The bad stuff is easy. You read about it almost every day; hear it discussed endlessly by the talking heads on radio and television.
But if sports is a microcosm of society — and it is — then there’s a lot of good going on, too. And, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, here are some things to be thankful for this year that have nothing to do with wins and losses, the World Series or the Super Bowl:
A COACH’S FIGHT: Circumstances. That’s what Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano called his health problems when he came into the locker room after a win against Miami a few weeks ago and addressed his team for the first time since unexpectedly being hospitalized just as his first season as head coach was beginning. The circumstances are that Pagano has leukemia, an insidious disease that’s difficult to beat no matter how hard you fight. In a moving speech that you have to watch to fully appreciate, Pagano vowed to dance at the weddings of both his daughters and to hoist more than one Super Bowl trophy before he’s done fighting.
“It’s already beat. It’s already beat,” Pagano told his team.
DRUG BUSTERS: It would have been easy for Travis Tygart and his investigators at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to simply give up on nailing Lance Armstrong. Federal prosecutors already had, and if they couldn’t build a case against Armstrong, hard to imagine the doping agency doing any better. But Tygart pressed on, eventually building a case that tore apart the facade Armstrong had created, detailing a widespread and systematic doping scheme on a level not seen before in organized sports. Yes, he took down an American sports hero and damaged his charitable work, but Tygart also sent a message that a level playing field is important. Sports will be a cleaner and better place because of it.
BROOKLYN REBORN: No, the Dodgers aren’t returning. Suddenly, though, Brooklyn is a sports town again, thanks to a new, $1 billion arena and a Russian billionaire who parked his basketball team there. The New York Islanders will also be moving there in 2015, assuming, of course, that the NHL lockout is resolved by then.
BRITISH INVASION: Bradley Wiggins became the first Briton to win the Tour de France, while Andy Murray became the first British man to claim a tennis major in 76 years when he won the U.S. Open. Perennial also-rans, the British had a spectacular sporting summer the country will never forget, including a London Olympics that surpassed expectations at every turn.
VIN SCULLY: He would be a national treasure, but the people of Los Angeles like to claim him as their own. For more than 60 years, Scully has broadcast the Dodgers, and his gift to the new Dodger owners was the announcement that he will come back for at least one more year at the age of 85, calling games as he always does, solo in the announcer’s booth. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those kids in L.A. who went to sleep at night with a transistor radio underneath my pillow, growing up listening to Vinny.
RORY TIME: For years, golf fans waited for a rival to the great Tiger Woods, only to be disappointed by every David Duval who came along. Rory McIlroy is the anti-Tiger, an accessible and grounded superstar from the town of Holywood in Northern Ireland who hits the ball incredible distances, all with an inner joy that Woods will never have. McIlroy has his own reason to be thankful, with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki as his constant companion.
CONCUSSIONS: Good things are happening in the fight against the once silent epidemic of concussions on sports. Brains are being analyzed, millions of dollars are being poured into research, and there’s an awareness about the danger of hits to the head that could save lives everywhere from your child’s soccer field to the stadiums of the NFL. Unfortunately, it’s too late for thousands of former players who are paying for the blows to their head every day of their lives — something the NFL refuses to own up to.
DEATH OF THE BCS: Our long national nightmare is almost over. The Bowl Championship Series is, for all intents and purposes, dead, killed off by a fan revolt at the age of 16. It will be replaced in 2014 by a four-team playoff that, while not perfect, will help legitimize the national championship game. Meanwhile, a possible Notre Dame against Alabama title game this season could be one of the biggest ever.
OPPORTUNITIES: Forty years ago this summer, Congress passed and President Nixon signed into law a bill that changed sports forever. Title IX opened up opportunities for women to play sports that were once unimaginable, and it’s a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. When Title IX was enacted, fewer than 30,000 female students participated in sports in colleges and universities, a number that has now increased nearly six-fold. Some 3 million girls participate in high school athletics today, 10 times the number who played sports in 1972. Women may never make big breakthroughs in professional sports, but the resources now devoted to female sports means your daughters and granddaughters can dream of doing things in sports they could never do before.
