February 21, 2019

ROLE MODELS: HOW / WHERE DO ATHLETES FIT?

 “I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basket ball does not mean I can raise your kids.” Charles Barkley

 As troubles mount for Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius and Lance Armstrong’s status continues it plummet, we can use these events as a reminder to be careful in our choice of role models.  

Look at the following names and think about the good, the bad, the ugly actions for these athletes and coaches. Now look at the listed transgressions. Then insert letters (may be more than for each person) by the names. Many may get more than one letter.

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Name Letters Name Letters
Lance Armstrong   Kobe Bryant  
Tony Dungee   Lenny Dykstra  
Carlton Fisk   Dwight Gooden  
Chamique Holdsclaw   Marian Jones  
Michael Jordan   Bobby Knight  
Ray Lewis   Peyton Manning  
Mark McGuire   Joe Paterno  
Walter Payton   Michael Phelps  
Pete Rose   O J Simpson  
Pat Summit   Mante Taeo  
Tiger Woods   Mike Tyson  
Danica Patrick   Billie Jean King  
Minnie Minoso   Oscar Pistorius  

 Behaviors
A – Cocaine/Pot Use                                      
H – Illegal Performance Drugs
B – DUI / Drive under Influence                      I – Lying
C – Illegal Financial Activity                            J – Murder
D – Ignoring Crimes                                        K – Unfaithful to Partner
E – Meanness                                                 L – Sport Gambling
F – Stupidity                                                    M – Violence
G – Rape
X. So far so good, worthy of admiration What makes you believe the person stands out?

It’s easy to look towards popular culture role models, like athletes, coaches, singers, artists, celebrities, as our heroes to fill our idealistic desires. We see them; we believe because we want to and maybe we even need to believe. They compete, often win, may give to charity, and speak for social justice. Some overcome serious illness. Many, even with misdeeds, remain charismatic; they often sound great in interviews. Good sports we think, good winners and by golly our person, our hero.  

Sir Charles had it right: he is not to be our role model. Even if he lived an exemplary life we cannot know, we never know these people — only their personas.   

Admire abilities. Look for your role models closer to home. Look within your family and circle of friends.  Jim Rohn, author and motivational speaker, says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Be careful who you are with and let go of disappointments.

We know the goodness of our family and friends. We know that their influence on us can be enhanced through understanding their imperfections and  their humanness.  Still, be picky on your choices.

If you read It is Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong, you can learn from it.  It would make a good book of fiction; alas Armstrong wrote it as truth.  

A good number of public figures are terrific and do good things.     Just remember you don’t really know them and probably never will.

Sir Charles was also wrong:  it seems fair for athletes and for each of us to strive to be role models for others — because that striving is also right. Some athletes and coaches are great    people; we just can’t be sure of which ones. I bet there are some in that list you really like eh?  

Well for me, Minnie Minoso, my first athletic favorite, is still (as far as I have heard) ok!

Bill

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Challenges

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day and Black History Month 2013

I now present the essence of what I wrote, when our church celebrated the Dr. King holiday in 2012, and I was privileged to speak to the congregation the Unitarian Universalist Church.  

For me, it was helpful to review my history with Dr. King; it was emotional to read my experience and his words as we honored his memory 

It is the1950s in Elkhart, Indiana; Minnie Minoso is my favorite athlete and the colored boys are often opponents in baseball, basketball and football. I had no knowledge of Martin Luther King.

Toward the end of the 50s, Dr. King joins the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, founds the Southern Christian Leadership Council and studies with Mohammad Gandhi. He leads the executive committee at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and his home is bombed. He receives his Ph.D in philosophy and is on the cover of Time Magazine.

In the 60’s, the Negro Elkhart Blue Blazers are my teammates, Gale Sayers my favorite athlete. Keith and Kerry are my friends and teammates; we never speak of race, civil rights, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Dr. King demonstrates and is often arrested. Laws change; lunch counters, schools and buses are desegregated. I sweat during football practice as King delivers “I Have Dream” before a crowd of 250,000. I have no memory of discussing the speech.

King is Time Magazine’s Man of the Year and wins the Nobel Peace Prize. There is a serious attempt on his life; Black Muslims stone him in Harlem, four girls are killed in a church bombing; and Malcolm X is assassinated. 

In 1966, I attend DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana — a nearly all white school. I am introduced to the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and other Black musicians. As riots and protests continue, Dr. King continues his work in Chicago, in the South and ultimately in Memphis. One march King leads in Tennessee turns violent — definitely not his intent.

In 1968 as I lay in intensive care at Robert Long Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, I watch television.  News bulletin: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr has been assassinated. Across the country, black people riot. In Indianapolis, Bobby Kennedy talks to a crowd of how we share humanness. No riots, just tears. I am moved. Indianapolis is safe.

1968 is a tough year. There is interest in Eldridge Cleaver, Stokely Carmichael and the movement of Black Power.

