Seeing America through the eye's of Red Klotz would have you believe everything we as American's believe is possible. A land where a five foot seven inch, Jewish, red headed kid from a first generation working class family from Philadelphia succeeds brilliantly as a professional basketball player. Moreover, as an Ambassador Of Good Will for the United States of America for sixty years touring around the world owning, coaching, and playing basketball. I would like to think this can still happen in America even today. However, that was yesterday and today is very different.
Now at ninety and still shooting hoops, it is interesting to ask this man who has been up close and personal with the many changes of the world on political, social, and environmental issues and events, perceives these changes. Having experienced the great Depression, World War II, nearly seventy years of marriage, raising six children and grand-parenting and great grand-parenting twenty children, regime and political changes around the globe, changes in science, medicine, engineering, sports, and life in general. He speaks of the high and low points for humanity throughout his life experience and minds eye view.
Having lost his best friend to the battle on Iwo Jima during WWII was a lesson in the horror of war in a personal way. However, the many millions of human beings slaughtered with the intent of genocide was an unfathomable horror of war he still can't reconcile within his mind and heart. Yet, the defeat of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi's was a score for humanity in which we as American's eventually took the high road. There were all the wars and undeclared wars in between then and now. Genocid still exists.
He asks "What have we learned as people?" Today we are in two wars, the drug war, a war from within ourselves and we seem to be losing ground on ever front. What have we learned?
Oh, but a redeeming time in history was the era of Civil Rights and the magnificent moment to be alive to see a man of color elected as President of the United States decades later. Like a bouncing ball the globe turns on it's now shifted axis moving events and their highs and lows, ups and downs. Like a game of basketball competitive, fast moving, thinking quick and trying for accuracy, team strength and individual skill, life is all of that. When President Obama became the leader of our nation, I heard my Father, Coach Klotz, remark "He is a very good ball player and that gives me confidence in his ability to play the game of life and politics, to lead." He was especially proud that the result of that election represented a consensus of American's over all demographics. He felt a great pride, as he always does, in being an American.
He felt that pride after the unimaginable tragedy of 9/11 and how we as American's picked up and moved forward. The world was stunned and changed forever that day and we most likely will never be the same. But, living through history and experiencing the moments of shock and disappointment like the assassinations of leaders like President John F. Kennedy and his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., various world leaders and despots, we learn that life goes on and change is inevitable and can be bad or good.
While touring around the globe with the famous Harlem Globetrotter Basketball teams, his opposition teams (the most famous unit The Washington Generals) he experienced pressing hands and exchanging friendship in every language. People to people laughing and cheering in the experience of sports and camaraderie. These tours represented as Ambassador's Of Good Will for the United States of America and introduced the sport of basketball to other countries for the first time. Now the NBA recruits players from many of those countries. They entertained and continue to entertain our troops located around the world in peace and war time. The stories of meeting royalty, prime ministers, Popes, dictators, officials of offices in the countries around the world were interesting as each year passed and history revealed their fates (e.g. Sadat, Hussein of Iraq, Perons, Popes John and Paul, Rainier's of Monaco,etc.), and how those changes would change the world landscape.
Some things changed, basketball uniforms took on a new look, players took on new faces and interesting names, and larger heights, but the ball kept bouncing and swishing through hoops delighting fans and audiences of every nationality, religion, race, or difference. These are the moments of shared humanity and hopeful coexistence. These are the times remembered by a man who became known as the losingest coach in the world. A man who smiled all the way to the bank, can look back on a life that spanned history and time with magical adventures and challenges, lived his life working doing what he loves and is his passion, making those around him marvel at his success and venture to say "Only in America" could this unlikely individual win the golden ticket and grab the brass ring. His old school philosophy of doing your best with dignity and pride, playing the game for the love of the sport and to make the crowd leave feeling it was worth the price of a ticket and a with a happy memory, remembering to be generous along the way and sharing good fortune with those less fortunate, and representing yourself and America with respect. His hope is to see peace in his lifetime and his belief that there is still time. It is hard not to believe in a person who has defied the odds and remains optimistic. So I have chosen to believe that all things are possible through the eye's of Red Klotz.