If I’m remembering correctly, the group’s discussion topic was,
What inspires you?

Mike II’s response was something like,
Watching people with passion.

Seeing them do something they love passionately.

I thought to myself instantly, That is when the soul is most naked – clear of ambiguation by an egoic mask or defensive wall.

And nothing matches the inspiring beauty of a soul.

Fred was the team’s best player, without question. His unmatched skills were an inspirational delight to watch. He was quick and precise, but artistically so.

His size was neither imposing, nor exceptionally small in the way that would make him stand out as a delightful surprise.

Like celebrity athletes, his charm wasn’t boastful, his prowess was readily evident, his physical stature was average, but his generosity and teamsmanship – when added to his exceptional skills – was the root of his charisma. When he was involved in the play, you couldn’t take your eyes off him, anticipating what genius might transpire.

Fred had that balance that threads the needle successfully between pure humility versus pure lust to be a playmaker. He believed in himself.

That is inspirational.

That raises teammates to their better – at least, the inspired ones who cared to perform better; this was a high school sport, so each had their own motives for participating, especially since they were a newly formed club, and their predictable (and mounting) losing record meant the members weren’t there for the glory of championship. Not at all.

So the soup of motives was predictable. Camaraderie, self challenge, social popularity for being part of a novel venture, a more promising alternative to other sports of the season in which satisfactory playing time was unlikely, a remedy to boredom, another friend who wanted to play, a coach’s son, recognition… And perhaps a sprinkling of passion, as Fred exemplified.

You could see Jenke’s confidence wax and wane in a moment – after an errant fail, as his shoulders deflated or his head sagged or shook to and fro. A moment later, he hustled to recover, re-tapping his passion – instantly recalling that he was here not to win, not to play perfectly, but simply, to play.

For the joy factor alone.



If his team recovered possession, he was recognizable, sprinting the other way. He was large – not the largest on the team, but above average. And he was fast. Notably faster than others of his size. It was effortless to spot him in the game.

He had a presence.

Surely attributable to his large stature and foot speed.

A few were larger.

Few were faster.

But there seemed so often to be space around his presence, making it easier to spot him.

You could sense that – in moments when opponents invaded his space – they did so with a slight hesitation.

These hesitant challengers did not seem to cower from the threat of his skills.

His size and strength, indeed, commanded some respect for his space. But it was more than that.

Yet Jenke did not have an aggressive personality. And the efforts of coaches and others to encourage more aggression from him were largely unproductive.

Were he more aggressive, he perhaps would have commanded more fear within his space.

But that was by no means certain.

His presence was already commanding, and his aggression only average.

I came to believe that – although his strength could make a challenger pay – that was not the deepest or full explanation for respect of his presence.

It was clear that his fury or aggression were not directed at other players.

It was his passion.

His passion is what was felt by challengers.

And seen by onlookers.

He was not a fearsome threat. That is not what caused an instant of respect from his space invaders.

Would-be invaders paused for an instant not because of the specter of personal aggression directed at them. Instead, in the air around him, it seemed those invaders could smell his passion: He was there, doing whatever he was doing – because he wanted to be.

Because he loved it.

Inspiration is infectious – demanding notice.

Only challengers with passion equal to his own would dare.

And that is what Mike II was talking about. Jenke had an aura of passion noticeable to our sixth senses. Like the mad skills and charisma of celebrity athletes, his whereabouts in the arena was felt, even distant from the action.

Inspired teammates, coaches, and fans willed him to do better. As did I.

[Disclosure: I was biased. I did not in the least mind traveling to see him play in the rainy cold, or scorching sun. Jenke was *my* brightly-burning solar soul, inspiring, passionate sun, and my son, Joseph.]

Neil D. 2022-04-04

Published by Neil Durso

Just another mid-lifer sharing the journey...

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