In 1969 I am back at DePauw and take a class on Black History in the United States (perhaps the first ever at DePauw). The teacher is a black man from Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School. We learn about contributions of black people, well beyond sports and music. I hear about Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes and many others but, as I remember, we do not study Dr. King.

At DePauw, I gain further awareness when I am privileged to attend a lunch with Mayor Richard Hatcher, the first black mayor of Gary, and another with Dr. Percy Julian, a black American Research Chemist. Dr. Julian had waited tables at DePauw in the 1930s and now the DePauw Science Building bears his name.

As a new social worker in the 1970s, I visit the King Memorial in Atlanta when it is just a plan with bulldozers moving dirt to make way for construction.

Taking a hiatus from Dr. King until 1986, I remember the contentious process as Congress declared his birthday a national holiday. There are FBI investigations and tawdry stories about him which added to my interest in Dr. King. For me, it is great our country will honor a black man — still I am unaware of the depth of his contributions.

After the National holiday was set, I began to more fully understand and feel the strength of the man and his speech.

In 1963 Dr. King delivers his speech “I Have a Dream.” He eloquently states: “This is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” He notes that white and black have a tied destiny.   (Read entire speech)

 “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. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from all corners of our country.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Eventually the words of Dr. King spoke to me deeply. It was as if I could now hear, inside of myself, words that I wanted and want to say and that I stand for. I could not and cannot understand how these words do not speak to everyone.

As I lay in my hospital bed on the last full day of Dr. King’s life, he speaks at church in Memphis; he tells of the privilege of being alive at this time as we grapple with history.
(Read entire speech)

We are interconnected. Similarly we are privileged to be alive on this day.  

King spoke of injustice and financial inequality. When he was involved in the Sanitation Departments dispute with the city of Memphis, he said, “Somewhere I read (Yes the crowd responds) that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right”.

He spoke of the collective financial power of poor people to protest. “If you do not help the sanitation worker what will happen then to you?”

That night in Memphis Dr. King talks of the nearness of death and  that the New York assassination attempt was so close to being fatal.  

He spoke as if knowing he was making the final statement of his life.  As he concluded, with generous Amens, go ahead and applause, Dr. King offered:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter to with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

These are the last formal words that Dr. King ever spoke.

My journey with him continues as I work to fully incorporate his teachings.  

Here are my basics: Work for economic and social freedom for everyone and maybe I too can be free. If we do not help others what are we here for? Language of nonviolence is dramatically different than silence. Learn to better appreciate and understand people both similar and different from yourself.

Challenge yourself to live your life fully, so you may be able to say on your last day: “I have been to the mountain top… of doing right with my life. Mine eyes have seen the glory of knowing that I have tried and struggled well.”

 

Bill

 

  

Jackie Robinson: The Right Side of History

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.” Martin Luther King

Jackie and Me
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Indianapolis
Playing through February 16

Playwright Steven Dietz adapted Jackie and Me from the book series Baseball Card Adventures by Dan Gutman. Dietz recants the Jackie Roosevelt Robinson conversation heard between his 7-year-old white daughter and 6-year-old black son, a recent adoptee from Ethiopia. 

His daughter, the family baseball historian, tells her brother about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier and adds “But if you were black you could not play.” The brother counters, “Why not? I play. I play ball.” He goes on in his newly learned language: “I have mitt; I have bat; they not stop me.”

I cannot help but hear my granddaughters, Zoe and Reese, in his voice. “I can do it. I play ball, they not stop me.”  Yes the nature of youth — not encumbered with prejudices, limitations, or beliefs. Thankfully they trust they can do or be anything. Unfortunately they learn limitations from the actions of others.

Dietz’s daughter ultimately gets frustrated with her new brother and says “Yes you could play the game. But you could not dream.” At this early age, she gets the nature of prejudice and understands the limitations of our dreaming.

How do we continue to learn from history? How do we avoid the preconceptions and prejudiced judgments of the past? How do we keep our dreams alive and create a country with equal ability to dream and to achieve? Jackie and Me centers on Joey, a white youngster of today. Joey is researching for a book report — wanting to win the top prize of theme park tickets.  He is transported back in time as a black youth to 1947, where he wants to learn about Jackie, the black baseball player.  Of course, the history lesson is expanded beyond his ideas of baseball.

Joey is thirsty and walks up to a “whites only” fountain. As he is chased away, imagine how he feels realizing he is black! Then he meets Rachel Robinson and sees Jackie again. Anger, disbelief, frustration and eventually courage — Joey learns to deal with a mix of emotions as Jackie and Rachel Robinson show the way with pride, patience and perseverance.  

Dodger teammate Dixie Walker did not want to share the field or the club house with a black man. At the same time teammate Pee Wee Reese, a Kentuckian, responds differently standing with Jackie in the face of racism. Eventually, Walker quietly offers that he was “just brought up that way and had little choice in his beliefs.”

How often do we say or think: “that’s just the way it is / just the way I learned / just the way he/she acts?” We may even add: “I can’t do anything about it / I can’t change it / I just want to mind my own business.”

