Somehow, the more you talk to Reese Hoffa, the more you want good things to happen to him. He is a societal success story, and a personal one, or something. At least, a story about a safety net giving a kid a chance.
Certainly a strange story.
Hoffa won the Olympic bronze medal in shot put Friday, and then thanked his mom. He thanked her for leaving him in an orphanage, where he could someday be adopted and have a better life.
"She was 16 when she had me, and that's her second child,'' he said. "For her to make a decision to give the best life I could possibly have, I'm sure that took incredible courage on her part.
"I'm standing here not only as a three-time Olympian, but also a graduate of the University of Georgia, and hopefully a good person. I'm a very lucky guy. It could have gone the other way.''
Hoffa was such a stark contrast to gold medal winner Tomasz Majewski in the press conference after the competition. Majewski, who also won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, kept grabbing his head at every media question, and muttering f-bombs. Meanwhile, Hoffa spoke cleanly and concisely, made eye contact and tried to make good of his opportunity in front of a microphone.
He has become an advocate for adoption, and he made another plea Friday.
"That's very important to me to show a lot of parents out there looking to give kids homes, that we are great people, that we want to do great things. But we need a home to do that in.
"If you're a loving, caring mother or father, looking for a child, adoption is an incredible option. There's going to be a few bad adoptions, but I have to believe most of them are great, and these kids will turn out to be phenomenal people and very productive people in society.''
Hoffa's story ( told in great detail by FOXSports.com's Reid Forgrave in June) starts with him playing with a cigarette lighter as a young boy of nearly 4. He ended up setting curtains on fire, and burning down most of the family house.
Next thing he knew, he and his brother were in an orphanage, assuming it was punishment for what they had done. After roughly a year, Reese was adopted by a family that lived on a farm in Kentucky. But Hoffa always wanted to find his birth-mother. And as he grew up, he continued searching.
"Basically what happened, I was looking on the Internet and found a woman looking for her son that she gave up for adoption,'' he said. "At the time, she was living in Indiana. She bought me a plane ticket. I flew to Indiana. It was awesome.
"It's just one of those great stories. Definitely a love story.''
Some people might not see it that way, exactly. But we don't know all the details behind his mother giving up her son. And frankly, Hoffa is the judge and jury on that.
He sent her an email, and she called to start figuring out if he really might be the one. He started the call by saying he was sorry he had burned down the house. On Friday, he explained that he figured she would doubt he was really her son, and he wanted to say something to her that would clearly identify him.
She explained that the fire had nothing to do with why she left him at the orphanage, and that he wasn't being punished. Instead, she said, she had no money, and few prospects, and figured he needed a better home. They reunited in his junior year of college.
In the end, Hoffa searched for his mother, but it turned out that he was the one who was found. Reuniting went so far to take away his pain, and feelings of guilt.
And now, on Friday, he topped off his story even more. In his third Olympics, he finally won a medal, throwing 69 feet, 8 inches, or 26 inches short of the gold. He had failed to make the final in 2004 in Athens, and then finished seventh in Beijing.
His adoptive mother was in the stadium Friday, watching her son. His birth-mother, whom Hoffa says is now married to a lawyer, was not. "It's amazing what'll happen in a lifetime,'' he said. "I started life as this kid from a mom that wanted to give her son a great life, to being a son of two mothers, I guess ... and getting a medal.''
Hoffa had help, but he's the one who made the most of himself. It's not your typical fairy tale. But it has a happy ending, anyway.