Its not every day that one is fortunate enough to come face to face with one of their heroes. And the experience, through popular accounts, can oftentimes reflect the unejoyability more frequently associated with horrible first dates – stammering stutters, intense nerves, drooling. Symptomatically, these averse side effects are caused by recognition. “OH! Here is someone I’ve consistently idolized for an extended period of time, what do I do?!”
I once met Michael Jordan as a young boy visiting Chicago. While dining in his eponymously named bar and grill, the G.O.A.T. casually strides in, and what is my long awaited, suave comment, sure to prove that I AM the coolest kid in the joint, well deserving of court side seats and a pair of autographed J’s? “You’re….You’re….MICHAEL…” At least he was bemused…and I didn’t drool. However, on recent reflection, I realized that I was interacting with another of my heroes each and every day.
Maurice Manning, without being able to dunk from the free throw line, has wrought a reputation as one of the most talented, connected young poets currently doing it. Every day in class, he brings the vision, understanding, and aplomb of a world class poet. Another individual in Manning’s situation could easily rely on his respective laurels, citing his recognition as a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Guggenheim fellow as more than enough to justify lazy pedagogy.
Manning’s attitude is antithetical to such a egocentric focus. In interactions with our universities president, the various staff members, and the least confident writer in class, he maintains a concerned attunement to the needs of others, putting the good of the whole above concerns for self aggrandizement. So while he may not hold any NBA records, does not have a star on the Walk of Fame, and will never star in an action franchise sequel, but for me, and for Transylvanians everywhere, he’s a hero.