COURAGE — General Manager Branch Rickey and player Pee Wee Reese display bravery to stand up for the right side of history. Rickey signs Robinson. When Pee Wee Reese accepts Robinson to the team, it helps other teammates adjust. Baseball adapts, the world doesn’t end, and black players become part of major league baseball.   

Dr. King said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  Work continues towards his Dream.

So in 1947, while racism did not stop, they all play the game together with a “new norm” for baseball; the country takes a giant step toward the right side of history.

May each of us, individuals, parents and grandparents, practice genuine tolerance, teach acceptance and demonstrate decency that reflects the encouragement of children’s dreams for accomplishment regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

Bill

(Some information from IRT playbill)



We Are Penn State

“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.” French ProverbIntegrity from Dictionary
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” Thomas Paine

Did these Penn State events that unfolded last week make you aware of your humanness? Do you now think more of integrity? Much as we said “We are all New Yorkers” at the time of 9-11, it seems true that “We (too) are Penn State!”  We all have a heightened awareness of integrity and of the necessity that our children must be protected. We know winning is that important!

Some of the winners we make into icons. Paterno, Rose, Tiger, Ali, Armstrong, Sweetness, Marion, Magic, OJ, Kobe, Knight, ARod — the list goes on to be much longer. These and others have been on pedestals only to fall, as pieces of their lives have been revealed to us.
In our minds, we have this idealistic picture,  an image of what we want them to be. We lift them up and believe they are more than athletes or coaches.
NBA star Charles Barkley once pointed out that it is up to parents and family to be primary role models, not sports figures. Don’t we agree with that simple statement? It is a guarantee that some of the current icons will also fall and remind us their integrity is not as we imagined. It seems to happen frequently.  We make it about home runs and yards gained, often forgetting sportsmanship and honesty. It is fair for athletes to be role models but important to remember that family and friends need to be primary in that status.
It’s important to remember we never know who those icons are — not really. We are Penn State.
We are up if our team wins; down if it loses. We project grand meaning on victory and and may be depressed with defeat. We buy team gear often with a player’s name on the back; we attend, watch and listen to all that talk; money flows to the teams and the media.  Big time college coaches are paid princely fees, more than Nobel Prize winning professors and more than their so called boss, the president of the university.
At times, it seems people believe if their team wins, they are somehow a better person and, yes, better than someone who supports a losing team. People have been injured inside and outside of stadiums because they wore the wrong hat. Professional athletes often make huge amounts of money; even as we now know, they are not necessarily good role models (see Kobe and A Rod). Though athletes may do significant good, as Armstrong has, we can’t be sure of their broader behavior or of their integrity. They are just humans.
Competition is part of our culture. Of course we want to win. We must however be careful of this desire to win doesn’t include uses the tools of cheating, of looking other way, of protecting bad behavior, of protecting the institution — all in the name of winning. Penn State is not the first, nor will it be the last, to disappoint in the name of victory. We are Penn State.
We want the winners and the icons. JoPa was an icon to many. Yet how can some of those same followers explain that six years ago they wanted to fire him. They were losing and the football team seemed to regress. Fickle aren’t we? We are Penn State.
Iconic coaches routinely walk out of lengthy contracts, breaking their word to the college, to the players, accepting a better deal elsewhere. Then this same iconic word breaker is, in fact, welcomed with open arms to the new school and demonized at the old.
The next school and fans rationalize the coach’s integrity. Promises are made again and sometimes the same coach repeats the behavior, for the next better deal.  What does this tell our students, our society about the place of trust and honesty? Winning at any (moral) cost is too often the norm. We are Penn State.
Hours of talk radio, listening to analysis of the sport of the moment. Do we put too much on to winning?
How bad is it? The lead story on Monday morning is typically a poll asking us: “who is the best team?”  People vote; people call in with blather; media jockeys talk endlessly about whether the poll was right or wrong; they give opinions incessantly. Gosh it’s a vote, not a game! We are Penn State.
I say support victory with sportsmanship and integrity. Penn State is now more attuned to this goal. In this way I hope — We are Penn State.
Crisis breeds opportunity. Penn State will likely grow and improve through this event. Is that not the case in life too? We rarely welcome the crisis; yes the growth is always optional. Pick the growth!
Hold Penn State accountable, forgive and allow and let them grow. Help them protect their children as we protect ours.
Root for your team and understand that  sportsmanship and integrity, can and need, to participate fully as teammates.  We are Penn State.
Bill


What is your responsibility if you witness or suspect child abuse?
Indiana’s law (http://www.pcain.org/indiana_laws.asp) says you must report. Some schools, businesses and agencies have rules that say you must talk to your supervisor. That’s ok, but reporting incidents directly to authorities is still your responsibility. A supervisor is twice removed. The supervisor did not see or hear the event but rather hears it. from you. Also a financial part is now included as too often the supervisor wonders if reporting would somehow hurt business (what if the abuser is a best customer).
If you suspect child abuse or neglect report it immediately to: Child protective Services or law enforcement. If something is happening now…call  911. Protect our children.