When I was a junior in high school, a new student transferred into our school from Ohio — let’s call him LeBron (no, not that LeBron, but since I am going to use a fake name, I figured I’d use something more exciting than just calling him Frank). Like many Ohio-ans (or is it Ohio-ites?), LeBron was crazy about football.
Not only was he crazy about football, but he was really good at it too. He was big, fast and quickly became one of the best players on our team. You didn’t have to be Jon Gruden to notice LeBron on the field.
Which is why everyone was so confused one Monday afternoon in October when LeBron was not at practice. The coaches started asking around and none of us could recall seeing him at school that day either.
Concerned something bad had happened, our head coach called LeBron’s house to make sure our star player was okay. After a couple of rings, LeBron answered the phone. When the coach asked if he was okay, LeBron said, “yes, why? What’s up?”
“Why are you not at practice?” replied the coach.
“We had practice today? But it is Columbus Day,” said LeBron. The Ohio native then went on to explain how Columbus Day is a big deal back home and he thought school and practice was canceled.
Caught off guard, our coach explained that practice and school did, in fact, take place in Arizona on Columbus Day. LeBron apologized and said he’d see coach at practice the next day.
The next day I saw LeBron at school and I asked him how his family celebrated Columbus Day.
“Oh, we didn’t do anything,” said LeBron.
“But I thought you told coach that that Columbus Day was such a big deal in Ohio?” I said. “I figured you guys were celebrating last night.”
“Yeah, I just made all that up because I didn’t feel like going to practice or school,” LeBron said with a smile. “I’m from Cleveland. I have never even been to Columbus.”
I was stunned. How did LeBron have the gumption to pull that off? He tricked our coach, got a 3-day weekend and didn’t have to face any type of punishment. As a nervous teenager, I couldn’t imagine making up a story like that, let alone getting away with it.
After expressing how impressed I was, LeBron explained how he knew he’d get away with it.
I knew coach would buy it because he once told me he’d never been to Ohio. Let’s keep this between us, okay?”
LeBron had something that most 16-year-olds did not have…confidence. There was no doubt in his mind that his plan would work. Sure, he may not have been very truthful, but he had his story straight, he was not afraid and he was convincing.
On this Columbus Day, 14 years later, I am still trying to match that level of confidence.