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.

 

Book Musial Moments for your school or youth organization.

Join the Good Sport Club and more at sportsmanship.org.

 

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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.

Yahoo! Sports takes petty dig at St. Louis during Rams playoff game

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I know you’re supposed to let this stuff roll off your back, but enough is enough. It’s been open season on my hometown from too many different directions and we need to put a stop to it. The Los Angeles Rams hosted the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC Wild Card Playoff game on Saturday night. Meanwhile, this little gem popped up in the Yahoo! Sports Twitter feed:

The Rams left St. Louis after 21 seasons and returned to L.A. in 2016. People who’ve never been to St. Louis had all kinds of hot takes as to the reasons. We’re a baseball town. We’re a hockey town. We’re a soccer town. We don’t like football. There’s too much crime. The fans don’t support the team. The list goes on.

We do love our baseball team, our hockey team, and yes, a lot of our kids play soccer. We have our challenges relative to crime and poverty, but we are no one’s doormat! The Rams, just like most professional sports franchises, are privately-held businesses. As much as fans buy tickets and jerseys and hang on every win and loss, we have to realize these teams don’t belong to us.

Cleveland fans couldn’t stop the Rams from leaving in 1945. L.A. fans couldn’t stop them from leaving in 1994. St. Louis fans couldn’t stop them in 2015. And who knows? In 20, 30 or 40 years, L.A. fans won’t be able to stop the Rams from leaving again should ownership decide to make a move.

The Rams still have a dedicated fanbase in St. Louis. I watched the playoff games on Saturday with a group of friends at a local establishment and the line was out the door. Fans wore Rams hats, jerseys, coats and cheered loudly as the team took on the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

If by some stroke of divine intervention, the Rams returned to St. Louis, all would be forgiven from a fan standpoint. The people here support this team for reasons I understand and for reasons I don’t. Either way, none of them deserve to be disparaged by Yahoo! Sports or anyone else.

There are people I know personally who worked day and night to put St. Louis’ best foot forward to keep the team. They don’t deserve the shade thrown their way by Yahoo! Sports or anyone else.

I get it. Snark and petty behavior dominate the landscape these days, but an old saying still rings true. “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Likewise, those who allowed Google to become a verb shouldn’t mention anyone else’s losses.

St. Louis is a proud city with good people. Leave us alone now.

Don’t start none. Won’t be none.

This is what leaders do

Good Sport Club

Leaders stand up when everyone around them sits down.

Leaders speak up when everyone around them stays quiet.

Leaders fight injustice in the streets and in the boardroom.

Leaders defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Leaders feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick.

Leaders use their strength to lift others up.

Leaders make the impossible possible, the possible probable and the probable so.

Leaders look for ways to serve rather than be served.

Leaders always look for the best shot, whether they take it or not.

Leaders can do anything because they are willing to do anything.

Leaders get the difference between opponents and enemies.

Leaders understand the game is played between the lines, but won between the ears.

Leaders do what others say they would have done.

Leaders admit their mistakes and apologize to those they’ve hurt.

Leaders read the book.

Leaders take L’s, but they bounce back.

Leaders never stop learning.

Leaders correct the behavior without condemning the person.

Leaders may wear their hero’s number. but eventually chart their own path.

Leaders show up.

Leaders say ‘thank you.’

Leaders love the people.

Leaders respect the game.

Leaders tell the truth.

 

 

 

 

Mizzou basketball coach Cuonzo Martin encourages opposing team after tough loss

Cuonzo Martin and JJK
Cuonzo Martin and Jackie Joyner-Kersee

In a preseason breakfast hosted by the Sports Commission, East St. Louis native and new Mizzou basketball coach, Cuonzo Martin was asked what his primary goal is at Missouri’s flagship university. He took a breath and answered, “To build up and educate young men.”

Martin is as knowledgeable about basketball as any other SEC coach. He played under the legendary Gene Keady at Purdue and helped lead the team to consecutive Big Ten Conference titles in 1994 and 1995. Martin played for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and has been a head coach at Missouri State, Tennessee and California since his playing days ended.

He knows the game, but the game is a means to an end for him. Martin seeks to build up young people, but not just those in his charge. The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin gave the host Tigers all they wanted Tuesday night. Mizzou saw an eight-point halftime lead shrink to a single point in the second half as they escaped with an 82-81 win.

