Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mitchell Marcus Scores!

If you know me, you know I love basketball! It has been, is and always will be my favorite sport! I was playing with a mini basketball about the time I started walking. In my last post I showed a picture of my father teaching me how to use a basketball scorebook when I was five or six. In that picture, I was holding my mini basketball.

That is why this story is so important to me. I love basketball stories on any level. This one has a very special meaning because two boys did something very special at the end of a basketball game in El Paso, Texas.

Friday night I was watching the news on CBS. Steve Hartman has a job I envy. Every Friday night he goes on the road and does a segment to end the Friday night news. Last Friday night he did a piece on the last basketball game of the season for Coronado High School in El Paso and young Mitchell Marcus.

Watch this video, see what Jonathon Montanez, a senior on the opposing team, does in a very classy example of sportsmanship for the subject of this post Mitchell Marcus. It is truly what high school sports are all about!

Watch this video and see if you are not touched like I was:

If the video does not show up, click here.

In looking through one of the pages of comments, I found this. I think it is especially gratifying to know other people besides myself think this was an incredible act of sportsmanship and everybody wins in this game:

What an awesome story! I tear up every time I watch it. Y'all restore a little of my faith in humanity. Yes, the kids on both teams are winners! I don't know if the opposing team was aware of Coach Morales' plan. Regardless, it was nice of them to go along. Congrats to both teams for your sportsmanship and kindness!

Do you think the world would be a better place if everyone played and/or watched sports on any level showed the kind of sportsmanship that was exhibited by these teenagers?

I know this video has already gone viral, and I think it is wonderful to see the true value of what sportsmanship is all about.

As always, I welcome your comments.



Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Dad

I have been thinking a lot about my dad lately. I am not sure exactly why, except there have been two instances in the last couple weeks when I have run into former athletes that played and/or ran for my dad. They were both at Gopher basketball games.

One encounter was outside and very cold so it did not last very long. A man that ran for my dad approximately forty years ago went out of his way to say hi and tell me to tell my dad hello for him. He did not know dad passed away in 2006. Although it was cold, he stopped and wanted to know some details about dad's passing.

He wanted to tell me how much of an impact my dad had on him when he coached him in track and cross-country at Worthington State Junior College in the early 1970's. We were all in a hurry to get out of the cold, but he wanted to stop and tell me a couple stories about my dad and how he had affected his life at an early age. That kind of thing happens to me all the time.

My dad had a tremendous impact on young people he coached, taught and counseled throughout his career. He had a tremendous relationship with his student athletes, that sometimes did not to his own  children. That was the conundrum in his relationships, both personal and professional.

Here is a picture of dad at age thirty-five just after he had been named to coach in Worthington in 1968:

Click on the image to make it larger:

It is hard for me to believe I am now twenty-two years older now than he was then!

The second encounter happened inside Williams Arena, when a woman put her arm out in front of me to stop me. I looked up at her and knew I should know who she was, but could not come up with her name on the spot.

She identified herself, as Brenda Stoel. it was not ten seconds later when her husband came up and embraced me with a huge hug and a little ketchup. Leroy, better known as Punky, played basketball, baseball and football for my dad in Edgerton in the early to mid-1960's.

We shared some fun stories and Punky told me how much of an impact my dad had on him in the short time he was his coach. He said hardly a day goes by he doesn't think about something my dad taught him.

Their son, Mike, also had a spinal cord injury, and is doing very well. His injury is lower than mine and he is actually able to do some walking. They told of how my visiting them when Mike was in Sr. Kenny Institute had such a positive effect on their entire family. So much so, when Brenda was a United States Postmaster in tiny Leota, Minnesota, she volunteered to introduce me to her peer group. Brenda is terrified of public speaking and yet she wanted to be the one to introduce me to the group. It is the only time Brenda has given a public speech!

Whenever I speak, I provide a written introduction. It is a humorous piece meant to get my audience ready for my presentation. Brenda strayed from the script and gave her own introduction I can only say was very touching! She had the group of postmasters in tears. Now I had viewed up there and make them laugh! It was not easy for me to do that; but it was especially difficult for Brenda. She told me that night in Williams Arena how petrified she was that she gave that speech, but she really wanted to give it!

There have been countless times when I have run into someone and something happens that relates to either my accident, my dad and all the people he touched with his coaching and mentoring or one of my siblings or my mom. They all have their own stories about how dad affected our lives. I miss him tremendously!

Here is a picture of him teaching me how to keep score with a basketball scorebook when I was only five or six years old:

Click on the image to make it larger:

He was teaching me at an early age. That picture was taken in McLaughlin, South Dakota when I was the team mascot. Their mascot was the Mighty Midgets! Doesn't that image just strike fear into your heart?

