BAD NEWS, America. You have no more excuses for not running that marathon, finishing that screenplay or quitting that desk job to open a surf shop the way you're always threatening to do. In case you haven't noticed, Everyman is on a roll. Ordinary Joes and Janes are turning their one-of-these-days dreams into right-now reality, which means no one is buying your alibis anymore.
This is an article from the Sept. 15, 2008 issue
So it's time to go for it—nothing's too crazy. If a warehouse manager can beat LeBron James in H-O-R-S-E, if a 36-year-old infielder can finally hit his first big league home run, if a quarterback who's been cut eight times can start for an NFL team, if a sportscaster turned hockey mom can become a vice presidential nominee, shouldn't you get your backside off the BarcaLounger and reach for whatever pie is in your sky?
Granted, it may take a little luck to make the magic happen, the kind David Kalb of La Habra, Calif., had when James chose him from hundreds of potential challengers for a trick-shot competition sponsored by a landscaping equipment company. Kalb's online video entry—which included footage of him bouncing a shot off a warehouse floor and into a hoop 32 feet high (it was on a forklift)—intrigued James enough to invite him to the courts in Venice Beach, Calif., last week.
King James arrived on the scene with pomp befitting royalty, emerging from a glistening black Excursion resplendent in all white, including a headband, a skin-tight muscle shirt and satiny shorts that made him look like a bad-ass angel. Kalb? He's 26, prematurely bald, unimposing in T-shirt and gym shorts, and seven inches shorter than the 6'8" James. Think Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump.
But Kalb proceeded to flummox one of the best basketball players in the world. He threw a bounce pass off the backboard, caught the ball and from five feet put it in. He shot a ball from behind the backboard and put it in. He shot a ball from behind the backboard, put it in, raced around to the front and caught it coming through the net—then put it back in. The plan had been to play only one game, but James, amused, impressed and newly motivated, quickly called for two out of three. Kalb said fine. Then he beat James again.
Shouldn't you be shooting for a similar big moment? Making the varsity? Making the Senior tour? Guys like Scott McClain would insist you can do it if you ignore that whisper in your head that tells you to give up and pursue less lofty goals. McClain has spent 19 years playing first base and third for teams with names like Sky Sox, Baysox, River Cats and Grizzlies in places like Geneva, Ill.; Frederick, Md.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Tokorozawa, Japan. "The last three or four years I've said this is my last season going into it," he says. "But for some reason I always end up coming back."
McClain has belted 287 homers in the minors (think Kevin Costner in Bull Durham), but he also strikes out a lot, which is why he hasn't stuck in the big leagues. During brief stints with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants he never could go deep. Then on Sept. 3, two days after being called up by the Giants, McClain crushed a no-doubt shot over the leftfield wall at Coors Field in Colorado. When he went back to the dugout, his teammates gave him the silent treatment for a few seconds before mobbing him, which didn't faze him in the least. The man obviously knows how to wait for his reward.
J.T. O'Sullivan can relate to McClain's patience. You probably missed O'Sullivan's college career as the UC Davis quarterback from 1999 to 2001, after which he was little more than training-camp fodder for eight NFL teams. He was such a forgotten man that kneeling down to run out the clock for the Packers four years ago ranks as one of his highlights. But these are heady days for previously obscure guys like O'Sullivan, so it shouldn't be surprising that when the San Francisco 49ers chose their starter near the end of camp, he rather than Alex Smith, the No. 1 draft choice of 2005, was their man.
Had she stuck to the sportscasting career she briefly tried back in the 1980s, Sarah Palin might have reported some of these stories, but at least the practice she got in reading teleprompters has come in handy. Whether or not you're rooting for her to achieve her current goal, you have to admit she's not afraid to chase big dreams. You shouldn't be, either. Now is the time to make your move, when fortune seems to favor the little-known. Mayor of your town, No. 1 tennis player at the club, back-page columnist for a national sports magazine—it's all within your reach.
On second thought, scratch the last one. Let's not get that crazy.
Has a long shot ever inspired you? Share your story at SI.com/pointafter.