This inspiring story about the love of two brothers had NBA superstar LeBron James on the verge of tears, as you’ll see in the video. Very emotional and so good in so many ways.
Conner and Cayden make up Team Long Brothers and were recently named Sports Illustrated’s 2012 SportsKids of the Year. Cayden, 5, is diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy and can’t speak or walk on his own. But, in the summer of 2011, Conner, who was seven at the time, decided to compete in the Nashville Kids Triathlon, pulling his younger brother behind him.
They finished together, in last place, but in the process became role models of what is possible and the power of love. When I think about this family, I think of Andrew Solomon’s phrase of “horizontal identities” and what we would miss as people and a community if we didn’t encounter these special people in our daily lives. It’s Conner who says it best:
“The one thing that makes me really made is when people walk down the road and say… the ‘r’ word, if you now what that is. I just tell them that like it doesn’t matter what it looks like on the outside, it matters what’s on the inside. He still has regular feelings like we do. And he understands what you say about him.
If people could race with people that can’t walk or talk or can have any kind of autism, it might open eyes of people that don’t really care about it. And, maybe, the people that don’t care in the past will care in the future and actually do it with somebody.”
That’s way too much earnestness for the ironic. It’s way too much idealism for the cynical. And it’s way too much selflessness for the self-absorbed. In short, people aren’t upset at Tebow’s God talk. They’re upset that he might actually believe it.
—Daniel Foster ends with this provocative thought in the National Review Online regarding Tim Tebow’s response to Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch mocking his style of prayer after sacking the Denver Broncos quarterback: “He was probably just having fun and was excited he made a good play and had a sack. And good for him.”
The commentary is well worth reading. What do you think?
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
If I’m facing Andy Pettitte on the Yankees and I’m praying for a home run, and he’s praying for a strikeout, I don’t think the result is going to show who has greater faith…
—Mike Sweeney, designated hitter for the Seattle Mariners
Hey sports fans, CNN recently compiled a dozen photos showing athletes “in prayer” and asking, “When did God become a sports fan?” The article focuses primarily on this as a Christian question, but the image of former Muslim NBA star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (born Chris Jackson) made me more curious about how athletes of other faiths invoke God in their sport. This 2007 profile of Abdul-Rauf, “The Conversion of Chris Jackson,” gives more depth to the question.
Colleen Scheck, senior producer
Backing the Springboks
Colleen Scheck, senior producer
This week, ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series continued with “The 16th Man.” This doc chronicles the role of rugby in helping unify blacks and whites in post-apartheid South Africa. It’s centered around Nelson Mandela’s risky “magnanimous gesture” to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup and back the majority white South African Springboks, culminating with their improbable victory and its unifying symbolism for a nation starting a healing process.
It features interviews with players, including Afrikaner captain François Pienaar, alongside an interview with political activist Justice Bekebeke, who doubted Mandela’s actions, and a few brief comments from Desmond Tutu that echo his belief in a “God of surprises.”
The film’s director quotes Mandela’s post-victory words: “Sport has the ability to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has … It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.” Often sports documentaries seem to exaggerate this sentiment; in this case, the documenting feels very authentic, even without knowing how long the impact lasted for the people of South Africa.
My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.
—NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, in his letter to Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Goodell handed “Big Ben” a six-game suspension in his most recent action against a player violating the National Football League’s personal conduct policy. Goodell called it “early-intervention.”
Is he raising the ethical bar for professional athletes?
Swimming at the Top of the World
Trent Gilliss, online editor
A thoroughly inspiring lecture from a man who has been called the human polar bear. Lewis Gordon Pugh has swum in unimaginable places, including long-distance swims in all five oceans, in order to call attention to climate change.
Here, he talks about his most recent feat: swimming one kilometer (nearly 20 minutes) in minus 1.8 degrees Celsius water at the North Pole in order to raise awareness of the melting polar ice cap and rising water levels. For every one hour he spent training in cold water, he spent four hours in “mind training” — visualizing himself at every phase of the swim and willing his brain to raise his core body temperature.
If you only have a few minutes and can’t watch all 19, I recommend dropping in at the 10:25 mark to watch a short film about his journey. It’s quite moving.
