Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In my last post I had mentioned a boy at my Dad's school who suffers from a serious disease. After hearing more and more about him throughout the week and finally meeting him last night, I have learned more things from this child than any teacher I have ever had. (no offense Mom and Dad) Eddie is a nine year old boy who suffers from and has been burdened by the side affects of cancer. Last night, Eddie was brought to the locker room and walked the team out on the field as well as sat on the bench with us for the game. When he entered the locker room I was truly shocked, his skin pale he had little hair and his condition required him to have a tube which stretched from his nose to his stomach. 

It without a doubt blew my mind, a child that stood only four feet tall and seemed minuscule next to some of us who are taller than six feet, stood taller than all of us on that night. As a team we did everything possible to make him feel comfortable when he was with us. Individually, we introduced ourselves and afterwards presented him with a ball which we all signed. Also, in dedication to Eddie and his struggle, we wore yellow tape on our socks during the game. I compared the entire experience to the Jimmy Fund telethon held every summer where Red Sox players are able to meet the children at Dana Farber. Although we are not comparable by any means to a professional team, to be able to make a wish of someone less fortunate than yourself come true, is truly a rewarding experience. 

Physically, Eddie is at a constant struggle with his condition. What we see as an ordinary day, he sees as a paradise. Everyday, he must undergo supplements upon supplements of medication as well as appear in doctors' offices on a regular basis. As some may perceive it, my team and I did nothing short of a heroic act for a child who struggles with a deathly disease. I was told by a parent that I am a hero for Eddie. Although I may be his, he is also mine. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Just Lucky I Guess

Ever since I began playing sports, they have been nothing more than a formality and a good time. In high school, practices and games six days a week, it became a lifestyle. On top of homework, and other obligations it can even become a nuisance. In my final year of high school sports, and soccer especially, as a captain and senior I'm out to make it my most successful. At times, losses and the teenage habits will affect not only an individual's play, but that of the entire team. The game, which you love and cherish, can become a frustration. This past week I finally got it, I haven't been looking at the bigger picture.

Last week at practice, our moral for some reason just plain sucked. The reason was unknown, our record's great, we were winning games, we just didn't feel like being there. As practice was ending, Dad referenced to a boy in his school who suffers from a serious disease, one which does not allow him to play sports and requires him to have a breathing apparatus at all times. He said to us: "At least, you have the chance to be out here day after day playing ball." I had gotten it, directly towering over the stadium where we practice, sits Salem Hospital. To some it's a hospital, and to hundreds of children it's home. It had never truly crossed my mind as it had just then. Thousands, and quite possibly millions of children across the country and the world will never be able to kick a soccer ball, shoot a basketball, or ever walk.

Here I was day after day getting to play the game I love, where some fifty yards away were children probably just like me, of all ages, begging for the chance to someday have the opportunity that I have been given my whole life. I've never truly felt a stronger sense of gratitude and appreciation for anything sports related, as I felt at that moment. It truly did blow my mind. On July 4th, 1939, Lou Gehrig stood in front of a standing crowd and delivered his retirement speech. As he fought back tears he said: "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth... and even though I've been given a bad break, I have got an awful lot to live for." With just a few minutes remaining last night in my game and with the game already won by a healthy margin, to be able to stand on my goal line every day in stead of in a hospital room I though to myself: "I truly am the luckiest man on the face of the earth."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Same Language

Teenagers often reach a certain age when following the request for money from their parents they are given the response, "You need to find a job". At long last, I have finally found one. I have recently been employed at a local seafood restaurant in my hometown. I have never quite known hard work outside of school and sports, and I will admit, this job is a challenge. When I was hired, I had imagined taking orders behind a counter and handing back change, I was surprised when I showed up to my first day of work and was told to put on an apron. I was being trained as cook. Now after two months of work I feel as though I have a firm grip on things in the kitchen, and although it can get ferociously busy I seem to do just fine.

It seems as though the hardest part was not cooking, but overall communicating with the other cooks. With the exception of myself, the entire cooking staff is Greek and cannot speak English very well. The first few weeks I found myself lost, unable to communicate with those who were experienced. To be honest, they scared me. They yell and grimace when I mess up, and do nothing when I complete my task properly. They keep to themselves, speaking only to each other and obviously in Greek. Finding a common ground was difficult, the only thing that we shared was our theft of hot dogs which occurs when the manager isn't looking.

