One became an authentic hero, who like most real heroes, gets, if anything, too little attention. The other is a bum, who continues to betray all of us. Yesterday, a lot of journalists had to spend time on the bum, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a convicted felon who has been dragged back into court because he hasn’t been paying back money he was ordered to pay.
Kilpatrick, you may remember, charmed and beguiled the voters of poor Detroit into electing him twice. He also seduced some of the city’s top business leaders into bankrolling him.
They put up the money that enabled him to beat a decent, honest man, three years ago. Last year it turned out that Kilpatrick, whose high-living ways were notorious, had lied under oath to cover up an affair. Worse, he pressured his poor city to pay nearly $9 million to the cops he had unjustly fired for investigating him.
Eventually he resigned and did a little time.
The court ordered him to pay back a million of the money he cost the city. But he hasn’t made his full payments, even though a high-paying job was found for him and the business leaders he charmed gave him a $240,000 loan. He and his wife spent more than a million dollars last year. He just doesn’t like paying what he owes.
Fortunately for me, yesterday I got to sit on a stage with a man as large as Kwame, but who is worth his weight in gold. Joe Dumars, the Detroit Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations.
Macomb Community College has been doing a series on the role of sports in society, and asked me to interview Dumars before a large crowd. The man is pure class. Quiet integrity and brains. When his playing days were almost done, Pistons owner Bill Davidson did something unheard of in sports. He asked him to run the team. Not to coach it, to run the entire business operation.
That was ten years ago. Dumars hs been doing it ever since, with class and success. He also has his own foundation and does a vast amount of charitable work that barely gets noticed.
Along the way, Joe D has pulled many an arrogant young hotshot aside and told him what it takes to be a real man.
Dumars was the youngest of seven kids. His dad drove a produce truck, and taught his kids to treat people with humility. Later, when Joe was making seven million dollars a year, he’d go home to see his parents. His mother would make him put the garbage out, and his dad would send him to the store. Kwame Kilpatrick was the son of politicians, who treated him like a little prince.
Yesterday, I found myself wondering if we’d all be better off today if Joe D had been Kwame K’s big brother. I doubt that Joe Dumars has ever thought of running for anything. But if he ever wanted to run my state, that would be just fine with me.