Musial Moments: Shenandoah Valley Elementary

 

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Parents: It’s not about you

I wrote this piece about Landon Collins six years ago. It bears a striking resemblance to what Jacob Copeland went through with his mom on Wednesday. It appears Collins made the right decision. He’s now a safety for the New York Giants and is doing well. Hopefully, the same thing happens for Jacob Copeland.

Geismar (La.) Dutchtown High School safety Landon Collins announced his college choice last week during the Under Armor High School Football All America Game. The New Orleans native had narrowed his decision to two schools – Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Alabama. In the video below, Collins discusses the process he went through and ultimately announces his decision.

It’s not about us as adults. This young man has done well enough on and off the field to have his choice of the two schools playing for college football’s national championship. He chose Alabama. So, what? Collins will get an education. His games will be on national television and I’m sure pro scouts already have him on their radar. However, his mother is acting as if someone just stole her bike. She even starts cheering for the school he didn’t choose.

When Dari Nowkhah of ESPN asked Collins about the LSU fan reaction back home, did you catch what he said? “…I guess she’ll still supports me.” While Nowkhah asked about fans in general, Collins’ answer was specific. He only cares that his mom supports him and it’s clear she does not. Other family members come in toward the end to hug him, but the hurt on the young man’s face is evident. Parents, it’s about what’s best for the kids. Whether they’re playing Division I football or they’re the back-up linebacker on their middle school team, we are the support system.

Never should a kid feel alone when sitting next to his mother. Our kids should always feel like they are the greatest gift we were ever given.  I’ve heard parents say they’d run through a brick wall for their son or daughter. Well, sometimes they don’t need that. Sometimes, they just need a hug.

 

Riots seem to be OK to celebrate a championship, but not to protest injustice

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The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl 52 Sunday night with a 41-33 win over the New England Patriots. It was the team’s first victory in the big game. The players were elated and many of their fans went crazy.

Literally.

While the players made confetti angels on the turf inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, some of their biggest supporters exhibited devilish behavior back home. Eagles fans uprooted street poles, flipped cars, broke windows, tore down the facade of an upscale hotel, looted convenience stores and set fires all in the name of a championship.

In late 2017, activists in St. Louis took to the streets to protest the acquittal of a former police officer on trial for murder. The protests lasted for several weeks. Windows were broken and property was damaged.

In 2014, Ferguson garnered national attention when protests became riots after a grand jury declined to indict a police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  Dozens were arrested and injured. Looting and significant property damage took place.

Critics castigated protesters for allowing rioters to dilute their message with violence. They suggested the sound of broken windows blunts the sound of peaceful protest. Do broken windows also blunt championship celebrations?

Why is one group’s protest not viewed the same as another’s celebration?

Whatever the reason, violence is not the answer. It’s not OK to break windows, damage someone else’s property or set fires – and it doesn’t matter if you’re overjoyed or enraged.

Philadelphia isn’t alone when it comes to poor fan behavior. Other major cities have experienced unrest after winning a sports championship. Local governments usually chalk the destruction up to a few bad apples, sweep up the glass and move on.

From the upper echelon of government to grassroots organizations, calls for unity ring out from sea to shining sea. Americans are encouraged to lay aside petty differences and come together in the spirit of respect, love and understanding.

Unity isn’t a magical force, though. It cannot be achieved because someone says so or because a group of people wish it to happen. Unity does not occupy the same space as your favorite song on the radio. Playing it over and over again doesn’t make it move up the charts.

There must be a unifying message, unifying actions and people dedicated to bringing others together, not just those who want the rest of us to acquiesce and assimilate.

Citizens should gleefully celebrate their favorite team winning the title. They should also do it without violence. It is said sports bring people together. Those words need to transform into action.

What we love about our teams should manifest in us as fans. Sports teams consist of people from different backgrounds coming together to pursue something bigger than themselves.

What if we as fans, as citizens of the world, could become a championship team?

Wait a Minute: The State of the Sports Union in 2018

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My fellow Americans, we live in what should be the most celebrated time in sports history. Our athletes are bigger, faster, stronger and performing the most incredible feats ever achieved by humanity.

Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian, and Shakyla Hill among others are redefining what athletic excellence really means.

America’s athletes reflect her greatest strength: diversity. We produce the world’s greatest athletes because our country contains the world’s best attributes. Because we are a melting pot of cultures, body structures and abilities, the same country that produced Tom Brady also produced Simone Biles.

Brady is 6-4 and of Irish descent. Biles is 4-8 and African-American. Brady has won five Super Bowls as a member of the New England Patriots. Biles won four Olympic gold medals as a member of the FInal Five USA Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Stanton and Judge have hit home runs NASA is still tracking in space. Antonio Brown, the NFL’s best wide receiver, simply can’t be covered. Some refs don’t bother throwing flags when defensive backs interfere with him because he catches the ball anyway.

Steph Curry makes the 3-point shot look like a layup. And what is there to say about LeBron James that hasn’t already been said? The most gifted athlete of our time also gives as much as he gets. Even more that the championship teams he’s been a part of and the individual awards he’s won, James says his greatest accomplishment is the school he’s building in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

LeBron James knows his greatness lies not in his dunking ability, but using what sports have given him to help the next generation. A student in his school may one day cure cancer, AIDS, help temper the effects of climate change or end world hunger.

Remember, I said this should be the most celebrated time in sports, but it’s not. We’re too angry, jaded and bitter. If our kids don’t star on the team, we want to fight the coach. If the ref doesn’t make the calls for our team we want, we’ll fight them too.

That’s not hyperbole. Assaults against sports officials and coaches are up considerably in recent years. Some parents don’t want anyone correcting their kids. If a coach doesn’t shower their son or daughter with the praise heaped on a king or queen, the parent may pull the kid from the team.

