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by William H. Benson

January 28, 1999 

     Three people figured prominently in the news this month: Michael Jordan, John Elway, and, of course, President Bill Clinton.

      About Michael Jordan one radio commentator said, “Arguably he is the greatest basketball player ever.”  But another countered, saying that we should drop the word “arguably”.  “Jordan is the greatest player to ever put on basketball shoes.”  Jordan’s six NBA championship rings eclipses Magic Johnson’s five.  In the final seconds of a close game, everyone knew that the ball would invariably end in Jordan’s hands, and his last second jump shot would win the important, must-win games.  Competitive to the utmost, he was.

      John Elway unofficially played his final game at Mile High Stadium two weeks ago in the AFC championship game, and will probably announce his retirement sometime after the season ends this Sunday.  On that afternoon he and his Broncos will appear in yet another Super Bowl, his fifth, to play the Atlanta Falcons coached by none other than Elway’s nemesis, Dan Reeves.  Starting at the one yard line in the final minutes of a game and then driving 99 yards to win is Elway’s specialty.  Absolutely competitive he is.

     As a political player Bill Clinton has endured constant turnovers, fumbles, interceptions and fouls.  The referees are continually throwing flags, and yet, he is still in the Oval Office and in the White House, delivering a “knockout” State of the Union speech to Congress two weeks ago.  Despite his enemies’ repeated attempts to have him ejected from the game, he has written and added entire new chapters into the playbook of political suvival.  His coaches standing on the sideline have dreamed up and sketched out more plays to gain yardage and score points than even Mike Shanahan.

      What is most amazing is how each side in the impeachment proceedings have grabbed for the rule book, the Constitution, quoting the intentions and thoughts of its writers: James Madison, Gouverneur Morris, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton.  It is hoped that these people, dead for almost two centuries, and their ideas, still alive, will lead us, the living, through this ugly contest to victory.  Each side appeals to the framers.

       Months ago when a reporter asked President Clinton if he would ever consider resigning, he instantly replied, “No, never.”  His competitive drive approaches that of Jordan and Elway. 

      Talent is a disposition or aptitude of mind or body which “qualifies a person for a certain kind of action.”  No one is born to be great, to break to the top.  Extraordinary mental/physical prowess is not necessarily strong enough to push a person upwards.  What is needed is a start, an opportunity to deepen one’s knowledge.  Michael Jordan was handed a basketball.  John Elway was given a football.  At age 17 Bill Clinton strode onto the White House grounds and shook hands with President Kennedy.

       That “certain kind of action” is denied to many people who have the apptitude;  they were never allowed to play the game.  Forced by either economic, social, or political reasons to do something else, they become disgruntled, discouraged, and end in failure.  To end up at the top where Jordan, Elway, and Clinton reside is the happy result of a combination of many circumstances, an infinite capacity for taking pains.

        Two forecasts I offer: Denver will win by a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and the Senate will not have the needed 2/3’s vote to eject President Clinton.