Growing up, one of my favorite memories is going to a Houston Rockets game with my grandfather and getting an “opportunist upgrade” on our seats. Let me explain. The Houston Rockets were on their way to the playoffs in 1995 and my grandparents had just moved to my hometown the year before. I was so pumped to have another set of grandparents in town to spoil me and drive my parents crazy.
My grandfather George was a larger than life figure. Korean war vet, machinist at the same company for decades, and an amazing follower of Christ, George was a force to reckon with. He had a cool sailboat tattoo on his right arm and a swagger that resembled a mix between John Wayne and Jesus.
My grandfather secured us some Houston Rocket tickets and on we went to downtown Houston to watch the rockets take on the Philadelphia 76’ers. We arrived at the Summit (now known as Lakewood Church) where the Rockets played at the time and made the trek all the way to the nose bleed section. I didn’t care how high our seats were. All I cared about was watching this amazing team and sharing the experience with my grandfather.
Throughout the first half of the game I noticed my grandfather seemed distracted. He would watch a few minutes of the action, but then kept starting down at the scorer’s table located on the sideline. Again, and again I noticed his gaze fall on that same area, but I just figured he was trying to take a glimpse of the owner of the Rockets who notoriously sat most home games court-side on the very front row.
Halftime came, and he just looked over at me, smiled, and said, “follow me.” I thought we were just going to grab another hot dog or some more cotton candy, but instead we made our way down stairs to the first level of the stadium. Now, security at games I’m sure has increased in 25 years, but we did not have anyone asked if we belong at this level. My grandfather hurried through the doors of the first level and made a dash to the section of seats he had been eyeing all game. Right before we descended the stairs into the court-side area, he turned to me and said, “act like you belong here and everyone will assume you do.” Before I could process his instructions, he took off down the stairs to the third row of seats that were directly behind the owner.
Apparently, there are attendants for really fancy sections like court-side seats. Being this is my only experience with court-side seats, I just assume this is a common practice. A man dressed in a suite with some sort of badge hanging from around his neck was standing guard at the front of the section we had just entered. Instead of avoiding the guy, my grandfather walked right towards him, as if we truly belonged amongst these fans, and struck up a conversation.
My grandfather exchanged some words with the official and pointed to me twice. The conversation took only 1 minute, but it felt like we were standing there for 1 hour. Finally, the man shook my grandfather’s hand, smiled, and directed us to seats that were court-side, third row, directly behind the owner! There I was, with my grandfather, so close to the players you could see the sweat on their foreheads shine.
Before the shock of the moment even took hold of me, my grandfather leaned over to me and divulged his master plan. He had been watching the court-side seats from our nose bleed section in the first half to see if there were 2 that were not being used. He figured that most of the seats at court-side were season ticket holders and if no one showed up by halftime, then more than likely no one would. He finally decided we would make our move at halftime and go ask the official (he had also been spying out) if we could sit in these amazing seats that we had not paid for! “The worst thing they could do, is tell us no,” he explained as a huge grin covered his face.
The only response I had for him after hearing this amazing plan was, “what did you tell the official that convinced him to let us sit here!” My grandfather’s grin turned into a very satisfied smile. “I told him that it was my dream to let me grandson experience an NBA game this close up. I confessed to him we did not pay for these particular seats, but that our payment for this upgrade would be that we would not stop rooting for the team until the game was over.”
We spent the rest of the game 3 rows away from the court and it was the best 2 quarters of basketball I have ever witnessed. Besides the fact the players are huge that close up, the energy was so magnetic and everyone around us was so invested in the game. The official my grandfather had talked with ended up bringing us a couple of free sodas and peanuts. He would talk and laugh with my grandfather as we watched the game. It was simply an unforgettable night.
Near the end of the game my grandfather pointed to the owner and he gave me some advice on life that has stuck with me all these years. He said there are owners and then there are spectators. Spectators watch things happen, owners make things happen. Whatever I wanted to do in life, I needed to own it and not just be satisfied spectating in the nose-bleed section. Finally, with his hand on my shoulder he stated, “When you pursue your dream, act like you belong in that race to see it happen, because you do.”
My grandfather wasn’t a famous war veteran and outside of our family, there are not many people who know who he was and what he had done with his life. However, every time I experience a setback in my journey to chase my dreams, I think of him. Every time I do not feel like “owning my dreams” and feel the pull to settle on just being a spectator for the day, I think about what he said to me and how I would much rather be an owner than a spectator.
I believe God ignites certain dreams in our hearts for our joy, for the good of others, and for His glory. However, just because God cultivates dreams in your heart, doesn’t mean the job is done. We can spectate on our dreams our entire lives and talk about how one day we will get into the fray and make them become a reality or we can start taking ownership of them. You may have to start in the nose-bleed section of dreaming when you begin but keep your eyes on the court-side seats because that dream will continue to get you up and moving closer to your goal.
No one wants your dreams as bad as you do. No one will work as hard for your dreams as you will. No one can take ownership of your dreams like you can. When you take ownership of your dreams and determine to make them come to fruition, life will not just happen to you, but instead you make life happen.
Finally, to my grandfather who went home to Jesus over 13 years ago, thanks not only for the advice, but for allowing me to participate in one of your dreams.