There is an age-old adage that states opportunities arise from who you know, not what you know. In 1929, Frigyes Karinthy developed his theory on “six degrees of separation”, identifying that every living individual can be connected through a chain of communal relations in six or fewer steps (Skeptical? Test it out with the parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon). I would argue the athletic community provides an even smaller degree of separation, with each sub-sport yielding closer ties between participants. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see basketball for what it truly is: a close-knit fraternity.
This past Bank Holiday I was fortunate enough to reap the benefits of my two degrees of basketball separation. I woke to a message from Joe, a committee member and chief personality of my National League club, asking if I wanted to venture to Ashford Castle with him and a colleague visiting from the US that afternoon. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the once-Victorian castle has since been renovated into a five-star luxury hotel ranked number one in the world as recent as 2015. Access to the internal quarters of the estate are strictly limited to hotel staff and visiting residents. So, my ability to afford the lofty price for one night’s stay is non-existent for the foreseeable future, unless Sam is willing to increase my monthly stipend deposit. Or, at least until those PowerBall numbers turn in my favor.
We arrive at the residential entry gate, and immediately I see multiple cars up front be turned away. There is a publicly accessible portion of the estate, however, it has a separate, less glamorous entrance. As we pull up to the gatekeeper I’m surprised when Joe extends his hand out the window, and says, “thanks for having us, I’m here as a guest of Robert”. As it turns out, Joe had arranged a private tour of the facilities and dining experience within the castle through a long-standing connection he developed years prior through the Irish basketball community. Following our tour of the beautifully renovated facilities, our guide ushered us to the dining hall, where he accompanied us for a midday meal. I listened intently as Robert, Joe, and Jim (Joe’s friend) reminisced on their interactions with high-profile athletes, like Chris Mullin, to accredited media personnel, like Doris Burke, to insurance industry titans turned power-five conference team boosters to cultural icons, like Stevie Wonder and Robin Williams. In that moment, I couldn’t help but think how the game of basketball has provided me with another memorable experience that would otherwise be unattainable to me.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, basketball is so much more than a game; in reality, it is a means of meeting new people and creating amazing opportunities. I can’t begin to thank both Joe for his extended invitation, and Robert for taking time away from his schedule to show us around!