The Third Chance
The senior assembly was about career planning, or something to that effect. As an introduction, the speaker was making a point about being happy with your life’s situation by asking the over 300 people there “how many of you are happy once in awhile?” After a few snickers, practically all the hands in the auditorium went up. He then began to repeat the question several times, each time increasing the percentage of one’s day filled with happiness. By the time he got to the question, “how many of you are happy every single waking moment of every day?”, there was one hand in the back of the auditorium that remained up, that of Jim Hyde.
Those who didn’t know him were somewhat astonished by his participation in such a seemingly silly exercise. You see, Jim Hyde was no student. Jim Hyde was the dean of men in addition to being the most senior assistant football coach and probably the most feared person in school. His mood swins, name, and job as school disciplinarian had led to a very natural nickname, although we did get the literary analogy backward. If you were able to see past his often stern exterior and his practice of the art of very tough love, you would occasionally catch glimpses of a different side to this man. When he wasn’t swearing at you like a sailor he’d be picking you up and encouraging you, and in between punitive detention or laps around the track he’d be giving you fatherly advice such as “save your tears for REAL tragedy,” and “second chances seldom come.”
It was early in my junior year when fear for the man was replaced by respect adn I began to appreciate the philosophy among his harsh words. At first I attributed this change in my perception to my own maturation. Years later, however, I would question this as the sole reason, about the same time I realized the significance of his referral to a “leg whip” as a “leg whipple.”
It was also at this time early in my junior year that his humanistic side was demonstrated most obviously, when he was literally moved to tears at the sight of a young man’s courage. Two weeks prior, rumors of his sickness abounded after his eyes started to take on a strange yellow color.
“Hepatitis? And that’s a GOOD thing?”
“Shut up, man. As long as he’s in a good mood” was a conversation that could be overheard in the locker room several times over shortly thereafter. My respect for the complete man and his methods grew from then on, and to this day I believe my life to be richer as a result of my interactions with him. As a senior, I was even able to crack a slight smile (and a much bigger one now in remembrance) at his demeanor in the face of what I saw as adversity. It was dawn of the sixth day of the football pre-season, fifteen practices already in and everyone mentally and physically exhausted and bruised from head to toe. As we stretched before the day’s first practice, dreading the upcoming butchering of our bodies and searing August sun, Jim Hyde stood at the front of the team with a smile on his face and with all sincerity bellowed, “Today is a wonderufl day to be alive.”