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IV. THINKIN' AHEAD
When he was 12, Dave Bing went to a playground in his D.C. neighborhood to play baseball. He didn't know what position he would play, so he took two gloves: a first baseman's mitt and a glove he used at shortstop.
He looked out on the diamond and saw a boy fielding ground balls at second base—barehanded. The kid's name was Elmer Sylvester Winters. He was small, so the other kids slapped a nickname on him: Tadpole. Then they shortened it. They called him Tap.
Bing kept one glove and gave the other to Tap. By the time they went to Spingarn High together, they had reasons to drift apart. Tap was a self-described D student, while Bing excelled in school. Tap went on to Fayetteville (N.C.) State College for a year and came home; Bing went to Syracuse for four years and moved to Detroit. Tap got a job with the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation and stayed there 30 years; Bing, of course, went from basketball to business and made himself a multimillionaire.
Bing says he and Tap have "nothing in common." Yet they have been the best of friends for almost half a century. Tap was the first to learn what many have since figured out: Dave Bing might wince when you get traded to Houston and neglect your kid in Detroit; he might call you a fool when you take a pay cut; and, yeah, sure, he might fire you. But he never crops you out of the picture.
Of Bing's closest friends, Tap is one of those few who encouraged him to run for mayor. "If I had a chance to run for mayor, I'd run for mayor too," Tap says. "Like Forrest Gump: Run, man, run."
Can Bing bring Detroit back? Nobody knows. Some days even he seems to have his doubts. Detroit is a big city with more big problems than he can count. Bing can't fold all the laundry and make all the beds.
But he will try. He says he thinks of himself as a statesman, not a politician. He seems almost to take pleasure in telling people what they don't want to hear.
He will take on the unions and slash the city payroll. He will try to put more cops on the streets. He has pledged to improve school safety and keep more kids in the classroom; to cut the number of city bank accounts in half and reduce discretionary spending; to maximize federal stimulus dollars; to diversify the city's economy; and to consolidate and reduce city-owned real estate.
He hired Benny White as his youth advocate, and former teammates have held campaign fund-raisers. Former Detroit Northern High, Syracuse and NBA star Derrick Coleman is the new commissioner of the Public School League. Bing gets advice from old NBA colleague Bill Bradley, the former senator from New Jersey.