Athletes are not property.

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Athletes are not chattel. They are not another form of entertainment like our TVs, smartphones or other devices.

They do not belong to us; at least not in the way we often treat them. Athletes belong to us and with us as husbands, wives, sons, daughters, uncles and aunts. They are members of our community, our region and our nation.

Athletes have the same rights, responsibilities. and privileges as anyone else. They are not puppets or some version of the “See-and-Say” toy from yesteryear.

Despite what we may imagine, making millions of dollars or playing in front of thousands in a stadium and millions of people at home does not negate their humanity.

Athletes are people, too. How far have we sunk where this has become a necessary statement?

It ain’t over till it’s over

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Baseball legend Yogi Berra is credited with coining the phrase “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The statement seems like a redundancy; of course nothing is over until it’s over. However, in sports and in life, we think that way.

And we couldn’t be more wrong. Just look at the last year in sports.

Cleveland was down 3-1 to Golden State.

The Chicago Cubs were down 3-1 to Cleveland.

New England was down 28-3 with three minutes left in the third quarter to Atlanta.

The Cubs broke the curse, the Cavaliers ended the drought, and the Patriots did the impossible.

Yogi was right. These teams proved that a champion has to be willing to go nine innings over seven games, 48 minutes in basketball or 60 minutes-plus in football to get it done.

Never kneel, lie down, or get down on yourself. Two outs isn’t three. Five minutes left on the clock is still five minutes. No matter how bad it looks, don’t give up. Former President Obama said, “The only thing that is the end of the world is the end of the world.”

Or for those of us who speak fluent Yogi…

It ain’t over till it’s over.

 

Can You Stand The Rain?

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“On a perfect day I know that I can count on you
When that’s not possible, tell me, can you weather the storm?”

-From New Edition’s 1988 album Heart Break (lyrics by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis).

In sports and in life, everyone loves the perfect day. They’re ready to play and give everything they have. Rain, however, makes playing the game tough. In sports, losing is the equivalent of a rainstorm.

It’s often said that winning cures all ills. It doesn’t. Winning doesn’t cure anything. Think of winning as a painkiller; it makes you feel better, but the underlying ailment is still there.

Winning doesn’t make you like teammates, respect coaches, or share the ball more. Your team will lose again. It will rain again. Those same issues will come back.

Changing attitudes toward each other and the game takes hard work, dedication and patience. Sometimes, you can’t run inside from a driving rainstorm. Sometimes, you have to stand there and get soaked.

Only then will you realize the problems on your team and in your life aren’t as big as you thought.

Rain is just a bunch of water.

 

 

What makes a good citizen?

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A good citizen cares for his family, his neighbors and complete strangers. He knows his own destiny, to channel Dr. King, is bound to the destiny of those around him. A good citizen believes in the basic ideals of American society – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He then works with others to shape policy and develop programs to help those ideals become a reality for all Americans.

When I think about citizenship, I think about sportsmanship. The game, whether on the field of play or in real-life, is more productive and more enjoyable when everyone has the opportunity to play, grow and succeed. A good sport, along with a good citizen, knows the main objective has nothing to do with the day’s score, but the willingness of people to continue playing no matter the outcome of a single contest.

Sports leagues have folded after crowning a single season’s champion. Nations have fallen after the reign of a single, destructive ruler. Good citizens and good sports know that to make society and the game better, they must endure. They also know you are as only good as your bench.

In sports, the star player gets the headlines, but Steve Kerr hit the shot, David Tyree made the catch and Mike Jones made the tackle. In life, presidents and senators make news, but teachers, doctors, attorneys, laborers, and other everyday Americans teach, nurture and encourage the Barack Obamas, John McCains, and Elizabeth Warrens of the world.

A good sport knows there is no “I” in team.

A good citizen knows we are strongest when we are bound so close together, that one of us cannot fall without the rest.

Siena and Rider make a literal mockery of good sportsmanship

Siena and Rider weren’t good sports in their game Tuesday night. Late in the game, a fight ensued between players from both teams. There were ejections and technical fouls assessed among coaches and players. As a result, Rider head coach Kevin Baggett decided to remove his team from the court immediately after the final buzzer.

Rider did not participate in the postgame handshake line.

Siena didn’t, either – except for head coach Jimmy Patsos.

This is a bunch of mess. Baggett totally blew off any semblance of sportsmanship by leaving the court. Patsos decided to imitate a responsible, character-driven coach by shaking hands with invisible players. Young people must have better examples.

College coaches wield a great deal of power when it comes to players. The fastest way to get players to act right is to sacrifice playing time, but that may mean sacrificing wins.

Sorry, what was I thinking?

The saddest MLK holiday ever

I didn’t see or hear this anywhere on Monday:

You probably didn’t, either. There wasn’t even the obligatory “Has Martin Luther King’s dream been realized?” newspaper or TV story.

We didn’t even try.

America has regressed. The fight for freedom and equality has taken a few rounds off. Monday, January 16, 2017, was a day off for schools, banks and a few more random observers. The rest of America conducted business as usual; the very thing Dr. King warned us against in his famous speech.

The NBA played a full slate of games. Cavs vs. Warriors was the marquee matchup. Draymond Green continued his almost nonstop antics with a flagrant foul on LeBron James. Sports networks were abuzz with commentary about Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and his “salty” language about the New England Patriots.

Sigh.

There were marches, celebrations and other gatherings in honor of Dr. King, but they were in the usual places and conducted by the usual people. Our vigilance has given way to complacency.

I took my family to see the movieĀ Hidden FiguresĀ during the holiday weekend. In part, it tells the story of Katherine Johnson, the brilliant NASA mathematician and physicist, who helped calculate John Glenn’s historic space flight aboard the Friendship 7 in 1962.

John Glenn was in my science books, history books and part of the political sphere when he became a United States Senator. Katherine Johnson, the black woman who made sure he didn’t wind up space brisket, wasn’t even a footnote.

Freedom is a constant struggle that requires daily effort. Indifference is the breeding ground for injustice. Simply put, when you don’t care, you don’t care.

MLK Day is not a holiday just for black people and social justice warriors. It is a day for all Americans to observe and appreciate the very high cost of freedom. Lives have been lost in the name of freedom in foreign wars and on our own soil.

Don’t let Dr. King’s legacy be lost to “back in the day.” Some millionaire athletes, a good movie and even an African-American President of the United States mean nothing if the children on Mehl Avenue in north St. Louis County and the children on Mehl Avenue in south St. Louis County never meet and never play together.

Yesterday was a sad day in our country. Please don’t let it happen again.