When I was 25, I was offered a dream job. I was working for AMC Theaters at the time, the company that many years earlier had first asked the question “why just one screen,” then gone on to pioneer the concept of opening ever-larger multi-screen movie theaters. Now they were about to innovate yet again in Dallas with the industry’s first 30-screen theater. It was to be called “The Grand,” and it was the talk of the town, at least for those who were into such things. It was certainly considered quite an honor within the company to be selected to run it.
The problem for me was that it was not my dream job. It was my father’s.
In fact, after one of the fastest and most complete burn-outs the world had ever seen, I had had enough of AMC by this time. Being a film-lover, I had gone into the job with full-throttle commitment and engagement, and my father, quite the cinephile himself, had never been more proud. I thought nothing of working ten or twelve-hour days. I worked on my days off. One time, after a particularly problematic concessions inventory, I left at sunrise.
I lasted a year and a half before becoming blackened toast. I took a leave of absence and spent the next three months backpacking Europe with my roommate Robert. One day in Rome I spent the better part of an afternoon among the ruins of the The Forum, a place where the roots of history run so deep you feel as though the living and breathing humans all around you are the illusion while the ruins and the people who built them are what’s alive. On the train afterwards, watching through the window as Italy whizzed by, I realized the world was much too big and under-explored for any sane person to be truly passionate about upsizing popcorn.
Yet upon my return to the States, when the call came offering me The Grand, for reasons I can’t explain, I said yes.
I barely made it through my first day. I spent that evening on my sofa staring at the ceiling. The next day, I got dressed for work. I drove in. I thought, I can’t bring myself to do this for even one more minute. Within five minutes of walking in the front door, I resigned. Then I got back in the car and drove, not wanting to go anywhere in particular, just needing to be in motion. Watching Dallas whiz by through the open window, I felt just as free as I did on that Italian train.
To this day, I still recall my father’s reaction to my news. I still hear in my head his voice as he asked, in complete and somewhat angry befuddlement, why. He never came to understand. More unfortunately, he never came to accept it..
Though I’m sorry he never made peace with my throwing away his dream job, I’ve never regretted it for a single moment. That’s why when I read the following from Phil Robertson, former starting quarterback at Louisiana Tech and current Duck Commander, I said right on, man:
Throwing a touchdown pass to a guy running down the sideline, and he runs down with the ball for six, it was fun. However, in my case, it was much more fun to be standing down in some flooded timber with about 35 or 40 mallard ducks comin’ down on top of me in the woods. That did my heart more good than all the football in the world.
Phil Robertson walked away from college football while still in his prime. He turned his back on an NFL career, a career many people dream of but will never realize, because it was not his dream. He realized this in part by seeing the drive and the passion for the game that his younger teammate, future Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw, had, and that he himself did not share. He was more interested in ducks, and that seems to have worked out fairly well for him.
When the ducks flying over the field are more interesting than football, there’s no question what to do. Raise High the Duck Call, Commander.
Read the article that inspired this one at college-football.si.com.