The day was slow, I had made less than five fried doughs and cooked an occasional burger and dog. The wall of the two Greek cooks stood cross armed, as they often do, across the back counter as I sat on a milk crate in the corner. The only words they ever said to me were, "No no no, like this"(And then proceeded to show me how to do do it properly). For the entire day, work for the two foreigners  appeared to be second priority and whatever they were bickering about seemed much more important. Suddenly they had turned to me, in a heavy accent, and declared "Dirk or Lebron"? Right then and there I knew. I had made a connection without even making a response, I could communicate. "Dirk" I replied. The taller of the two continued to repeat, "Dirk, the best ever"and the other repeated "Lebron has it all". I knew they wished to include me in the conversation because they were speaking in English. I could analyze and debate the issue until the cows came home, but it would be awfully useless considering my audience would be unable to comprehend. I simply gave my support to the German wrecking ball and gave my predictions for the NBA Finals. 

Unlike any other language, sports is spoken all over the world and beyond. Although my ability to understand and communicate with my fellow employees was weak, I could fully comprehend their point of view on basketball simply by them telling me their favorite player. I didn't need a rundown of stats and analyzation to understand how they felt about sports. Following the NBA Finals, I entered work the next day. The stone cold Greek stood in the back with a smile, looked at me with a thumbs up and said, "Dirk".

Thursday, April 28, 2011


With every team, there is a coach, a person who is there to provide guidance as well as to set a moral standard that the team should follow. Considering I have been playing sports since the age of three, it is safe to say I have seen a lot of coaches at work. Through this whole blogging experience, I've decided to be a tad more critical of the sports world, not just to judge but to form an opinion. As for coaches, youth coaches primarily, I have come to the conclusion that there are two types in the world. Both are vastly different from the other, one is generally loud, obnoxious, and only thinks he knows what he's talking about. The other also knows nothing about the game but instead of yelling will coddle his players until the cows come home. 

Personally, I have never been a fan of the coddling coaches. Any coach who his always nice to the point where there is no coaching being done, is doing his players a huge disservice. As for the yellers, at least they have a zest for the game and want their team to do well. There are of course exceptions to both of these. In between the two of these you will find a third type and generally the more appealing type to the athletes. The third type is a mix between the first two with the addition of good coaching qualities, not obnoxious, but not silent. It seems that this type of coach effectively presents his game plan and philosophy in a way that his players will understand as well as perform to their full potential. 

Although he certainly qualifies as this third type of coach, it is safe to say this man was quite the character. My little league baseball coach taught me everything about baseball I could possibly know, how to hit, field, the works. He was roughly sixty years old, had only four teeth, probably fought in Nam, and definitely still lives in the 60's. It is safe to say he was rough around the edges, but not mean at the same time. He hated to lose and would not hesitate to defend his players against umpires and other coaches, and as a little leaguer the defending would be pretty amusing. He raised his voice when he had too, but never abused the power of having the ability to do so. Thats what I liked the most, he gave me a good kick in the ass when I need one and gave me a pat on the back when I deserved it. Whether or not I was his favorite, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't, and whether or not he was a good guy he was still a good coach. Coach Morland, this one's for you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Founding Fathers

In almost everything we do, we are guided along the way. Athletes are no exception. No athlete picks up a sport and just runs with it. Sports would essentially be non-existent if it were not for the ones who teach the younger generations. The passion for sports is generally taught to you, usually by a father. Dads all over the world, everyday, are teaching their kids how to play sports. One may think Tiger Woods teed of one day and was a natural golfer, however, it was the enforcement of his father who coached him to the pros. The William's sisters are a similar case, spending countless hours on the tennis court with their father. Even Ken Griffey Jr., who was not only coached by his father, but had the opportunity to play with him. Although the likeliness of a child becoming a professional athlete is extremely unlikely, the relationship between child and father, or child and mother is an important part of sports to all kids. 

In some cases, amateur athletes are given the opportunity to not only be taught by their parent, but coached by them as well. For all my life I have had the benefit of having my dad as my coach. As a child himself, he developed a passion for the game of soccer. It was only natural that he would teach me to love the game as he did. Since I was four, he attended every practice and game, primarily as a coach. Now in high school, I am fortunate enough to have him on the sidelines as the head coach of the high school team. I'm not going lie, it's interesting. He's harder on me than everyone else, and watching tape at home isn't exactly fun. But I wouldn't want it any other way. To hold my hand and to tell me I'm always doing a good job would never get me anywhere on the soccer in life. My friends often ask what's it like having my dad as a coach. It's really simple, on the soccer field he's dad and coach, and at home he's just dad. 

This past fall, my dad received the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year Award. The fact that he is humble about the honor often surprises me; to know that you are the best at what you do in comparison to your opponents and colleagues is something, in my opinion worth sharing from time to time. The fact that he received the award doesn't exactly surprise me; he's my "coach of the year" every year. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long Road Ahead

Everyone knows that sports are more than just games with bats, balls, and goal posts. For athletes everywhere, sports provides a "private sanctum" a "happy place" if you will, for those that take advantage of them. It also serves as something to strive for. Jeff Allison began his journey in Major League Baseball in 2003 when he was drafted by the Florida Marlins. As an 18-year-old prodigy, Allison was one of the top pitchers in the country, throwing a 95 mile per hour fastball as a senior in high school. Entering a world consumed by nothing but baseball, Allison would peruse a lifelong dream of playing Major League Baseball. However, along with his "fast" ball, came fast living, and drugs. Allison's baseball career seemingly halted when in July of 2004, he overdosed on heroin. It seldom occurs in professional sports for one's career to plummet almost instantly. The talented boy, who was once proclaimed a superstar and propelled for professional sports, has been consumed by a world of drugs and substance. 