SPORTS EXTRA: You pay for it more than you realize, every time the cable or satellite bill is due. The Yankees cost you money, and so do the Knicks. There are so many new sports networks popping up that each want their share of the pie that the bill will keep going up until customers finally revolt. What you once got for free now costs a lot, but what a bargain it really is. The variety of sports on television is astonishing, even more so to the generations that grew up before ESPN, when watching sports meant a few football games and Saturday’s baseball game of the week — and having to get up to turn the channel to watch it.
We’re living in a world where the options for sports fans are greater than ever. We can watch basketball on the decks of aircraft carriers, hockey on the infield of old baseball parks, and the NFL from soccer stadiums in London. Instead of being parked in front of a TV we can feed our seemingly insatiable sports fix on laptops, tablets and even smartphones. If that’s not enough, it’s easier than ever to have a little something riding on the game, whether in the form of a wager or a fantasy team payout.
Still there’s nothing like a Saturday morning spent watching the kids play soccer or, at my house, a Thanksgiving Day street football game with relatives of all ages. Even in an era of amazing technology, there’s room at the local playground for a pickup game of hoops, and grass at the park to toss a baseball around.
So enjoy the turkey and the NFL on TV as well. Save room for the pumpkin pie, and yet another game to feast your eyes on.
There’s a lot to be thankful for.
—Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.
Picture yourself sitting with your feet in the water, your hair blowing in the breeze, with a crumpled McDonald’s bag at your feet and a crushed beer can at your side. You would be at the Rivanna River, a river that runs through Charlottesville, Virginia, and then into the James River, which then empties into the Chesapeake Bay. There has been a lot of talk about what people could do to help the Rivanna, but there hasn’t been enough talk about what people will do.
One organization has talked about what they would do and is currently doing it: The Rivanna Conservation Society (RCS) has done numerous things to help clean the river: river paddles, riverbank and in-stream cleaning, public education forums, citizen involvement programs, teacher and student education and training events, river buffer repair and plantings, and watershed restoration. A few months ago, I went to a riparian buffer tree planting that was right near Charlottesville Airport. We planted about 2,500 trees in a couple of hours. Oakland School participated; three kids from my school (North Branch) showed up voluntarily; one of our science teachers and her husband showed up; and a lot more people came and worked. It was good to see so many people out there working and being aware of this problem, yet many more people could be working. People are destroying the river with cans they don’t bother throwing away and trash that is thrown down right near the Rivanna River. This pollution will kill thousands of animals, and if people swim in the river, they could get a nasty disease. If we don’t realize what we are doing soon, the Rivanna will be ruined with garbage, and it will be so much harder to clean up later.
I’ve been around a river all my life. When I think about how beauty is destroyed, especially if it is natural beauty, I feel devastated. So I am really glad to hear that an organization is taking action. This organization is the Rivanna Conservation Society. I’m glad that they took action because a lot of people were talking about what they could do, instead of doing anything. They gave me something to do, and because of them, I was able to make a positive impact on the river.
Writers Name: Jack Luecke
Age Group: 13-16
Writers Name of School: North Branch School
Writers City & State: Afton, VA
Instructors Name: Katrien Vance
Instructors Title: Middle School Teacher
Interviewee Name: Rivanna Conservation Society
Interviewee Organization: Rivanna Conservation Society
Interviewee City: Charlottesville, VA
Interviewee State: VA
The Head of the Hillsborough Regatta is a set of rowing races around Harbour Island patterned after the Head of the Charles Regatta, a popular annual event in Boston Massachusetts. The Head of the Hillsborough is in its infancy, but could grow to be an important Tampa event attracting people from all over to Tampa’s waterfront. The races may be watched free of charge from Davis Islands, Downtown or Harbour Island. The Stewards’ Club is a special viewing area at Hillsborough Community College’s Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center, 39 Columbus Avenue on Davis Islands. Join Ken Walters and friends there this Saturday, October 11, 2014, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for cocktails, brunch, music and racing. There will be a hat contest at 1 p.m. See the invitation below and go to www.headofthehillsborough.com for tickets and more information. Portions of the proceeds to benefit the Stewards Foundation, which uses the sport of rowing to teach teamwork and responsibility to young people.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
10am – 4pm 39 Columbia Drive Davis Islands, Tampa, Florida
$85 per reserved seat($600 per reserved table for 8)
Children under 12 are FREE for a non-reserved seat
Lavish brunch from noon – 2:30 PM
Full open bar from 11AM – 4PM
1 PM hat contest
3 PM awards presentation
A portion of the proceeds to benefit: The stewards foundation
Reserved table availability will end & individual admission will increase to $100 on October 8
For more information 813-251-0500
or go visit our site www.headofthehillsborough.com
By: JP Peterson with Jenna Sampson
Photos Courtesy of Jill & Jim Kelly
On the day before the 2010 Super Bowl at The Delano Hotel on South Beach, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly was surrounded by celebrities of all types— including Queen Latifah, Chris Daughtry and Keyshawn Johnson. Hotel guests were being served champagne and Lobster Bisque, enjoying the sweet Florida breeze as it wafted through the lobby, caught up in the excitement that only a Super Bowl week can bring.