Martin was so impressed with the opposing coaching staff and the players, he did something he had never done in his coaching career. He addressed the opposing team after the game. Please watch the video below to see what he had to say:

The Lumberjacks lost the game, but they are not losers. Martin wanted to make sure they knew that before leaving his building. He made sure they knew their worth as players and as people. Stephen F. Austin’s players did not smile or clap during Martin’s speech, but he didn’t expect them to. He acknowledged the disappointment they must have been feeling after a tough loss.

He empathized with them and lifted them up. What Martin did represents the essence of sportsmanship. Thousands upon thousands of basketball games will be played this season on every level and coaches won’t set foot in the opposing locker room and no one expects them to.

There, however, is the proverbial kicker. Sportsmanship, at its core, is about showing extraordinary compassion in an unexpected moment. Plainly speaking, sportsmanship is about helping someone up that everyone else expects you to step over.

Here’s to hoping Martin and his MIzzou Tigers keep winning games, but not for the accumulation of trophies and banners. You see, the more Martin wins, the longer he’ll be around to be extraordinarily compassionate in unexpected situations.

Time to take ‘trash’ out of our vocabulary

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When asked if he thought Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is improving, Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney had this to say:

Blake Bortles is not trash and it’s time we all stop using the word to describe a performance, person or situation we don’t like. I’ll start with me. As someone who works with kids, I influence and am influenced by them. I try to keep up with their slang in order to better relate to and understand them.

I’ve used the word ‘trash’ to describe things I don’t like and that’s not OK. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t make it trash. Someone put their heart and soul into a project and did their best to achieve a positive outcome. Who am I to compare who they are and what they did to something that should be thrown away?

Trash, by definition, is useless. It has no value. Keeping trash around too long becomes a health hazard. Even having too much trash in designated places for trash is an environmental hazard. How dare any of us call another human being trash?!

Blake Bortles is not trash. And I’m not going to rattle off his stats from Sunday against the Texans to prove he’s not. He’s a human being and that’s proof enough. I don’t care how many touchdowns he threw or what his quarterback rating was.

I’m also not going to call Clowney names for making such a foolish comment, either. It’s pretty easy to tell by Clowney’s comment what the outcome of the game was, but that’s no excuse to call someone trash. Blake Bortles and Jadeveon Clowney are both good enough to play in the NFL. Their teams play each other twice a year. Jacksonville will win their share. Houston will win theirs.

We have to treat each other better than this. Every human being has value. None of us is trash. For those thinking I’m being too sensitive, imagine the reaction if Bortles had said this about Clowney.

Can you hear me now? Good.

 

A sportsmanship lesson from Caian, Akeira and Kyndal

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Caian (pronounced KI-yen), age 2, Akeira (pronounced Uh-keer-uh), age 10 and Kyndal (pronounced Ken-duhl), age 9 taught me a lesson in sportsmanship recently by just being kids. Kyndal received a scooter as a gift last year and lets her bestie, Akeira, ride from time to time.

In this instance, Caian wanted a ride when he saw Akeira glide by. The scooter isn’t age appropriate for Caian giving Akeira and Kyndal an easy out. Caian’s too little to ride the scooter safely on his own. They could have told his parents and gone back to taking turns riding or whatever they were going to do.

Instead, Akeira hopped off and let Caian on. Here’s the part where the adult made the experience more fun and safe for kids. Caian doesn’t know how to ride a scooter and trying to teach him is a waste of time. He’s two. All he wants to do is ride.

I told Akeira to let him stand on the scooter and she should just pull him along. No matter what he does, I told her to control the scooter. Even if he looks like he could control the machine, don’t allow him to. Caian held onto the handlebars and giggled as he rode for about 30 minutes – an eternity for a toddler.

Keep in mind, the scooter belongs to Kyndal. At no time did she complain about wanting her stuff back. Akeira never complained about giving up her riding time to make Caian happy. Other than my safety tip, the adults continued their conversations without a crying or hurt kid interrupting.

This situation could have gone off the rails at anytime. What if Kyndal wanted her scooter back? What if Akeira told Caian to run along after five minutes instead of letting him ride until he got tired?

All of the kids’ parents were nearby. None of them had to get involved at anytime, though. Two kids who can’t really do anything without permission took it upon themselves to make a younger kid happy. If a nine-year-old and a 10-year-old can figure this stuff out, why can’t the rest of us?

Full disclosure: I’ve known Caian, Akeira, and Kyndal their whole lives. They’re great kids from great families. I wrote this to show treating people right isn’t that hard. We just have to be willing.

P.S. Kyndal saved my life once, but that’s another story for another time.

Don’t forget to show your commitment to sportsmanship. Take the pledge and join the club at goodsportclub.org.