I have a picture of me with the team when I was five in my book, I Still Believe I Tomorrow.

In fact, let me include it right here:

Again, click on it to make the image larger:

I was a CK, commonly referred to as a coaches kid. I got to hang around with my dad all the time, and thoroughly enjoyed my childhood getting to be involved with the big boys in every community we lived in.

My dad played a big part in my development. I miss him every day, as I am certain some of you can relate.

Please feel free to comment.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Tell Me It Ain't So, Oscar!

Last summer, Oscar Pistorius had the world cheering for him to qualify and compete with able-bodied runners from around the world. If you remember the Olympics, and two weeks later the Paralympics, you remember the name Oscar Pistorius.

He was on top of the world with people adoring and pulling for him to do well since he was the first double-amputee to run track in the Olympics. There have been other athletes with various kinds of disabilities compete in the Olympics before, but never a sprinter on two artificial legs! His story is one of great inspiration and determination of what someone with a disability can do! He became a role model for many people with and without disabilities!

It seemed everyone wanted Oscar to do well. It turned out he was not fast enough to compete with the best in the world in the sprints; however, he stayed in London and competed in the Paralympics when he set new world records.

He became known as the Blade Runner. He qualified for the Semifinals in the 400 meter dash, and his team qualified for the finals in 4 x 400 meter relay. His performances catapulted him to one of the best-known Olympic athletes around the world.

According to numerous reports Oscar had a dark side and had been in trouble before. I choose not to take much credence in sensationalizing those types of articles. One never knows what goes through the mind of other people and how they handle their successes and failures.

As we all know from past experiences, stories like these can change from one day to the next. I imagine as more information comes out this one will change too!

What we do know is a beautiful young woman, Reeva Steenkamp, lies in a Pretoria morgue, and Oscar is waiting in a jail cell in Pretoria, South Africa waiting for his bail hearing on Tuesday.

What a tragedy for two young, talented, successful peoples lives to end in such a horrible manner. It it is just another example of how an instant in time can change everything.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Help Me Celebrate Ed Roberts

If you know me, or have read my book, you know I went to the University of California at Berkeley in 1974 through June 1975. It was not a long time, but my time in Berkeley changed my life. The week between Christmas and New Year's 1973, my dad flew with me to Oakland where we were met by the Physically Disabled Student Program's van (PDSP). the van already had two riders. They were Hale Zukas and Ed Roberts.

They were both actively involved in the Independent Living Movement on and around the  campus. I just read an article about Hale who is still active in the movement today.

However, we lost Ed in 1995. Ed Roberts was literally the first person I met when I moved to Berkeley. Little did I know what a huge impact he would have on mentoring me and becoming an international advocate for civil rights for people with disabilities. There is a nice piece on Ed's contribution to the movement on the California.gov's website. You may read it by clicking here. There is even a fully accessible building located in Berkeley called the Ed Roberts Campus which is home to several disability-oriented, non-profit organizations. You may learn more about it at their website by clicking here.

Ed and I became fast friends and spent a lot of time together watching sporting events including several baseball games, football games and the 1975 USA–USSR track meet. I talk about Ed and his influence on me in my book I Still Believe In Tomorrow and how much our friendship meant to me.

The reason the California Department of Rehabilitation is celebrating is it is its 50th Anniversary and they are making a list of their fifty most notable people in their history. Guess who the number one person on that list is?

When Ed first applied to go to school at Cal, he was denied entrance because he he did not get a high school diploma. He did not receive a diploma because he failed to take and pass two classes, physical education and driver's training. Through his persistence of never backing down or allowing the system to say no, he eventually earned an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley. He became the first student with a severe disability to ever be admitted and graduate from the University California at Berkeley! He certainly was an amazing, inspirational person!

Once Ed got in, that opened the doors to more students. At the time, I did not realize when I went out there the residence program I lived in the first year was only a few years old. Had I known that, now I wonder if I would have even gone. I tell people the second best thing I ever did was going to Berkeley. The inevitable question comes back then, "What was the first?" 

My response is always, "Coming back to Minnesota." 

Berkeley was a great place to go to school with an ever-expanding accessible campus, but I got homesick and came back to Minnesota where I eventually earned my bachelors degree in School and Community Health Education. 

I want to close this post after telling you one more Ed Roberts story. Besides helping to coordinate PDSP, form the first Center for Independent Living, of which there are about six hundred of them now around the country, he was also instrumental in forming the World Institute on Disability (WID). Its work is now reaching worldwide communities. Shortly after I left Berkeley, Governor Jerry Brown named Ed to head California's Department of Rehabilitation. I have always found great irony in the fact the department that once refused to help pay for his college education was later being run by him.

Here is a picture of Governor Brown making the appointment:

Click on the image to make it larger:

As always, I look forward to your comments.