Kids pick up on the animus we have toward other adults. If we don’t respect the coach, why should they? The kid disrespects the coach and the coach doesn’t tell the parent because there’s no support at home. It’s a vicious cycle ending in fewer people enjoying and benefitting from all the positive things sports have to offer.

I challenge every American to wait a minute before taking regrettable actions.

Before you let that four-or-eight-letter word leave your mouth during the game, consider your son or daughter sitting next to you. Before you call the ref that infamous 12-letter word, I implore you to do the same. If/when your child picks up profanity, it won’t be from their favorite rapper. It will be from you.

Is a blown call worth you getting arrested? Wait a minute and think about what you’re going to tell the judge. “Your Honor, the ref cheated us!” If you don’t calm down, I guess the prison basketball team could always use another point guard.

Wait a minute before you yell at the TV during this weekend’s big game. First, it looks crazy. Your team can’t hear you anyway. Yelling at the refs on TV also serves as a sort of dry run for how you’ll treat refs in real-life.

Wait a minute before you pull your kid from the team. If someone is truly mistreating your child, then you must get them away from the negative environment. However, if your conversation with the coach revolves around how much “shine” your kid gets compared to the others, please do us all a favor and have the most comfortable seat you can find.

Referees and coaches are not perfect. They make mistakes, but the overwhelming majority are not malicious figures who wish our kids harm. Wait a minute, take a deep breath and check your behavior.

The state of American sports is strong, but our union need a little work. Sports are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed by all. Respect each other and enjoy all that sports have to offer.

God bless each and every one of you and God bless the United States of America.

I fell down…

Ruth Idom passed from this life on Saturday, January 15, 1994.

She was my mother.

I was 17 at the time. My God, the time. I don’t know why I was staring at the clock as her breathing stopped. It was 3:15 p.m. and my head laid on her chest. I wanted her to know I was there. She told me she would do anything for me and I wanted her to keep that promise. I wanted her to live.

Her body couldn’t take anymore, though. I think I cried the whole day, but I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. They say you pass out when you’re in immense pain. It’s the body’s safety valve. You shut down to keep from dying. I just shut down.

That 17-year-old kid never healed. Who knows if he ever will? I, however, emerged from his broken heart, body and spirit. I pledged to keep the promises he made to his mom. I’m still sensitive to his cries, particularly on January 15.

While the world remembers and celebrates the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I summon the strength to remember and celebrate someone almost no one remembers. The kid screams loudest on this day. I can’t bring his mom back, but I can keep her spirit alive.

I heard about an event at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis on MLK Day. There were readings from the works of Dr. King going on all day. You could come in and listen and/or volunteer to read for a time.

On Monday, January 15, 2018 at 3:15 p.m., this happened:

I read Dr. King’s text from the sermon “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” The power Mr. Good speaks of in his post didn’t came from my voice. It was the kid releasing 24 years of pain and worry to the Son this great building was named after. Ruth’s baby boy spoke from the pulpit and for 15 blessed minutes, all was well with his soul…and mine.

Nice story, Sol, but what does this have to do with sports or sportsmanship?

Everything.

Sports are not life. They are a part of life. Sportsmanship involves how we treat those we interact with in sports. About 18 hours after I left the pulpit at Christ Church Cathedral, I had to say an encouraging word during our Musial Moments assembly for the kids at Academy of the Sacred Heart in nearby St. Charles, Mo.

Be Good

I had 200 young eyes on me. It was a powerful and humbling moment. I stood and delivered. They learned about Stan Musial. They learned why the mantra of “Have Fun! Be Good! Play Right!” is so important in sports and applicable to everyday life.

Those of us who work with kids aren’t superheroes. We have weaknesses. We break, we hurt and we cry. On Monday, I fell down, but thanks to Dr. King’s words, an encouraging teacher and the enduring spirit of my mom, I got up.

 

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Youth league prays for sportsmanship

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Since my first day at the Sports Commission, the St. Louis Catholic Youth Council (CYC) has been an outstanding partner and supporter when it comes to promoting sportsmanship. CYC leagues view sports as a ministry, something that helps develop young people holistically.

Sportsmanship is specifically mentioned in CYC’s mission. It’s also expected by coaches, parents, fans and officials. I’ve had the honor of working with CYC on many programs, but what CYC’s South Central District has done marks a first in the life of The Sportsmanship Guy.

The league sent the following message to its members and has also made it available on their website:

CYC South-Central 2018 Season Pre-Game Prayer.

Lead Ref:

We want to remind everyone that we are emphasizing sportsmanship and spirit at all CYC South Central basketball games this season. As such, we’d like to ask you all to join us in prayer asking for help with this initiative.

Home team coach:

Lord, please help us to remember that in CYC Sports our focus is on Sportsmanship, which means much more than just winning or losing. We would like to pray for the safety of our young athletes, and also that we all share the strength to foster a positive environment for both our teams.

Now, let’s all pray our sportsmanship motto together:

Teams Play, Fans Cheer, Refs Officiate and Everyone Stays Positive! Amen…

All CYC teams pray before every game in every sport, but this is the first prayer I’ve seen specific to sportsmanship. This isn’t a joke. Praying directly for what you want God to do is central to the Christian faith. CYC wants improved sportsmanship and they went directly to The Almighty for help.

James 4:2 reads, in part, “Ye have not, because ye ask not…” This is as serious as it gets from a youth sports league. Even for those who are not Christians, it must be understood that CYC put what is most valuable to them, their faith, on the line to help kids.

Kudos to CYC for making such a bold and decisive move.