Posted on: August 4, 2008 8:30 pm
Someone once asked me what song it was that I relate to most often. The answer I had to give was “The River” by Garth Brooks. I identify with this song because my life has been a lot like the words:
"You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin' as it flows
And a dreamer's just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
And never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores...and”
I first heard it when I was a single parent, heading back to college, trying to make a better life for my daughter. It was a period of a transition, not the first and it wouldn’t be the last.
Indeed, I had, as I’m sure we all have, been through many transitions. Entering the military, the many moves during it, the many relationships I had. A marriage which failed, a pregnancy that led me to leave the military, going back to school, moving and a marriage and now watching my hatchling leave the nest. I’m sure there will be more in the future. Each time I’m faced with a transition, I sing those words to myself.
Despite the various changes in direction in my life, I’ve somehow seemed to have come through it. Maybe with more wrinkles and gray hair, but still, for the most part unscathed. Transitions were a little more easy for me. For some, like my husband, they’re less so.
My husband is at a point in his life where a physical injury left him incapable of performing the job(s) he loved. Though he’s functional and mobile, back surgery and two titanium rods in his back means his days as a bomb tech and cop are over with. This is not so easy for him. At 41, suddenly he feels old because the end of his career came sooner then he expected it to.
I’m sure professional athletes are faced with this prospect too at the end of their careers. Some, like Kevin Everett came way too soon due to a spinal chord injury, suffered last season. Others end their careers on their terms and still others, go out doing what they love, like Dale Earnhardt.
How we handle the transition or the changes is individual. Joe Namath didn’t seem to handle his well, resorting to alcohol. Kevin Everett continues to face his struggle with grace and courage. When it was time to retire, Richard Petty found another way to stay active in the sport that he loved. For each positive account athletes who adjusted to the transition, there’s at least an equal, if not more, negative accounts where an ex-athlete has struggled with the transition.
Perhaps it’s a loss of identity or loss of direction that seems to cause the turbulent water. It’s been proven that women who have stayed at home with the children have a harder time then women who have worked when it comes to “empty nest syndrome”. Suddenly, the very thing they put their efforts and energy in has left and there’s no outlet or replacement for the energy. Women who have undergone hysterectomies or masectomies, seem to loose a sense of their femininity and sometimes themselves, and struggle with the emotional aspect, as well as the healing process.
The same can be said for some men who’ve suffered heart attacks. Somehow they’re faced with their own mortality. Some sink into depression while others tend to take stock into what they may have missed out on and go about chasing their dreams.
For me, I’m sensing a shift in the current, perhaps a change in the wind. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to it, or sensing an impending sense of excitement. Despite the grey hair that will be continued to be covered with Lady Clairol, and the deepening lines around my eyes, I’m looking forward to facing them, regardless of how rocky the rapids may be. First though, I have to overcome other obstacles that may lay in the way. Regardless, I have my life vest on, to help me through them.
Posted on: April 2, 2008 6:21 am
It’s a character issue. Professional athletes especially in the NFL, are nothing more then a bunch of thugs. I’ve heard this characterization, I’m sure you have also. Perhaps it’s easy to believe this, given the headlines concerning Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Tank Williams, Cedric Wilson, Adam “Pacman” Jones and more. Of course, this is nothing new. We remember the drug issues with the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s and the legal problems with the Cincinnati Bengals players. It’s not uncommon to see a bench clearing brawl in the MLB and NHL. The NBA isn’t immune from it either, after all, how many times was the brawl during Pacer-Pistons game replayed on ESPN and other sports shows?
Then of course, we have the South Carolina doctor who was arrested for giving athletes performance enhancement drugs, there’s the Mitchell Report and the infamous “spygate”. Okay, maybe spygate doesn’t need to be there, but it left questions to character. Even team cheerleaders aren’t exempt from it, given the incident in Florida by a few Panthers cheerleaders a few years ago.
Okay, let’s admit it. We love the sensationalism that these stories bring. Come on, how many slow down to get a glimpse of the nasty accident on the side of the road? Why did the slow speed car chase with O.J. Simpson make national news? Why was it replayed and reported on, over and over again. The media knows what brings in viewers and readers. They feed our desire for that “dirty laundry”. Let’s face it, all you have to do is look at the boards on Sportsline and see that some of the most popular threads are the ones that point out the human error.
I’m not saying we don’t follow the feel good stories. The relief effort and the volunteerism by numerous sports figures to those affected by Katrina. Watching the amazing progress that Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills has made since his injury. We pulled for the Saints to have, at least a good year, during their displacement after Katrina. Nothing new, Lou Gehrig won peoples heart when he disclosed he had ALS.
Yet, even these feel good stories tend to get pushed back into the recesses of our memories, or just dumped from it, because soon another story, another incident comes around and we’re eating up these misdeeds, twisting and turning them until we’ve worn them out, then just wait for the next one to come up. And as we’re feeding on them, we ask ourselves the stupid question of what happened to integrity? The thing is, that integrity is still out there and is more the rule then the exception. Yet we focus on the ill-begotten and miss the what goes on every day, outside of the spotlight.
