"Our country is the only one in the world with a national anthem that ends with the two words, 'Play Ball!'"
Because you are a little boy and will grow up surrounded by men who love sports (unless, that is, you spend all your time with Grandpa Ray), and will probably find the majority of my blog posts sappy and 'girly,' I thought I would try my hand at a more testosterone-driven post. I don't know how possible this is, since your mom is about as far from a 'tomboy' as one may get, but I do pride myself in accepting, appreciating, and even loving one of America's greatest pastimes...
I used to know a lot about sports. Thanks to my dad and brothers, I could tell you the entire lineup for the Minnesota Twins and the San Francisco 49ers. I loved looking at Jordan's baseball card collection, went through a spurt when I paid attention to the NBA (thanks to a collection of NBA inspired pencils we had at home), and even used to pick and race our favorite stock cars on a wooden ramp Dad set up in the basement. I had a thing for Torii Hunter and Ken Griffey Jr., and spent careful time considering which Starter pullover coat to buy from Scheels (sadly, you will probably never own your own 'Starter' coat).
Then, I graduated high school and moved in with three other girls. During my four years of college, I paid very little attention to sports. When I started dating Beau, every now and then, I would spout off a little bit of my sports knowledge, to which Beau, although impressed, would inform me that my comment was a little 'out-dated.' He started referring to my sports knowledge gap as the 'Black Period,' a time when I failed to get the message that Jerry Rice was no longer a 49er and Kurt Warner had left the Rams.
There is a reason we live in a country that eats and breathes sports. The thrill rides, the Cinderella stories, the adrenaline rush, and the awe-inspiring role models that filled the room Wednesday night at the ESPY awards made me proud to live in the country I do. It’s not every day you see an athlete from UNI in the same room as one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. Whether it’s a State Championship win in Des Moines, a Super Bowl title five years after its stadium was used to house thousands of displaced hurricane victims, or a second-margin record breaking win at the Winter Olympics, sports have a way of bringing people together…showing us that anything is possible and creating moments that will be etched in our minds forever.
So...whether you decide to play sports, watch sports, or ignore sports and take up the fine arts (one can do both too), there are lessons that everyone can learn from the game. Funny that these lessons have nothing to do with Lebron James and his decision to play for the Miami Heat, or Tiger Woods and his latest gossip headline. These lessons are from real heroes, and have nothing to do with fame, fortune, or contract deals.
1. Sportsmanship...While you may hear your dad refer to the quote, 'you play to win the game,' I believe sports is much more than who wins the game or who breaks the record. Take Armando Galarraga as an example. After umpire, Jim Joyce's blown call to ruin Galarraga's perfect game on June 2nd of this year, Galarraga did the unthinkable. No, he didn't raise a conundrum, scream at the umpire and create a scene only fit for reality TV. No, he did not seek to become the spotlight in the multiple media coverages that followed the event. And no, he didn't even demand retribution. He simply smiled, shook the hand of the man that ruined his perfect game, and lived the sometimes painful lesson that 'everyone makes mistakes' with grace. Being a good 'sport' goes far beyond the field. It's about realizing that everyone is human. It's about being happy for others. One of my favorite sports quotes sums up 'sportsmanship' far more than I could...
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
2. Anything is possible. Take the 2010 UNI Panthers Men's Basketball team. Seeded ninth in the NCAA March Madness Tournament, the Panthers had to play #1 ranked Kansas. Even the die-hard Panther fans weren't about to choose them over Kansas when creating their brackets. Wednesday night, however, Coach Ben Jacobson, and graduates, Adam Koch and Ali Farokhmanesh, stood among Drew Brees, Terrell Owens, and the U.S. Soccer Team to accept the award for 'Best Upset' at the ESPYS. Looking star-struck and completely freaked out, the three men stood among thousands and dedicated their award to none other than WATERLOO/CEDAR FALLS!!! They were star-struck and so were all of the proud Cedar Valley'ians' glued to the TV.
Best moment...although Coach Jake's joke about Ali wanting to 'shoot' the basketball trophy bombed with the audience (a true cricket moment), everyone in Iowa 'got it.' While we were laughing back home, Jacobson's face turned a shade of pink and I thought Ali looked a little horrified!
3. Courage. It's a word that's difficult to define, let alone live by. But by the words of Aaron Thomas, sometimes we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep playing. Perhaps no one had learned this lesson more last year than the family of Ed Thomas. You will hear of Ed Thomas someday, not because he coached at the 'Sacred Acre' in Parkersburg, just 10 miles south of my hometown, but because of his story and the legacy he has left behind. Murdered by one of his former players during a summer weightlifting session with his team, Ed's wife, Jan, and sons, Aaron and Todd were forced to pick up the pieces of their life without their father in it. But they did more than rebuild their own family. Just as their father helped rebuild the small town after a devastating tornado in May 2008, the Thomas family sought to rebuild a football team, as well as their relationship with Mark Becker's family, a family torn apart by guilt and grief. As they stood up on that stage amidst a tear-filled audience, I believe they taught even the biggest stars a lesson that night...a lesson of faith, family, forgiveness, and football.
4. Character. Character is not about being deemed the 'greatest golfer of all time,' or the 'richest man in sports.' It's about a golfer winning the sport's most renowned tournament and instead of acknowledging his victory, he acknowledged the strength of his wife, struggling and battling through breast cancer. While Tiger Woods deals with his identity crisis, or what others have ridiculously coined, "sex addiction," Phil Mickelson has his priorities in check. Now, I don't know a whole lot about Phil Mickelson; however, I do know he hasn't made the same headlines his rival has. Character is not about wins or losses; it's about how you play the game...the game of sport or more importantly, the game of life.
So there you have it...an utterly long-winded post about sports from an on-again, off-again sports fan. As far as the Ron Santo, Chicago Cubs life lessons??? I'm leaving those up to your father ;).