Life Lessons from Roy Hobbs & a Lime-Green BMX Bike

If you’re in your 40s, there’s a good chance you’re taking stock of your life, reflecting on your journey up to this point. You might be in the thick of raising teenagers or worrying over the declining health of your aging parents, or you could be regretting some of your choices and feeling ashamed that you’re not further along in your personal life and career. This difficult list of things people in our stage of life commonly struggle with is what often leads to the anxiety-induced state referred to as the midlife crisis. If this is where you are in life, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you.

Key Childhood Memories

Two memories have consistently come to mind as I’ve reflected on my life over the years. These key snapshots, if they were plucked out of context, would seem random and disconnected. So, I’ve been trying to determine why these two particular moments keep coming up and why they’re so inextricably linked. What makes certain moments in our lives stick out more than others? I have some thoughts, but before we answer any questions about our memories, let me share mine with you.

Of all the memories I have from my lifetime, two childhood events consistently come to mind. The first is the scene in The Natural when Roy Hobbs hits the epic home run and the Knights win the pennant. His childhood dreams came true and he became a legend. My second recurring memory is the time I was window-shopping at the Schwinn bike shop near my house. I’ll never forget the moment I laid eyes on the most rad, lime-green, Schwinn BMX bicycle I had ever seen. I had to have it.

I’ll admit, these two memories seem like an odd pairing. However, to that 10-year-old version of me, they were impactful, and to this day remain critical pieces of my story. These two memories keep coming to mind because they’ve been trying to teach me something. Three decades later, I think I’ve finally made sense of Roy Hobbs and my experience with that lime-green BMX.

A Little Bit of My Baseball Story

From the time I was 6 years old until I graduated high school, I was involved in athletics year-round. In my younger years, it was football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summertime. But, by high school, baseball had become my preference because I had the most success at it.

From my first days on the baseball diamond, I always had good hand-eye coordination and could hit the ball well. When I reached Little League, it was a different story. I hit balls so far over outfield fences that opposing teams questioned my age. (It’s probably worth mentioning that I was 5’11” and weighed over 160 lbs. at age 12.) I quickly gained a reputation in my area as an up-and-coming star player.

Roy Hobbs

This is where Roy Hobbs comes in. I was around 12 years old when I first saw The Natural and from the opening scene, it gripped me. Everything about the movie was magical, including the musical score by Randy Newman! That music helped to set the stage for one of the greatest stories ever told. So, as a young boy receiving recognition for my promising future, Roy Hobbs was a tailor-made role model. I watched him accomplish amazing feats: striking out the best player of his era with just 3 pitches, hitting a baseball so hard the cover came off, hitting a homerun that shattered the outfield clock at Wrigley Field, and leading his team to win its first-ever pennant.

When adults call you special because of what you can do on the baseball field, you believe it. You start to have dreams that just maybe you could play professional baseball someday and be famous. If it happened to Roy Hobbs, it could happen to me, right? My young mind was convinced I had a real shot at making this dream a reality. However, as a young, naive boy, I missed a key component of Roy’s story. I’ll get to that later.

What Stands Out to Me Most About Roy Now

What captivated me most about the legend of Roy Hobbs was how he made success look easy. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned something from Roy I never saw as a child. Roy had grit. He faced challenges in his story that would have been enough to cause most people to quit. And yet, his resilience and ability to pivot in the face of challenges was Roy’s secret super-power. This was the main reason he accomplished his dream. Yes, Roy had natural ability, but his work ethic carried him far beyond what his abilities alone could accomplish. This is where Roy and I were different.

Unlike young Roy, I hoped that the things that came easy would lead me to great success. I wanted my God-given abilities and the accolades of others to carry me through to reaching my dreams. As a 40-something I now know that’s not how real life works. I’ve experienced enough of life’s ups and downs to know that fairytales like The Natural don’t exist.

However, I also recognize now that the grit and determination Roy displayed throughout his life are essential to success in real life. I also realize that I’ve spent far too much of my life looking to others for recognition and validation. So much so that I haven’t been able to distinguish between their dreams for me, and my own.

The Lime-Green BMX

And this is where the lime-green BMX comes in. I was 10 years old and had birthday money to spend on a new bike. The mid-1980s were the heyday of BMX bikes, and Schwinn had some of the most rad BMX bikes around. MTV and Swatch watches were also wildly popular, and the color schemes of all of these were the same. The colors were loud and we loved them: neon pink, bright purple, and my favorite, lime green.

The only Schwinn I had ever ridden was a 10-speed that belonged to my neighbor. Her name was Holly and she was several years older than me. I always tried to be cool around her and her older brother. So, when she offered me the chance to ride her new bike, I couldn’t resist. Holly might have reconsidered that offer had she asked a few more questions beforehand. I had never ridden a bike with handle-bar brakes before.