Indeed nothing short of "sticky situation", Allison's career in baseball appears to be somewhat a fantasy rather than reality following his overdose. Indeed inactive, and certainly not throwing 95 miles per hour, Allison's career will presumably diminish over time following his drug overdose. However, precisely on December 4, 2006, Jeff Allison would turn away from a life of drugs. Alison has been sober for four years and four months and is currently active in the Marlin's minor league organization but is on the rise once more. Today, Allison was called up from the minor league camp to supply depth in the Marlin's bullpen. 

Living so close to Allison's hometown of Peabody, I would sporadically read the occasional story in he newspaper, whether it was his current involvement in baseball or activity in the Marlin's organization. However, after hearing this story, you can't help but cheer him on and assume he has shed his "tough guy" image. In his successful attempts to stay sober, he claims that his want and desire to live a drug free life was fueled by his strive to play baseball once more. It seems awfully funny to think that a game is what keeps Alison from using drugs. The game of baseball has dug Allison out of a hole, as he puts it "a deep, deep, deep hole."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

J Mac

Recently I entered the Will Macdonough writing contest. Topics included anything sports, I immediately thought of the Jason McElwain story. Here's the paper I submitted

As an athlete, sports enthusiast, and aspiring sports journalist, one might say I’m always looking for a “good story”. Throughout middle school I would graze various newspaper articles, read and occasionally catch a sports documentary on TV. However in the eighth grade I stopped searching. Instead of searching for stories, I began to praise and obsess over the miraculous story of Jason McElwain. Never have I seen such sheer determination and courage at one time. To this day, I will still find myself watching the video on YouTube over and over again. McElwain, Born with autism, has forever changed my opinion of, the way I play, and watch sports, knowing determination is an integral part to any team, player, or coach’s success in any aspect of the sports world.
McElwain, although born with a disability, did not let his disability deter him away from sports but towards them. Having a love for sports and specifically basketball, as a child and teenager, he did only what he felt was natural, play. Overcome by adversity, McElwain never thought he was at all “different”, merely a kid that liked to play basketball. As a sophomore, McElwain did not make the basketball team. However, due to a developed love for the game of basketball and for the Greece Athena High School basketball team, coach Jim Johnson welcomed McElwain as the team’s manager. In his three seasons as team manager, Jason had missed only one game. After being cut from the team as a sophomore, to continue his career as the team’s manager, McElwain possesses a trait not common in any athlete, a selfless attitude. With this selfless attitude, McElwain’s focus is wrapped solely around the success of the team, rather than himself. As an athlete, self-determination is seemingly achieved over time. However, McElwain remarkably is determined to support his team and his school, through his raw love of the game of basketball, all while dismissing the fact that he has a disability.
            As a direct definition from Webster’s Dictionary, courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, and pain. If the story of Jason is a familiar one, then you would know that courage plays no factor in Jason’s story, to him at least. In McElwain’s story, any first time viewer will see nothing short of righteous acts of courage exerted in only the three short minutes that Jason played in the final game of the season in his senior year. Coach Johnson had placed McElwain on the roster, but promised no playing time. However with three minutes remaining, Jason was given the opportunity to play. Looking up into the stands, the entire student body was holding cardboard cutout faces of Jason, a scene that seemed only present in a March Madness tournament game. To a fan, spectator, or anyone who knows this story cannot help but be astonished as to what actually happened. After missing his first two shots, McElwain caught fire. Hitting three pointer, after three pointer, after three pointer. McElwain hit six three point shots plus one other two point shot for a total of twenty points. As the buzzer sounded, naturally, the fans rushed the court. Although seemingly nothing short of courageous, McElwain feels otherwise. He sees it as doing what he loves, playing basketball.  The thrill of being carried off the court by his team and classmates appears to be a small incentive for Jason.
            Jason’s story is one that not only touches the hearts of those who hear and watch his remarkable journey, but one that inspires rather than teaches. His attitude and outlook not only on sports but also on life, is one that I try to have in all aspects of my life. As a high school athlete, I find myself becoming more passionate about the sports I play.  As a pre-game ritual, I dedicate my performance to someone who has inspired me or has shown how proud he or she is of me. However, whom ever I chose is included with Jason McElwain. For every race and game I dedicate my performance to Jason. His story has inspired me to find a passion for sports rather than to simply play them.