Kelly, an All-Pro quarterback for the Buffalo Bills from 1986-1996, led the team to four consecutive Super Bowls. It was here, on the eve of the biggest game he was never able to win, that he shared the greatest loss of his life. This great man, who has earned a place as one of the top quarterbacks of all time, recounted the devastating loss of his only son, Hunter.
Hunter was born with a rare genetic disorder known as Krabbe Disease, which affects the central and peripheral nervous systems. “The first couple months, he was in a lot of pain and was suffering,” says Kelly. “He was misdiagnosed twice. If they would have [done the Krabbe test] when Hunter was born, there is so much we could have done, but by the time we found out, it was too late.”
After the loss of their son, the Kelly family established a foundation, Hunter’s Hope, and have fought hard for legislation that will allow for every newborn to be tested for 54 diseases including cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and HIV, plus any diseases the American College of Medical Genetics deems necessary in the future. If doctors know immediately what they’re dealing with, they can often save the child’s life or significantly reduce the suffering. That’s what should have happened with Hunter Kelly. Every state tests differently so the Kellys have been traveling state to state to plead with politicians to help their cause.
“When Hunter died, I was devastated,” Kelly says. “I didn’t want to talk with anyone, and my wife Jill said, ‘Jim, if ever there was a time to use your name, this is it. Let’s not hide behind this. Let’s help other kids.”
The efforts of Hunter’s Hope Foundation are working and the federal law mandating universal screening has been passed. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been funded so nothing has been implemented on a national scale.
“I’m not real good at asking for money, but it takes money,” Kelly admits. “We are just a small grassroots organization. We send so much money to other countries, but we have so many major issues right here in this country we need to take care of. This is one where we can make a difference.”
In October 2010, Jill Kelly’s book, Without a Word…How a Boy’s Unspoken Love Changed Everything, was released. It quickly earned a spot on the New York Times Best Seller List, with a portion of the proceeds going to Hunter’s Hope.
“There are so many people out there that need to be encouraged,” says Jill. “I just hoped that this story would be a beacon of hope for these people—that God is real and that you can triumph in the midst of tragedy and that real joy can still be found in the midst of suffering.”
Together, Jim and Jill Kelly and Hunter’s Hope are saving lives and truly making a positive impact. And because of a boy named Hunter, thousands of children across the country are having a second chance at life. For information about how you can help, visit www.huntershope.org
NFL: During Jim Kelly’s golden years with the Buffalo Bills, he became notorious for frustrating opposing teams by perfecting the no-huddle offense. Known as a blue collar quarterback with a strong work ethic, he led the Bills to six AFC East Championships and four consecutive Super Bowls. Kelly was also known for his ability to make late drives, producing game-winning touchdowns (13 times) with less than two minutes on the clock. Kelly holds the all-time NFL record for most yards gained per completion (44) in a single game (September 10, 1995 vs. Carolina Panthers). At the time of his Hall of Fame induction in 2002, he was only the 8th quarterback in history to be selected on the first ballot. His touching Hall of Fame speech was dedicated to his son Hunter.
USFL: Kelly was drafted by the Bills in 1983, but chose to take a chance on a new league and sign with the USFL’s Houston Gamblers. When the league folded, Kelly signed with the Bills for the 1986 season.
College: As a quarterback for the University of Miami, Kelly was selected as a 1982 Heisman Trophy finalist along with fellow play callers Dan Marino and John Elway.
Positive Impact Magazine Creators Jen Hellmann & Charity Beck with Jim Kelly in Miami for the Superbowl 2010
For information about how you can help, visit http://www.huntershope.org