Humanity over everything: MLB umpire rescues woman from bridge

Credit: AP

MLB umpire John Tumpane saved a young woman’s life on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Here’s what he had to say about the harrowing ordeal:

Tumpane could have done anything. He could have kept going about his business, had lunch and prepared for the evening’s baseball game. He could have left the situation for someone else to handle.

Surely, he wasn’t the only one who saw the woman climbing over the bridge’s railing. Besides, he an umpire, not a crisis counselor, police officer or firefighter. He had a game to prepare for. No one would have blamed him for minding his own business.

His humanity wouldn’t let him, though. The spirit of the man whose name is on the bridge in question, Roberto Clemente, wouldn’t let him. Clemente died in a plane crash while taking earthquake relief supplies to his native Nicaragua in 1972.

MLB’s Sportsmanship Award is named in Clemente’s honor. The bridge is built with steel, but the strength of Clemente’s character holds it up. John Tumpane has that same strength.

The picture above of Tumpane holding the young woman’s arm and tending to her shows what we can be when we allow our common humanity to guide us. He comforted her the way he would his own sister. By the way, she is a sister (I’ll let that one marinate for the uninitiated).

Tumpane did not know her name, background or what circumstances led her to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. He just knew she was better off on the dry side of the rail. A man who gets dirt kicked on him during games took time to dust someone else off.

Tumpane told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “You never know what somebody’s day looks like. It’s a nice day, everyone’s out for a walk, and somebody’s not having the same day you’re having. I was just glad to help.”

And they say umpires are blind…

Register now for the 2017 Coach It Right! Soccer Clinics

2017-Soccer-Clinic-FlyerThe St. Louis Sports Commission is offering a series of soccer clinics specifically geared toward youth coaches and parents. The Youth Coaching Certificate (formerly known as the ‘F’ license) is the minimum coaching education requirement in the Missouri Youth Soccer Association (MYSA). Even if your league doesn’t require the Youth Coaching Certificate, your kids will benefit from having a trained coach at the helm.

MYSA coaching director Denny Vaninger will be the instructor for all three sessions in the Coach It Right! series. The Youth Coaching Certificate would normally cost you $40 if you went to another class on your own. However, the Coach It Right! series is absolutely FREE for all St. Louis area coaches and parents.

Everyone who completes their designated clinic will receive the Youth Coaching Certificate free of charge. How is this possible? The Sports Commission is covering the cost for every coach who attends. The experience your kids will have after what you learn from Coach Vaninger is worth it to us. Click on the flyer above, email or call us to register.

FREE has never been so valuable…for you and your kids.

LaVar Ball is a bigger celebrity than his NBA son

With the second pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball of UCLA. Lonzo’s basketball accomplishments are impressive. They include:

2017 Associated press All-American

2017 First-team All Pac-12

2017 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year

2016 Naismith Prep Player of the Year

2016 McDonald’s All-American

To put it plainly, Lonzo can ball (pun intended). His dad, Lavar, on the other hand, is the the bigger star. We’ve seen parents who live vicariously through their kids. Lavar Ball has taken things to the next level. He’s used the celebrity reserved for athletes like his son to make himself shine.

LaVar Ball is the sports parent equivalent of the moon.

As kids, we looked at the night sky and saw the mesmerizing light we thought was coming from the moon.  Songs have been written and movies made about the moonlight, but we learned in science class that the moon produces no light of its own.

The moon gets its light from the sun, or in Lavar Ball’s case, from the son. Lonzo is a Laker. He’ll be brought along in the tradition of Kareem, Worthy and Shaq. He’ll be tutored by Kobe and managed by Magic.

If Lonzo scores 20 points a night for Los Angeles, he’ll have a front-row reserved seat the Oscars – every year for as long as he wants.

So, why was Lonzo, along with brother LaMelo, at WWE Raw last night watching their father do this?

Don’t be surprised if Lavar squares off against The Miz in a WWE ring on September 24 at the No Mercy pay-per-view event originating from Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Furthermore, don’t be surprised if Lavar Ball gets a TV talk show or radio program out of the deal.

This is his big break, too.

That time I used my super powers to save a kid in trouble…

I’m a HUGE fan of superheroes and more of a DC guy than Marvel. DC includes members of the Justice League – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. The Marvel universe consists of Spider-Man, The Avengers, X-Men, etc.

