First of all, I love Britt Robson. He, to me, is the Simon Cowell of the NBA. What I am thinking is never as clear in my head as when Britt articulates it. I realize that’s kind of like the king in “A Man For All Seasons” saying, your taste is is impeccable and exactly coincides with my own.
Anyway, Britt said today that Ricky was engaging in “Hero Ball”. I think Britt was more right than he could have imagined. Ricky’s story is unfolding eerily like Christopher Vogler’s “ THE STAGES OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY” where Volger breaks down the components of almost every hero story ever. Here are Volger’s stages (my Ricky additions are in parenthesis)
1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD.
Most stories ultimately take us to a special world, a world that is new and alien to its hero. If you’re going to tell a story about a fish out of his customary element, you first have to create a contrast by showing him in his mundane, ordinary world. In WITNESS you see both the Amish boy and the policeman in their ordinary worlds before they are thrust into alien worlds – the farm boy into the city, and the city cop into the unfamiliar countryside. In STAR WARS you see Luke Skywalker being bored to death as a farm boy before he tackles the universe. (This is teenage Ricky in Spain, hanging out in the sun, zipping passes to middle aged smokers with hairy arms for mid-range jumpers.)
2.) The CALL TO ADVENTURE.
The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure. In STAR WARS, it’s Princess Leia’s holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi, who then asks Luke to join the quest. In romantic comedies it could be the first sight of that special but annoying someone the hero or heroine will be pursuing/sparring with. (This is Ricky at the ’09 draft. He is not like anyone else)
3.) The hero is reluctant at first. Refusal of the call.
Often at this point the hero balks at the threshold of adventure. After all, he or she is facing the greatest of all fears – fear of the unknown. At this point Luke refuses Obi Wan’s call to adventure, and returns to his aunt and uncle’s farmhouse, only to find they have been barbecued by the Emperor’s stormtroopers. Suddenly Luke is no longer reluctant, and is eager to undertake the adventure. He is motivated. (Right, so you’re getting into this now. See, I told you. You’re already thinking ahead that Ricky didn’t come right after the draft. I don’t even have anything to add to what you’re already thinking. The story just fits clean. Pretty good so far, huh?)
4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)
By this time many stories will have introduced a Merlin-like character who is the hero’s mentor. In JAWS it’s the crusty Robert Shaw character who knows all about sharks; in the mythology of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, it’s Lou Grant. The mentor gives advice and sometimes magical weapons. This is Obi Wan giving Luke his father’s light saber.
The mentor can go so far with the hero. Eventually the hero must face the unknown by himself. Sometimes the Wise Old Man/Woman is required to give the hero a swift kick in the pants to get the adventure going. (Annnnd you just threw up in your mouth. For my sanity, I’m going to zig neatly around Kahn in my head and just assume Ricky had someone in his life who looked like Anthony Quinn in “The Old Man and the Sea” who told him to go to Minnesota.)
5.) The hero passes the first threshold. (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)
The hero fully enters the special world of the story for the first time. This is the moment at which the story takes off and the adventure gets going. The balloon goes up, the romance begins, the spaceship blasts off, the wagon train gets rolling. Dorothy sets out on the Yellow Brick Road. The hero is now committed to his/her journey and there’s no turning back. (Ricky enters the NBA)
6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)
The hero is forced to make allies and enemies in the special world, and to pass certain tests and challenges that are part of his/her training. In STAR WARS the cantina is the setting for the forging of an important alliance with Han Solo and the start of an important enmity with Jabba the Hutt. In CASABLANCA Rick’s Café is the setting for the “alliances and enmities” phase and in many Westerns it’s the saloon where these relationships are tested. (Ricky gelling with the team last year, basically becoming the light in every basketball fan’s life).
7.) The hero reaches the innermost cave. (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)
The hero comes at last to a dangerous place, often deep underground, where the object of the quest is hidden. In the Arthurian stories the Chapel Perilous is the dangerous chamber where the seeker finds the Grail. In STAR WARS it’s Luke and company being sucked into the Death Star where they will rescue Princess Leia. Sometimes it’s just the hero going into his/her own dream world to confront fears and overcome them. (Ricky really coming into his own, the Twolves battling for a playoff spot last year)
8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL.
This is the moment at which the hero touches bottom. (Damn you Kobe Bryant’s knee) He/she faces the possibility of death, brought to the brink in a fight with a mythical beast. For us, the audience standing outside the cave waiting for the victor to emerge, it’s a black moment. In STAR WARS, it’s the harrowing moment in the bowels of the Death Star, where Luke, Leia and company are trapped in the giant trash-masher. Luke is pulled under by the tentacled monster that lives in the sewage and is held down so long that the audience begins to wonder if he’s dead. IN E.T., THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL, E. T. momentarily appears to die on the operating table.
This is a critical moment in any story, an ordeal in which the hero appears to die and be born again. It’s a major source of the magic of the hero myth. What happens is that the audience has been led to identify with the hero. We are encouraged to experience the brink-of-death feeling with the hero. We are temporarily depressed, and then we are revived by the hero’s return from death. (It was a long way back to form culminating in a triple-double the other night. This is where we are in Ricky’s hero’s journey today. From here I am purely speculating)
9.) The hero seizes the sword. Having survived death, beaten the dragon, slain the Minotaur, her hero now takes possession of the treasure he’s come seeking. Sometimes it’s a special weapon like a magic sword or it may be a token like the Grail or some elixir which can heal the wounded land.
The hero may settle a conflict with his father or with his shadowy nemesis. In RETURN OF THE JEDI, Luke is reconciled with both, as he discovers that the dying Darth Vader is his father, and not such a bad guy after all.
(Ricky make an all-star team and wins a playoff series. He finds out Kahn just wasn’t very good at his job and not such a bad guy after all.)
10.) THE ROAD BACK.
The hero’s not out of the woods yet. Some of the best chase scenes come at this point, as the hero is pursued by the vengeful forces from whom he has stolen the elixir or the treasure.. This is the chase as Luke and friends are escaping from the Death Star, with Princess Leia and the plans that will bring down Darth Vader.
(Ricky, Kevin and Pek have some terrific playoff battles and become tested before they become champions...like every NBA team in the history of ever except the Miami Heat in ’06 who cheated)
The hero emerges from the special world, transformed by his/her experience. The Star Wars movies play with this theme constantly – all three of the films to date feature a final battle scene in which Luke is almost killed, appears to be dead for a moment, and then miraculously survives. He is transformed into a new being by his experience.
(Ricky, Kevin, and Pek pull it together for one great playoff run)
12.) RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR
The hero comes back to the ordinary world, but the adventure would be meaningless unless he/she brought back the elixir, treasure, or some lesson from the special world. Sometimes the boon is treasure won on the quest, or love, or just the knowledge that the special world exists and can be survived. Sometimes it’s just coming home with a good story to tell. (A championship ring)