There are three stories out of the barrage of holiday "news" the media assulted us with this past week that I think deserve our attention. All three are sports related with ties to life in our times.
The first illuminates the horror of the war in Iraq. The Iraqi Olympic cycling coach was kidnapped from his home and killed. I read about this in a small blurb in my local paper, you can read the AP dispatch on ESPN.com. There you will find a list of other victims from the Iraqi sports community. "We lost another one," says Hussain al-Amidi, "He is not a politician and has no link with any party. It looks like no one is excluded from the violence."
I heard the next story on NPR last Wednesday, December 20. It was then that I first learned of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame, located on the campus of Boise State University in Idaho, inducts "individuals who are world-class in athletic ability, role models in their community, and have a strong record of humanitarian efforts." We need more stories about athletes "who represent all that is good in sport." I've written before about how players can suffer detrimental effects of their sport to both body and soul (see "The Hard Reality of Sports" and "It's not just steroids. . ."). But how can we teach kids the positive attributes of sports when players like San Diego Chargers' Shawne Merriman get caught using steroids and still get rewarded with a trip to the Pro Bowl?
Then there is the full spectrum of fan behavior. You might remember the 2002 disputes over ownership of two Barry Bonds' record-setting home run balls--one his 73rd homer of the year, the other the 600th of his career. Both cases were all about greed. But on Monday--Christmas Day--my friend Peter sent me a link to an LA Times story that renewed my faith in sports' fans.
Jim Governale found a recording of Vince Scully's on-air call of the final inning of the Dodger's 5-0 victory over the Mets on June 30, 1962--the only known surviving account of the first Sandy Koufax's four no-hitters. The recording was made by Governale's uncle Dave Fantz when he was 14 years old. So what did Jim Governale do with his precious find? He cleaned up the audio as much as he could, burned it to CD, and, ignoring the advice of his friends, gave it to the Dodger organization. "I just wanted to do what was right by the Dodgers and Vin Scully and Sandy Koufax," he said. "It would mean more to me to honor the two of them by just doing the right thing, rather than just to sell out. To me, it seemed like a way of cheapening the recording and cheapening the find if I were to sell it." Now that's a lesson for our time. Thank you, Mr. Governale.