Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Villanueva Makes Bald Beautiful

That lead is not a fashion statement. It refers to something much more important. Charlie Villanueva, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, suffers from alopecia, a disease that results in hair loss and baldness. It kicked in when he was 10 and, well, you know how mean school kids can be. Villanueva is now helping youngsters deal with the condition through the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.

Click here to read about it from the story "Villanueva connects with kids through rare disease."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Three Strikes And You're Out--In Football?

That's a joint proposal from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL players' union executive director Gene Upshaw. The result of a summit meeting in Indianapolis, management and labor both expressed the desire to improve the image of the league by punishing players convicted of crimes three times by banning them from the playing field for life.

As the Associated Press article points out, the number of players with a rap sheet is still a small minority, but also a very visible one.

It appears the league and players association wants to make their intolerance of criminal activity just as visible.

That's good news.

Click here to read "NFL Union: Players Want to Stem Violence."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Poised To Be the Youngest Player Ever in the NFL Draft

That's the position 19 year old defensive end Amobi Okoye finds himself in these days. He just finished up his appearance at the NFL's annual meat market, also known as The Combine.

Okoye is used to the title of "youngest player" since, as a 16-year old college freshman at Louisville, he was the youngest college football player in the nation. His success on the field allowed him to become the youngest to play in the Senior Bowl last month.

He was pretty successful off the field, graduating with a degree in psychology.

Atlanta Falcons coach Bobby Petrino, Okoye's coach at Louisville, said simply, "He's ready to play."

Click here to read about Okoye's journey from a child prodigy in Nigeria to the cusp of becoming a teenage millionaire in the Jacksonville Times Union's story "Age is odd stat for DT Okoye."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Still Perfect Over 50 Years Later

This story really tickled me. On Friday night at the Yogi Berra museum (yes, there really is such a thing) at Montclair State University, there was a showing of the only known film of the NBC broadcast of Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. This is still the only no-hitter or perfect game in baseball postseaon history, and Vin Scully did the play-by-play (he's still going strong working Dodgers games).

Here's what I thought was really cool. This was the first time that Larsen or his catcher that day, Berra, had ever seen the entire game. Even better, the event was held as a fundraiser with funds going to Larsen's charitible foundation and the endowment that Berra is gathering to fund an expansion of the museum.

Click here to read the New York Times story "Still Perfect After All Those Years," about the event and the story of how this film was one of the few from that era of television that still exists.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mets' Manuel Happy Being Heard, Not Seen

People who have studied the philosphies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi don't often chose baseball as their lifelong profession, but New York Mets' bench coach Jerry Manuel is an exception. He has already had a strong, positive impact on the players and manager Willie Randolph. The 2000 Manager of the Year at the helm of the Chicago White Sox would like another shot as a major league skipper, but he has a plan if that does not come to pass.

If in two years he is not managing a team in the majors, he will coach the baseball team at William Jessup University, a 600-student college located in Rocklin, Calif., near his Sacramento home, that will play its inaugural season in 2009.

“Maybe I need to go down to another level and have an impact on some young men’s lives,” Manuel said. “Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Click here to read the New York Times story, "Mets Bench Coach Perfers Being Heard and Not Seen."

New York Rangers Visit Sick Kids

The New York Rangers are on the outside looking in at the NHL playoff picture, but that didn't diminish the positive impact their visit to Maria Fareri Children's Hospital had on the patients.

"It's always something we want to do whether we win or lose," (the Rangers' Ryan) Hollweg said. "This is a real-life situation. We play a game. We know it's our job. But this is real life with real things going on. When you think about that, it's like nothing else matters. ... It's just great that we can do something to brighten their day and do something positive."

A little dose of perspective can be a very healthy thing. Click here to read the story in the Lower Hudson Journal News, "Rangers' hospital visit brightens kids' day."

DJ Fought and Defeated His Inner Demons

There have been a lot of tributes to former NBA star Dennis Johnson after his sudden death this week from a heart attack at the young age of 52. I found this one in the Boston Globe to be particularly interesting because it addressed Johnson's problems in 1997 with a domestic voilence incident with his wife.

This is brought up not to diminish the man he was but to add more depth to his legacy. You see, he came back from that and did so the hard way--he worked at it. He kept his marriage together by going through counseling he needed. After falling off the fast-track to an NBA coaching job, he put in time in the minor leagues, which is where he was when he died.

The measure of a man, in my opinion, is not so much how few mistakes he makes in his life but how he recovers from them. In that regard, Dennis Johnson measured up very well.

Baltimore's Hall of Fame Trainer

Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry of the Baltimore Colts, Wes Unseld and Gus Johnson from the Baltimore Bullets, golfer Carol Mann, figure skater Dorothy Hamill, and Baltimore Orioles PA announcer Rex Barney. That is more than a list of great athletes and personalities; it is also a partial patient list for trainer Dr. Bill Neill during his 50+ year career.

Click here to read some of the stories of his experiences with those and other sports stars in the Press Box article "A Healing Kind of Man."

Sam Gado Has More On His Mind Than Football

Sam Gado's success in the NFL is somewhat of a surprise since he played college ball at Liberty University, hardly a football factory. While Gado was in school, he studied hard and worked toward his ultimate goal--becoming a doctor.

Click here to read more about Gado in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes magazine "Sharing the Victory" story "Field Ministry."