Junior wanted to take me to the movies to see Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is awesome as Princess Diana of Themyscira by the way. I had three takeaways from the film:

  1. Batman is useless. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Superman didn’t have to die in Batman vs. Superman. Wonder Woman could have beaten the monster Doomsday all by herself.
  3. Wonder Woman’s ending monologue from the film:

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind; but then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know…that only love can truly save the world. So now I stay, I fight, and I give – for the world I know can be. This is my mission. Forever.”

Unbeknownst to me, the power Wonder Woman spoke of, the power of love, would be put to the test as soon as the movie was over. We pick up our adventure in progress…

Junior had to make a pit stop before we left the theater. As I waited, I noticed a young girl sitting on a bench crying and holding her phone. I overheard her arguing with her mom over the fact that she couldn’t get a ride home.

I introduced myself and Junior and asked what was wrong. The 16-year-old said she’d been there for hours and no one would come to get her. Her mom’s boyfriend was supposed to come, but he stopped answering his phone.

I told her we wouldn’t leave her alone. She tried her mom’s boyfriend one more time and he said he was on his way. Before leaving, I gave her my business card and said if her situation changed, call my cell and I’d get her an Uber.

Junior and I were almost home and my phone rang. Mom’s boyfriend had changed his mind. The girl was nearly hysterical because the theater was about to close.

I kept my end of the bargain and figured out how to order an Uber when I’m not the one being picked up. I tracked her trip home and everything worked out. I’ve called her mom twice and the lady hasn’t called me back. She probably won’t.

As upset as I was with the mom and boyfriend, I’m glad we were there. That child would’ve gotten in the car with anybody last night. She was desperate to get home.

As a dad, I can’t imagine letting my kid go somewhere when I don’t have the means to get her home. And even though mine was safe with me, I also can’t imagine walking away from a kid who needs help.

What on Earth does this have to do with sportsmanship? Everything. Junior is on my team. It’s easy to take care of those on your own team. Junior and I were among the last to leave the Wonder Woman showing Saturday night because we thought there would be a post-credits scene.

This means everyone else who was in the theater with us walked past the young girl as she cried. Everyone who went in and out of the restroom that Junior used ignored her cries. Everyone who walked into and out of every other movie in that section of the theater with their popcorn and candy ignored her cries.

In their defense, no one was obligated to help her. It wasn’t their fault the adults in her life left her twisting in the wind. I didn’t walk away, though. I couldn’t. I can’t walk away from a kid in trouble. And one day, when my Junior is captain of her own team, she will extend her hand and help someone who needs it.

Looks like Wonder Woman was right. Love can save the world.


Don’t be a tyrant or a lunatic!

Man Screaming

A wise man once told me you never want to work for a tyrant or a lunatic. As an athlete, you don’t want to play for a tyrant or lunatic. As a coach, you should never be a tyrant or a lunatic.

Tyrants manage through fear. Everyone around them is afraid to say or do the wrong thing. Tyrants make their subordinates feel like a mistake is the end of the world. The basketball player is afraid to miss a shot, the quarterback is afraid to throw an interception and the baseball player is afraid to strikeout.

Unfortunately, fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fearful athletes miss more shots, throw more picks, and strikeout more than confident ones. Tyranny also strips away humanity – from you and your kids. It’s necessary and productive to show them the same patience and love you show your family.

Rapper Kevin Gates once broached the subject in an interview where he was asked about fellow artists who seem to always be in a gangster persona. I think his words also apply to the tyrannical coach. Gates said, “You’re a gorilla all the time? I mean all the time? When you’re out with your kids or on a date with the [person] you love, you’re a Grrr…gorilla. There’s no reason to be that way.”

It’s hard to maintain fear. People usually look to get away from what makes them afraid or they start to resist it. To put it bluntly, you’ll lose your team and/or your job as a coach if you keep being mean to people. Stop it!

Lunatics are people whose directions and direction make no sense. They literally don’t know what they’re doing and keep everyone around them guessing about what’s expected and what success looks like. Lunatics make basketball players run long, slow laps because they didn’t get back on defense fast enough.

Long, slow distance running is the opposite of anything fast. When the kid is done running his laps, he’s going to get back on defense even slower and he’ll be made to run more laps and yada, yada, yada.