One of your colleagues had me in the papers with horns and a tail, red horns and a tail. That’s a sign of the devil. I’m a Christian man. I don’t like those things. I take those things very serious. Those are the kind of things that the fans actually get used to seeing, and actually sometimes influence those people to believe that you are a bad person, that you are like an ogre.
—Pedro Martinez, speaking to reporters at Yankee Stadium the day before his debut as the starting pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 2 of the World Series.
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Skeptical, But Hopeful, on Vick’s Return
by Colleen Scheck, producer
From my peripheral vantage point, it’s been an interesting summer to consider the character(s) of sport. Roger Federer finally won the elusive French Open, prompting reviews that “nice guys can come first.” Now that the Tour de France is over, media attention has turned to the “drivel” between Lance Armstrong and this year’s champion Alberto Contador. I’m still pondering how Tom Watson must feel after coming so close to winning the British Open, just missing setting a record for the oldest player to win a major championship. Hailed as one of the classiest players in the game, Watson drew praise and respect while the tournament temper of the most beloved player, Tiger Woods, was not overlooked in the media this time. (I’ll skip the continuing saga of steroids and baseball - see Mitch’s post.)
And now comes the annual return of the NFL. As training camps open, I find myself monitoring the future of Michael Vick now that the NFL has reinstated him post-dogfighting conviction, and reflecting on how forgiveness and second chances take the field in the elevated world of professional athletes. I’m a dog lover, you may recall, and so this one tugs at me closely. I’ve heard several reports that Vick is “a changed man” and sincerely sorry for his participation in dog-fighting rings. He’s returning to the NFL under the mentorship of former NFL coach Tony Dungy, a magnanimous sportsman, who said of Vick:
“I think Michael deserves the chance to show people he has changed and learned from past mistakes, but my true hope is that he will make sound decisions about his future and, at the same time, let people know more about the person that I’ve come to know recently. I know the public will be skeptical, but I think, over time, people will find there’s a different side to him than what they’ve seen so far.”
Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, added:
“We support the principle that one should not only be allowed, but also encouraged to return to their chosen profession after fulfilling their debt to society. Michael Vick’s offenses were tragic and wrong and he has paid a debt through both prison and public ridicule. Now [Vick] can demonstrate that he can and will serve as a role model for young men in communities across the nation.”
I think that’s the best possible outcome for this situation. Eventually a team will select him, so, a la Michael McCollough, I’m inclined to calm my revenge instinct (he should not be allowed to play or make big bucks in the NFL) and embolden my forgiveness intuition (give him a chance to prove himself and return to his profession). I’m skeptical, but I will hope Vick sets a new example and writes a redeeming chapter for modern professional sports.
The Ploys of Summer
Mitch Hanley, senior producer
This week reports came out about baseball’s ongoing steroid scandal, citing lawyer’s statements that both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz tested positive for steroid abuse in 2003. In 2004, these two led the Boston Red Sox to a World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, crowning Ramirez the World Series Most Valuable Player and Ortiz the American League Championship Series MVP.
This is the second time this year that Ramirez has been tied to steroid use — the previous occasion back in May resulted in a 50-game suspension. Earlier this year, famed sluggers Alex Rodriguez (572 career home runs) and Barry Bonds (all-time home run leader at 762, Hank Aaron 2nd at 755) were outed by the same 2003 report as having used steroids.
Although I do applaud the league’s enforcement of their rules and the suspension of Ramirez for the current year’s infraction, where is the outrage on behalf of the fans? The affects of these damning reports seem to suggest that the fans don’t have a problem with players using steroids. Fans may not like it, but, by and large, they do not go so far as to boycott games. In fact, a report issued in May had indicated just a 4.4 percent drop in attendance from last year for games played in April. But the decline is attributed to the economic downturn.
And after a nearly year-long financial crisis that outed the financial industry’s cheaters and the regular outing of politicians who either cheated on their wives or cheated on their taxes, is there no outrage left in us? Have we established ours as a culture where it is OK to cheat as long as you don’t get caught, and, if you do get caught, just wait for it to blow over? What about those who are out on the diamond playing their hearts out, who are not using steroids. Don’t they deserve our outrage? And when it comes to something as trivial as baseball or as important as an election, what is the best way to communicate our outrage?
So what does this mean for our society? Is this the American way? Do we expect our leaders to cheat in order to be leaders? What do you think?
(photo: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez at the 2008 MLB All-Star Game. Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)