So, it was quite a shock when I couldn’t stop while speeding down her steep driveway toward the street. I was feverishly pedaling in reverse, to no avail. Luckily, the large bush beside her mailbox stopped me from careening into the road. I learned an important lesson that day. 10-speeds are not for me, I’m a BMX fan. (I also learned to never assume a bike has reverse brakes, if you want to look cool.)

The Schwinn Shop on Sharon Amity Rd.

My dad finally took me to the Schwinn shop on Sharon Amity to see these fresh BMXs up close. I couldn’t have been more excited. I can still remember the smell of that place. It had that new inner tube and WD-40 smell, and I was in heaven. I darted over to the BMX section, and immediately one stood out to me above the rest. It was a lime-green Predator, and I was in love. I knew exactly how I would spend my birthday money. At least I thought I did, until the story took a turn, becoming a memory I wouldn’t soon forget.

Learning Life’s Lessons

My dad is the reason I started playing sports at such a young age. He saw something in me and believed in me before I did. Throughout my sports career, he has always been my biggest fan. He was literally at every game of my life, and hardly ever missed a practice either. Being a firefighter offered the flexibility of swapping shifts to have the time for these events. He and my mom sacrificed so much for me over the years to give me the best chance to succeed.

They spent a small fortune on team fees, gas, sporting equipment, and anything else required to help me be successful. We weren’t wealthy, by any means, but we weren’t poor. I never went without the things I needed, and most of the time had the things I wanted as well. My parents took very good care of my sister and me, and for that, I’m forever grateful.

So, when it came to birthdays and Christmas, things weren’t much different. I don’t remember a birthday or Christmas I didn’t receive most of what I asked for, within reason. Of course, all kids dream about certain big-ticket items they know they’ll probably never get. Mine was a scaled-down version of a real car but for kids. I saw them in a Motor Trend Magazine. They were so cool, but they were also $10,000! I never had one, but I sure did dream about them.

What is the Best Choice?

Another birthday had come and I was dying to get a new bike. I daydreamed about it, talked about it, and I’m sure drove my parents crazy over it. So, when we finally arrived at the Schwinn shop, I was ecstatic. I saw the lime-green one and wanted to take it home immediately! But, being the cautious, thoughtful parent my dad was, he wasn’t so sure. Lime-green? BMX? It was a loud color on an expensive bike with only one speed. I’m sure my dad was thinking I might regret this purchase. What if I spent all of my money on this one gift and then regretted it? He didn’t want me to be disappointed. So, he encouraged me to wait. He promised to bring me back after I had some time to consider some other options. He didn’t want me to just jump on the first bike I saw.

We All Make Rash Decisions Sometimes…

Now that I’ve experienced parenthood I can’t say I blame my dad for his recommendation. Kids are known for making rash decisions only to regret them soon after. So, if I can help my kids avoid disappointments, shouldn’t I? It’s a tough question, and one all parents wrestle with daily, I’m sure.

However, what if kids never experience disappointment? What if they’re always protected from the consequences of their decisions, even their rash ones? Will they be better off for it? Or, should we let our kids experience the natural consequences of their choices as part of maturing? As a 40-something with teenage kids, my answers to these questions are much different than when I was 10, 20, or even 30.

…And We Learn from Them

There are times as a parent when you must step in and be the grown-up. There are certain decisions that kids just don’t have the wisdom to make on their own. However, there are plenty of opportunities for us to step aside and let our kids be themselves. We might not agree with their choice of hairstyle, the outfit they want to wear, or the color bike they want to buy with their birthday money. However, we must consider what will best serve them on their path toward adulthood. Will it be the times we step in and make decisions for them that they are perfectly capable of making on their own? Or, will the times we let them decide and experience whatever consequences come from their decisions be the moments that shape them the most?

Kids will inevitably make bad decisions in their lives and some of the consequences could be costly, and painful. They’ll also make some amazing decisions we would have never made for them, some of which will lead them to great success. Those moments will grow their self-confidence in a way no other experience can provide. So, if we allow them the freedom to make as many decisions as possible, they’ll have more opportunities to grow and mature from life’s lessons. Isn’t this exactly what we want most for our kids,? Don’t we all want our kids to grow up strong, well-adjusted, and wise people? Adults who are confident in their ability to navigate their life journey?

Choosing the Best Option

My dad and I went to several other stores while considering my options for a new bike. My dad pointed out several things I had not considered during our search. I had not considered that the BMX only had one speed which would make riding up big hills more difficult. The bike’s riding position wasn’t something I’d ever thought about either and mountain bikes were supposed to be more comfortable. I also didn’t know that mountain bikes had larger tires and some even had shocks on the front forks. This helped absorb the rough rides through the woods. My dad was making some very valid points here. I had a tough decision to make and in the end, I didn’t buy the BMX.