I had often heard that there aren’t people like Roberto Clemente and Walter Peyton around anymore. People who care about others, who don’t have the “me me me” attitude. Interestingly enough, there are more individuals who are like that. Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphin’s is one of them. He’s this years recipient of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award. Actually, the exception in professional sports is the thug like mentality and the rule are individuals who give back to their communities. And the sports “franchises” encourage this. Why else would the NFL present the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award or the MLB give out the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award? Yet it’s often just a small blurb in the news, perhaps buried somewhere on the back of a sports page that gets overlooked, more often in the community section. It’s only news when there’s an award attached to it. It doesn’t get much play time, unless, like after Katrina, there’s a national effort.
So why does it matter, why write about it? Well, it matters to me, after all, I’m not only a big one for activism, but also volunteerism. I guess where there’s a call or a need to help, I’m there. I quit counting how many March of Dimes walkathons I’ve been on. I’ve been a girl scout volunteer, not only as a troop leader but also cookie mom (don’t ask me how I got conned into that one) and recruiter for the girl scouts. I was at one time a certified Red Cross CPR instructor, then there’s the times I’ve acted as a “hugger” (had to be a hugger, nothing less would do) for the Special Olympics events. The weekend time at the orphanage in Korea, fundraising coordinator for the United Way, blood drive coordinator, organized a few Toys for Tots events, a toy drive for Katrina victims, and the list goes on. Oh and now that I’m in shape, will be walking in the local Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer.
There’s little recognition that goes with volunteerism, and we do it, not for the recognition but for the ability to help others and how it makes us feel. So since it’s not done for recognition, why write about it? Perhaps to offset the negativity that is so often seen in the national media. Perhaps to remind us that integrity in sports on the field and off the field still exists. For this reason, I’ll be featuring a Wednesday blog extolling the virtues of past and present sports personalities and their charitable works and volunteerism. It deserves to come off the back pages, it deserves to be recognized. It’s not something new. The Fedex Air and Ground Awards gives contributions to the players favorite charities, as does other awards in sports. Of course, I am not in a financial position to give out large (or even small) checks to every charity or cause, but I am in the position to give my thank you to these individuals (even if they don’t read them). This is my thank you to them.
Next Week: A former Baltimore Raven and current Raven front office person and his struggles with ALS, a former Pittsburgh Steeler and his haven for abused and neglected boys, A former LA Laker and his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.
Posted on: January 30, 2008 6:09 am
Edited on: January 30, 2008 6:12 am
It's early morning here. My husband is playing his videogame and I'm perusing the sports stories. He just happens to look over at me as I'm wiping tears off my face and blowing my nose. All he goes is "football?" . I nod and then start laughing. My husbands favorite line, "gotta love my wife, only person I know that cries over football". I guess I should feel foolish but I don't, but then, he's the only one who sees me cry.
No, it's not the loss or win of a game that brings me to sobs. Although regular season losses just leave me feeling down, and post season losses just want to make me get drunk. I can "man up" with the best of them and accept the loss as a fan, graciously. Well...ok...I ummm...do grieve at the loss during a playoff game, but I hide in the closet when I do this.
It's the human side of football that often brings me to tears. A player or a coach that I admire retiring. Yep I cried when I saw Bettis holding the trophy after his last game of his career. And yes, I did cry when I read that Bill Cowher was retiring also. Some tears were shed when I saw the various NFL players pitching in to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. At one point, I had to stop watching the NFL Network because there was always something nice that would reduce me to tears...but then again, no one was watching.
This season I found the waterworks in full force as I followed the story of Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett's miraculous struggle with a spinal cord injury earlier in the season. Yes, even when he returned to the stadium for the last game of the season, some tears escaped as I heard and read about it.
Now this morning, it was Pete Prisco who had me in tears. No, not his writings, I actually enjoy them, but it was his story on Domenik Hixon and how he'll be playing for Everett in the Superbowl. "Playing for two", as it's stated in the article. It was a little heartwrenching to read how that hit by Hixon on Everett and the susequent injury not only haunted him, but inspired Hixon.
There's a human side to the NFL. It's not just stats and points and player information. Not just game plans and Sunday games. We often feel for the players who get hurt and spurn those who cause those injuries. Prisco's article shows us the effects that incidents like the Everett injury has on those who cause them.
Yes I cried. I cried when Art Rooney passed on, I cried when Terry Bradshaw came back to Pittsburgh, after his self-exile. Tears were flowing when they showed the 75th All-Star team for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yep, the waterworks were turned on quite a bit these past few seasons. Thanks Pete for flipping that faucet again. Anyone have a tissue?
Note: Pete Prisco's article can be found here: www.sportsline.com/nfl/story/106073