Beating the Odds!

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS November 17, 2014 #515 Up next…”Beating the Odds”

After further review…What are the odds that a black kid born to a 25-year old mother, who already had five children, who had been an alcoholic since she was 14 and during this pregnancy spent most of her welfare check on crack cocaine, would even live? Or if he did live, would spend much of his life engulfed with an addiction? Two of his brothers never lived beyond 29 years of age. His mother, yes, that mother, died in a house fire — set by another 16-year old son!

Reading the wonderful, heart-warming story written by S.L. Price in Sports Illustrated (Nov. 10, 2014), you have the feeling that anyone can find a way to beat the odds. Surf the channels this college basketball season to find West Point, the U.S. Military Academy and look for number “0”, which is the number worn by Max Lenox. He won’t be in the starting lineup, although he is Army’s co-captain. Lenox is the black kid mentioned above. And “zero” is the appropriate number, which, at birth, appeared to be his chances for survival.

The West Point campus is filled with all-staters and future Rhodes scholars, but this six-foot- 200 pound Lenox, who averaged six minutes (not points) a game last season, is co-captain because he is “very special” according to his teammates. When you watch Max play, you may notice that he has heavy knee pads (braces-like) on both knees from a torn meniscus that happened in high school.

A kid like Max needs help and that is exactly what he got from his parents: Dave Lenox and Nathan Merrells, two gay partners, who adopted Max early-on. Both Dave and Nathan are successful men in their own right, but their hearts went out to Max.  They nurtured him throughout his learning disabilities and his failure of two classes at West Point, which forced him to be a “turnback” cadet and repeat his plebe year. Then being raised by gay parents – well, it has not been an easy journey.

When told of this background one coach said, “I don’t care. But if he’s a good kid, I’ll take him.” Max is just that and lives by T.E. Lawrence’s words: “All men dream: but not equally. The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” Max recites that daily.

Will you dream with your eyes open to beat the odds you maybe facing?

To contact Jim go to or email

Jim’s new book “101 Best of Tunney Side of Sports” has examples of overcoming.



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