56: When Silence Is Golden

56: When Silence Is Golden

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tales of Golf and Sport

When Silence Is Golden

The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot.

~Bill Russell

All-American in basketball from Princeton; member (starting forward) of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team; Rhodes Scholar; member of two world-championship teams during his ten-year pro career with the Knicks; former senator from New Jersey; one-time candidate for president. That’s Bill Bradley, or at least a little bit of the man.

As an NBA referee running up and down the court, I recognized his talent and skill when he was with the Knicks. He had a mighty finger-roll and was a leader—a champion whose work ethic was matched by his ability to handle victory and loss with equal class—but the incident that marked him as special for me happened in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The U.S. team was matched in a hard-fought gold-medal game against the Soviet Union. At one point, Bradley was backed out of the key by a big, bulky Russian who threw him a sharp elbow to the solar plexus that sent the lanky six-foot, seven-inch Bradley to the floor. Bradley got up, stepped over to the guy and in perfect Russian said, “Please back off, big fella.”

The Russian team had been calling their plays in Russian. After Bradley’s fluent remark, they stopped communicating totally, afraid that Bradley could understand and would cue his teammates.

Bradley hadn’t learned enough Russian to follow their crisp, shorthand calls across the floor. He’d learned just enough Russian to be courteous. When he said “back off,” he included “please.” That’s Bradley’s way. This time, though, his regular courtesy led to the Soviet team’s unraveling. The U.S. won the gold.

~Joey Crawford
Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul

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