Finding Success in Failure

When you drive up to the Culver’s on 3rd Street in Bloomington, not much seems out of the ordinary. The typical script logo, hints of the chains iconic blue and white colors, and the infamous blue awnings are all there to greet you. An ordinary Culver’s, on an ordinary street, in an ordinary town. As you enter the restaurant, you’ll come up to the counter to see an ever so typical menu filled with various burgers, desserts, and sides which would fit in at any other restaurant. 

After you order your food, sit down at your ordinary table with other ordinary customers, you’ll eventually see him. Whether it be bringing you your food, your drink, or cleaning up tables, a 6’6”, 66-year-old extraordinary man in an otherwise ordinary establishment will catch your eye. That man is John Laskowski, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, earned the infamous nickname “Super-Sub” for his heroics off the bench for the Indiana University basketball team, and was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1975 NBA draft. 

The story starts with a skinny freshman kid at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend. A kid who would average only 1.5 points per game that year on the freshman team. But Laskowski, even at such an early age, refused to relegate himself to the back of the bench or quit the team like most other kids his age would do. Instead, he worked hard, persevered, and went on to average 10 points his sophomore year, 15 points in his junior year, and a whopping 29 points per game in his senior year. 

Everything was shaping up for John to become a college superstar, and what better way to do it than for his hometown team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. However, only a day after the Notre Dame team banquet (where Laskowski was formally introduced), Notre Dame fired head coach John Dee and replaced him with Digger Phelps, the former coach of Fordham University of New York. Phelps, who ran an east coast style, revoked Laskowski’s scholarship, leaving him in a basketball recruiting wasteland. 

 Undeterred, Laskowski eventually found his home at Indiana with Bob Knight, and the rest is history. Had his scholarship not been revoked by Notre Dame, who knows what would have happened to his career? But Laskowski himself will tell you, there always may be something better on the other side of failure.

After a long and illustrious career at Indiana, John was eventually drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 32nd pick in the 1975 NBA Draft. Though things may have looked on the up for John after receiving a starting spot on the Bulls for a brief period, Laskowski was not offered another contract, and subsequently, dropped out of the NBA. 

Once again, he was faced with an uncertain future devoid of the one sport which he had dedicated so much of his time, passion and love toward. But once again, Laskowski found something better on the other side of failure, a new gig as an IU basketball analyst. At first, he was unsure about his new role, often referring to himself as a “shy guy.” However, Knight encouraged him, and told him that “when the red light comes on, start talking.” John would continue broadcasting for a total of 33 years, until 2012.

After his long broadcasting career ended in 2012, John became the owner of his own Culver’s franchise, which has now become the top selling location in Indiana. Laskowski who runs the store with his son and is looking for his daughter to join in the future, credits much of his success to the dedication, discipline, and drive he learned as a basketball player, and the social skills he learned from being a sports broadcaster. 

So, the next time you happen to go to Culver’s on 3rd Street in Bloomington, Indiana, know that thought the restaurant, it’s customers, and it’s menu may seem ordinary, the man who owns it is one of the least ordinary people you will ever meet, due to the way he accepted his failures and worked to make something positive out of a seemingly negative situation. That is something that we can all learn from.