Some of Life’s Best Lessons Come From our Worst Choices

I don’t recall how much time passed between our search and finally buying a bike, but I didn’t buy the BMX. I ended up buying a white, Murray mountain bike. It was the practical choice. It was less expensive than the Schwinn BMX but had way more features. After weighing all the options it seemed foolish to spend more money on the bike that offered less, right?

I can tell you this. It’s been decades since I passed on buying that lime-green BMX, but I still think about it. That bike captured my attention and was the one I wanted from the moment I saw it. It wasn’t practical and it didn’t have all of the bells and whistles, but damn, it was so much cooler. It was the kind of bike I dreamed about. I never dreamed about a Murray mountain bike, but I still bought it. It was the most reasonable choice and my dad thought it was the best option. I have always regretted that decision.

People Pleasing, and The Path of Least Resistance

My desire for easy success and to make others happy has been a bad combination my whole life. I have lost myself in other people’s expectations of me. Too often I’ve looked to others for approval, believing they know best what I need. I hoped their insights could be my ticket to the easy success I longed for. When others gave good reasons for a more practical path over chasing my dreams, I took them. Each time I gave in, I lost another piece of the real me. I sold out to please others instead of doing the hard work of finding myself, chasing my dreams, and making my path. Now, instead of being well on my way to accomplishing my dreams, I find myself a 40-something working hard to discover who I am.

That’s why the memory of that lime-green BMX often comes to mind. Deciding on a bike isn’t worthy of ranking on the list of life’s most meaningful decisions. And yet, this moment continues to have significance for me, and here’s why. When I was younger, I had grand dreams of what my future might hold, believing those dreams might come true. I wasn’t yet jaded by life and the harsh realities of the world. So, when I recall the memories of that bike (and Roy Hobbs), I pause to regain some of that 10-year-old boy’s wonder. I’m trying to learn what it’s like to dream again, what it’s like to be me.

At 46 Years Old, Roy’s Still My Hero

So, what is it about Roy Hobbs that still keeps my attention after all these years? If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t ruin it for you, but I must share one specific detail. Roy had dreams and when those dreams were met with opposition, he didn’t give up. The path that ultimately led him to his dream wasn’t the path he originally set out on.

He dreamed he’d make it to the major leagues as a young pitcher and have a long, successful career. However, due to an injury that kept him from pitching, he pivoted and became an amazing hitter and outfielder. Roy didn’t make the roster of the New York Knights until his 30s. This is the age most athletes are considering retirement. And though Roy’s professional career was shorter than he’d hoped, it was no less memorable.

If anything, the struggles he faced and the perseverance he displayed made his story more legendary. Those difficult times became the catalyst for making him stronger in the end. So, some of the specific details of his dream may have changed, but he always worked hard towards those dreams. If we could interview Roy today, he’d probably tell us his life played out differently than his childhood dream. But, I bet he’d also say he wouldn’t change a thing.

What Have I Learned?

I started this post asking, what makes certain moments in our lives stick out more than others? Why do we have the recurring memories that we do? I don’t think we’ll ever be able to make perfect sense of why our lives have turned out the way they have, or why some memories are more impactful than others, but I do believe that the process of reflecting on our lives and sharing our stories is a crucial part of life. It’s during this process of reflecting and sharing that we grow and heal from the wounds of our past. Knowing someone else’s story and hearing how it’s made them stronger encourages us and instills the hope we need to persevere in our journey.

This is why I’ve decided to start this blog. I want to share my story in hopes that by doing so, you might be encouraged to do the same. This first post was pretty light, but as I continue on we’ll get into some much weightier topics. Dealing with the difficult things of life isn’t fun, but dealing with them alone is unhealthy. In sharing our stories, we have a wonderful opportunity to create meaningful connections. These connections could be the missing ingredient in our attempt to make sense of life, especially our midlife crisis.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

6 thoughts on “Life Lessons from Roy Hobbs & a Lime-Green BMX Bike”

  1. Paul Cuthbertson

    Enjoyed your thoughts and feel that I was aware of much of it; however, some were possibly mistakes on my part as a “rookie dad” that were my best guess. One direction that I don’t; and never will, regret is that life must be lived; faith first then family and education.

    1. Thanks, Pops. One thing you and I both have learned is that perfection in parenting isn’t attainable, but being loving and humble is. You were both. I never doubted your love for me and I’m thankful for that. I love you.

      1. Enjoyed the post, Josh. I can relate to so many of the feelings you’re wrestling with here. Looking forward to reading more.

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