You only get one real second chance in life. Your parents lied to you when they told you that “there’s always tomorrow” because in reality there was only one tomorrow, and you blew it. However, sometimes people are granted a second chance and a half, or an extra opportunity to succeed in life’s offerings. This is undoubtedly due to the law of second chances, and it best displayed through a deconstruction of the early ’90s television show “Legends of the Hidden Temple.”

Alex Wolsky

Released in 1994, the show mixed a storyline with typical Nickelodeon game show games, giving it a feel unlike any other Nick game show. There were two hosts of the show, Olmec — a giant, whimsical stone head — and Kirk Fogg, some kind of explorer who’s greatest weapon was wit. Olmec knew everything about the temple, and was the guardian of the temple gates. The goal of the show was this: Six teams of two, one boy and one girl, race to get to the sacred temple. The team that got through three physical and mental challenges was granted access to the temple to find a hidden treasure (usually in plain sight) within one of its rooms.

The winner of each challenge won a gold pendent of life — something to protect them from Olmec’s guards in the Temple. When you were captured by a temple guard, you had to sacrifice a pendent of life to continue. Thus, through a series of mental and physical challenges, the kids were essentially fighting for a second chance.

The law of the second chance is good news to most people — especially Boston Red Sox fans — because it frees people from the paralyzing fear of failure. Because of the law of second chances, failure can mean a person is still in the learning stage for success. To put it another way: Any time a person fails to achieve a goal, they are free — if not encouraged — to experience, regroup and try it all over again. Setbacks become stepping-stones, and as “Legends” taught us, those setbacks (temple guards) became a reason for us to succeed in our other facets of life. If we failed, the answer lies in training harder, not within mere luck.

Walt Disney knew all about the law of second chances. In 1923, in Kansas City, Mo., his first attempt at running an animation studio failed. With only 40 dollars to his name and his drawing tools, Disney moved out to West Hollywood, Calif., where he borrowed $250 from his uncle, set up shop in his garage and created the world’s first cartoon featuring a soundtrack — and a character known as Mickey Mouse. Willie Mays didn’t get a hit in his first 26 times at bat in the major leagues. When he finally did, it was a home run off of Warren Spahn. Admiral Peary attempted to reach the North Pole seven times before finally reaching it on his eight attempts. Peary would die in the frozen tundra within months of arriving.

George W. Bush isn’t used to second chances. When his oil company couldn’t find any oil in Texas — through no fault of his own — it went bankrupt just as he sold all his stock. He was never given another chance to own an oil company. When he lost the race for Congress, he was never offered another chance to run such a race — even though he had lost through no fault of his own, elections being so often the “wild cards” of politics. When he went AWOL from the Texas National Guard, no one ever offered him another chance to earn an honorable discharge. Now, as a result, as President he’s overcompensating for all of his previous grievances, handing out “pendants of life” to all of his friends, the Iraqi people and anyone else who he deems necessary, including himself. The roles have reversed — he’s now America’s Kirk Fogg (Cheney is obviously Olmec).

In college you’re granted the occasion for many second chances. New semesters make light of passing ones, and new classes offer an opportunity to make nice with new professors and GSIs who don’t remember your ridiculously low percentage of attendance or your almost surreal inability to use the letter “k” at the beginning of a new sentence (check it, not once in this entire column). So, even though coming back to school isn’t quite as fun as running through the Shrine of the Silver Monkey (it always frustrated me when people couldn’t figure this obstacle out), and now that we’re getting into the heart of the first half, littered with exams and first papers for many students, this is a time of rejoicing. A time of knowing that there really is “always tomorrow,” because you haven’t been captured by a Temple Guard … yet.


E-mail Alex at wolsky@umich.edu.

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