Friday, August 24, 2007

D.G., Lefty and John

Back in 1961, D.G. Martin was a scrappy guard on Lefty Driesell's Davidson College basketball team. One day they took the court to scrimmage a team of alumni that included a 40-year-old John Belk.

Martin, who went on to a successful career in law (and not-so-successful one in politics) recalled the game in a column he wrote after Belk's death last week at 87.

At the time of the scrimmage, Belk was a already a prominent businessman. He also had been co-captain of the college basketball team. In warm-ups, he wasn't impressive.
"But when the game got started," Martin writes, "Belk showed he was bull-headed and determined to take the ball to the basket, even if he had to run over me to do it. I responded with the most aggressive defense I could muster, arms waving, shouting, and stomping.

"Coach called time out and called me over to the side. 'Hey, D.G., ease up a little bit on John Belk. I don't want you to kill him.' It was the only time I ever heard Coach ask anybody to ease up."

Eventually, the word got back to Belk.

"When I saw Belk again, I went up to reintroduce myself," Martin wrote. "He quickly turned towards me, saying, 'So Lefty told you to ease up on me, huh. I should have known.' But he did not hold it against me or Coach. We were never together that he didn't bring up the story, and he laughed harder and harder each time."

Now, Davidson players take the court in the college's John Belk Arena, named for the man who became the college's biggest benefactor. Martin likes to think that Driesell helped cement Belk's affection for the college.

"While others are remembering and celebrating his 'amazingly effective' service in business and civic life," Martin wrote, "I will be thinking that 'easing up on John Belk' might have been the most important thing I ever did on the basketball court."

To read D.G.'s column, click here.

1 comment:

David McKnight said...

One could make the argument that D.G. Martin's career in politics was indeed quite successful. It is important to take note of where a political candidate's campaign efforts lead him or her after the ballots have been counted, especially in the case of a person who did not emerge as the election winner.

Of course, this blog discussion also centers on the life and careers of John Belk and Lefty Driesell. But surely, D.G. Martin's professional and creative endeavors separate from and perhaps enhanced by personal involvement in politics has enabled him to better "spread the word" about the Davidson legacies cherished by all three men.

After all, D.G. Martin's many "top-of-the-heap" journalism and educational endeavors following his campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives in the Charlotte area and the U.S. Senate statewide have included representing the University of North Carolina in legislative deliberations in Raleigh, writing a well-received newspaper column carried by many papers across the state and hosting an important interview program on books and authors for the UNC-TV network.

Some of these accomplishments might not have been made possible had it not be for Martin's direct, personal involvement in public affairs as a congressional and senatorial candidate in the 1980s and 1990s.

So that is something for folks in the press to think about. You just have no idea what kind of experience it is to leave a secure position in some professional field such as law and journalism and "not make it back" simply because you went out and campaigned for public office on issues you felt were vitally important to the people of your town, city, county or state.

Fortunately, D.G. Martin did find "the way back" and through his multi-dimensional accomplishments has shown people who are willing to take a chance on politics how to get the proverbial basketball of life back to your own end of the court.