In this cynical world where we eat our heroes, it's extraordinarily uplifting to experience a collective feeling of uninhibited affection and appreciation. I had such an experience not too long ago when Chick Hearn, the announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers, returned to the job after a 56-game hiatus due to illness.
Why the big deal? Well, Chick Hearn is 85 years old and prior to this gap on his work record he hadn't missed a day in 37 years! Already acclaimed as the best basketball announcer in history, he didn't need the applause or the money. He came back to work after open-heart surgery and a hip replacement simply to do the thing he loves.
Though I sit only six rows behind him at every Laker game, I've never met or spoken to the man. Yet like millions of others, I feel I know him, and I know I admire him.
Living in Los Angeles, a town known more for capriciousness than constancy and more for crash than class, Chick Hearn is more than a breath of fresh air, he is a monument to the existence and durability of virtue. His high competence and commitment and old-fashioned reliability earn him a legacy of respect. That he continues to do his job better than anyone else ever has merits admiration. The fact that he is such a thoroughly decent and gracious man warrants adulation.
I can't help but wonder, as rare as Chick is, how many other Chick Hearns, men and women of heroic character - teachers, postmen, receptionists, housekeepers - can be found in cities across this land and whether we appreciate them enough.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.