FIRE UP FRIDAY – Today I’m seeing likes and reading notes after writing a story yesterday that reflected one of toughest times of my life – likes and notes from men and women alike. I’m listening and taking notes on the next podcast I’ll be producing on Katie Smith, the WNBA’s All-Time leading scorer, who speaks about the time she blew out her knee on the eve of the Olympics – her second ACL after her scary back injury. I asked Katie if she knew it was going to go, she said basically, Yeah, but it’s the Olympics. You blow it out, you go home, you get it fixed. I’m appreciative that Katie and I may not know exactly how Peyton Manning feels going into Sunday, but I am absolutely sure we know a heck of a lot more than our grandmothers did, and a heck of a lot more than the guys in the media and elsewhere who think women’s sports and athletes are a joke, or that in some way our vote or opinion should only mean 2/3 of what it means when men speak.
I am thankful that I know what it means to feel empathetic to Ronda Rousey and to her sister, who loves her so, and wants her to come back, but is scared to death – literally. I am sad to the point of tears to read the story of Willie Wood that ran in the New York Times this week (read it here) because of the damage to his brain that left him unable to remember his brilliance in the first Super Bowl. That story becomes even tougher to read when you see him as a simple man who wanted to stick to his passion by teaching, coaching and sharing his gift. Yet Willie was judged by the color of his skin, not by the content of his character or by his clear prowess, might and merit on the football field.
I am writing this on an afternoon that I’ll soon spend going to see David Goldman from Riverdale work his can off on the basketball floor. I will be able to watch him and know that I helped guide him on his way to knowing how to self-regulate and revel in the game he loves. I’m going to stop and see his teammate, Justin Sandler, a volunteer coach for us, who is sidelined with an uncommon knee injury. I will try to help him map a plan for what will feel like a long road ahead. I’ll then go to our boys grade 5 practice because they’re down a bit, and even though it’s optional, I want them to know that I’m in for my part. Then I’ll stay and speak to our boys grade 7 team and our Team Senegal, a group of boys who have not had one parent show up to a game or event in six months.
I’m going to tell my family when I see them this weekend that Pat Fitzgerald, the head coach of the Northwestern Football team, agreed to do a podcast with me during my upcoming visit to Evanston.
I’m going to end this FIRE UP with a thank you to Dr. Kenya Key, for her incredible story that inspired and spoke for so many this week. I’m going to say thank you again for rooting me on, yet once again, with her words of encouragement – for me to be the Voice of Us.
We are people who believe in merit – the same merit Willie Wood displayed time and time again. We are people who are strong enough to see value add by looking past issues of race, gender or sexuality. We want to be motivated by and around people who have the capacity to share wisdom, knowledge, passion, compassion and respect.
We’ve got a lot to be fired up about this Friday. If we all continue to believe, and stand up for each other, our collective good will reach those who want, need, deserve and appreciate it most.