Yet, I answered the doorbell Wednesday and there were flowers and balloons from Kobe wishing me a quick return to my duties. I hope I have the grace to extend myself to someone who might offer a public rebuke of my work.
The lesson learned is probably that a bad pass on third and 12, a missed jump shot at the buzzer or even a prolonged disagreement with a teammate doesn't make that the dominant theme of a man's life. It's not like I won't make a critical observation about Kobe in the playoffs, if necessary, just that such comments ought to be expressed in context and not cavalierly used to form larger judgments about a person's life. At the very least there ought to be an acknowledgment of a sense of compassion and humanity that aren't to be taken for granted.
There's also an obligation on my part to take all this support and advice and make the necessary changes that will enable me to get out of bed and be a producer again, a more responsible one who can go to work with the consistency of Cal Ripken and also understand the need for better health and a more balanced life. As Jeff George said in our conversation the other night: "This is definitely manageable. And you'll do it. But it doesn't mean you're in total control. This whole thing should help you learn the difference."