If you haven’t seen ESPN’s 30 on 30 segment ‘Once Brothers’, which aired in October, (it’s the story of basketball’s Vlade Divac & Drazen Petrovic), I encourage you to take the time to watch it.
This is one of the most poignant stories of an exceptionally close relationship between two young men who were inseparable. Inseparable that is, until a spontaneous & innocent act; coupled with a war that polarized Yugoslavians and ultimately split the country and Vlade & Drazen’s seemingly untouchable brotherly love for one another. They had shared their adolescence, their dreams, their glory and their careers in the NBA but their relationship and one life were cut short by tragic incidents. This tragedy happened in our time not something from long ago.
Often when we view these events from afar, we look & listen and feel some emotions but it seems so distant–now this one hit home! This amazing story resonated with me on two accounts. When I was working in Romania, my tech staff took me on a field trip to the extreme west region of the country. We climbed a high ridge to see a new type of tower we had installed in a remote area, to strengthen our cell phone coverage. That’s when I heard some strange popping sounds. When I asked what that was, the matter a fact reply was “oh that’s the Yugoslavians shooting at one another”. It seemed surreal to me as I must admit, I did not comprehend the intensity of what was happening right next door, as like most, I was busy going about my work. This was at the height of the conflict and these people were no longer Yugoslavians, they were now very distinct and adversarial Serbs, Croats, Kosovars and so on, a people fractured and divided from that point onwards. Once again power-seeking leaders & politics had caused a country to revert to ethnic conflict and divisiveness. But I digress!
My second account is a very personal one and parallels this story. From the age of 19 until 24, my friend Ken and I were inseparable. We were not famous, we were just two guys that did everything together, spent all our time together and traveled the world together. Yes we did a lot in a very short time frame. We were like two brothers only closer. We dated two gals that were also good friends and then something happened. The two gals got into a tiff and our relationships cooled drastically. I saw Ken a few times but we now lived in different cities and our relationship had changed. Late one evening I received a call from my mother telling me that she had read Ken’s obituary. I didn’t even know that he was ill. I flew back for his funeral the next day and learned that they had discovered that he had stomach cancer in September and he was gone by December, at the age of 32. I couldn’t even remember the particulars of the feud and I never got a chance to reconcile with someone who was my best friend.
At Tokii, our focus is on relationships from couples to friends and so seeing this story on TV about two very close friends was of real interest to me. After I watched the story and reflected on it, I do have a couple of take away points that I want to highlight. Firstly, open lines of communication are mandatory if there is any hope of keeping a relationship going and improving it. Drazen appeared to have closed of this avenue for his own reasons and a one-way effort by Vlade just could not lead to any successful conclusion. Think of how often in our own lives when we encounter divergent views, we simply shut down and stop communicating whether the conflict is large or small. Secondly, we can all recall relationships that ended abruptly for one reason or another. Sometimes we can’t even remember why and if we do, we will invariably view it in time as being somewhat trivial when put into its proper perspective and sadly too often when it’s too late! So like me, I encourage you to think back to lost friendships and contact those individuals. In this day and age, we have the best social media tools we’ve ever had. They make it easier than ever to track down past friends. The communications is instantaneous and personal without the initial stress of face to face meetings! There is no excuse! So, if you reconnect and reconcile, great. If they still shun you, then you have every right to feel good & relieved of any guilt as you made the effort! Try it. Closure is a great feeling! To this day, I think about Ken and how stupid we were, or maybe how stupid I was and how I missed out on fixing things!