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One Man Feels Great -- Erik Cagle

August 2001
I first met Pat Croce in 1996 as a sportswriter while covering a baseball tournament in southern New Jersey. Croce, president and part owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, was the evening's guest between games of the nightly doubleheaders.

Since the tournament was largely boring and the local readership didn't particularly give a rat's ass about what a great cut fastball the Rider College sophomore possessed, I needed to bring back a "color" piece, a personality profile about someone local or the evening's celebrity, preferably something other than just what happened on the field.

Croce fit the bill; he had recently joined the Sixers, a team that was anything but inspiring; in fact, it was the NBA's worst. He initially made his mark by founding Pat Croce's Sports Physical Therapists centers (now merged into nationally known NovaCare Inc.), of which there was one locally, and several area athletes had rehabbed injuries there. He was very active in local charities and various causes that called for someone to rally support. Croce had a reputation for doing just that. So I had my man.

Swept Away
I asked one question before becoming engulfed in wave after wave of Pat Croce. He was simply mesmerizing, by far more so than anyone else I'd interviewed in the journalism business. I'd politely listened to motivational speakers in the past, but this guy was motivating me as he talked. I really don't think he was trying. But he did succeed at knocking me off my feet.

The first words out of his mouth following the traditional greeting were, "I feel great." He talked. He got excited. I listened. I got excited. I wanted to scream out "hallelujah!" but figured it would get back to my editor. One thought weaved into another, each idea building on the previous, billowing to a crescendo of tenacious rapture. Croce quickly had me believing in him, and believing in myself, that there was this potential that was dying to burst out and make me a fully actualized individual. A potential that would carry me to great, dizzying heights. But he wasn't using buzz words—I sincerely doubt he has thought outside the box, shifted any paradigms or used any other hollow phraseology. The man was sincere, absolutely no BS.

I'd foolishly worn a 76ers t-shirt, not realizing my gaffe until I'd arrived at the park. Croce ate it up, and during one of his uplifting discourses, he managed to stick a Sixers pin into the shirt without pausing thought. I beamed with enthusiasm and was thankful that no one else was there to see me gushing with utter excitement.

 

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