Musial Moments Photoblog: St. Charles Borromeo

 

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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.

 

Book Musial Moments for your school or youth organization.

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

 

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

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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.