Lunatics make their running backs carry the football around school so they’ll stop fumbling. Again, that makes no sense.  Fumbles occur at game speed when the athlete is being chased or tackled. No one is chasing your athlete to third period French.

Former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber had a huge fumbling problem during his career. Instead of making Barber carry the football through a grocery store, his coach, Tom Coughlin, fixed his technique. He had Barber carry the ball almost underneath his armpit and tight to his body.

Barber’s fumbles dropped and the Giants picked up a Super Bowl win out of the deal. Steve Nicollerat, St. Louis University High hall of fame baseball coach often says, “Have a reason for everything you do as a coach. Don’t just do stuff because you saw it on TV or because your dad or former coach did it. If you don’t know why your kids are running a certain drill or play, then stop doing those things.”

Bottom line: Don’t be a tyrant or a lunatic. Even-tempered, smart, detail-oriented people win championships too.

LeBron James and why everything in America revolves around race

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James’ L.A. home was vandalized with racist graffiti earlier this week. The incident prompted the NBA star to make the following statement in the video below:

For those tired of hearing about race, I suggest you try living it. The weariness on LeBron’s face is not from NBA practices or the mental preparation and game-planning necessary to take on the vaunted Golden State Warriors for the third time in the NBA Finals.

He has the same look on his face I do every time I talk about race. It’s exhausting. The burden of trying to convince your country to view you as an equal makes a person tired. One may wonder why LeBron referenced Emmett Till when talking the vandalism at his home.

Emmett Till was brutally murdered. A spray-painted slur doesn’t compare to murder, right? Murder is obviously far worse than vandalism when you evaluate the individual acts, but in the context of racism, it’s all trauma. Worse yet, it’s a collective trauma.

I don’t know how LeBron came to know the story of Emmett Till, but it’s probably similar to the way I and most black men did. When I reached a certain age and started to notice girls, my mom told me about Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and brutally murdered after allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi.

From slavery to the Civil War to Black Codes to Jim Crow to the War on Drugs to mass incarceration to police brutality and every moment encapsulated within each era, black people in America share a collective trauma. We are reminded daily of who we are and where we are.

We cannot escape, transcend or rise above race. LeBron James is an NBA legend while he still plays. He does not engage in illegal activity. He’s married to his high school sweetheart. By all accounts, his kids are good kids. LeBron has made more money than he can ever spend and has fans and admirers the world over.

However, no matter how many championships he wins, points he scores or miracle comebacks he leads, he will always be black. And America will always remind him of it. That’s part of the traumatic effect of the vandalism at his home.

Racism runs the gamut of insensitive jokes to malicious action. You don’t have to be Bull Connor to be a racist. Amos ‘n’ Andy never physically hurt anyone, but their blackface portrayal of African-Americans as shiftless, lazy, bumbling buffoons used jest to reinforce the sentiments behind chains, whips and hangings.

The weariness on LeBron’s face also comes from time spent searching for the right words in the right order – the words that will finally make everyone understand. Those words are hard to come by when LeBron considers all who have tried before him.

Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and so many others have given their best to make America see the error of her ways and accept her most maligned brothers and sisters.

America’s racism is foundational and congenital. It is embedded within the founding document of this great republic. Before the framers established the office of President of the United States in the Constitution (Article II, Section 1), they established that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person (Article I, Section 2).

Some view racism as a virus, like the common cold. Over time, it will run its course and go away. This is why you hear people reference the year in a fit of outrage after a racist incident. They think racism should have run its course by 2017.

No, racism is in America’s DNA and must be rooted out, but not by black people alone. Bold leadership is required by those of different shades and equal humanity. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, LBJ advocated for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson.

Dr. King said it best. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”


You can’t bodyslam people!

You can’t bodyslam someone because they ask you about something you don’t like.

You can’t bodyslam your coach for asking you to practice a tough drill.

You can’t bodyslam your teacher for asking you to spellcheck your paper.

You can’t bodyslam your mom for asking you to clean your room.

You can’t bodyslam your dad for asking you to take out the trash.

You can’t bodyslam a reporter for asking you about the score…of anything.

The consequences of bodyslamming another human being include, but are not limited to:

  • Jail.
  • Grounding.
  • Suspension and/or expulsion from your school or team.
  • Being slammed yourself (or worse).

Mom used to tell me to keep my hands to myself and use my words. That’s sound advice these days.