On the TUNNEYSIDE OF SPORTS August 10, 2015 #553 Up next…”Brave in the Attempt.”
After further review…The 2015 Special Olympics World Games recently concluded, after gathering 6,500 athletes, 2,000 coaches and 3,000 volunteers from 165 countries in Los Angeles. For nine days 500,000 spectators were treated to the efforts and achievements of these special athletes. You missed it? Unfortunately, so did I. But, even from a distance I could feel the uplifting spirit of Special Olympics, which began for me in the early 1970’s and continued through the 80s in the state of California. It has left me with an undying appreciation for these athletes.
It was a kind, but curious, invitation sent to me in 1972 to be a “celebrity” participant in the state games held at U.C.L.A. I had seen wonderful athletes, up-close and personal, since I was about five. But what I was seeing in these special athletes, young and old, competing in a variety of sports contests, was a new definition of the word competition. I remember in particular an adult male of 26, with no use of either hand or one leg, pushing his wheelchair backwards 25 yards, finishing third with a smile on his face as if he had just won the Indy 500. BTW, it took him eight minutes to travel those 25 yards!
In my book “It’s the Will, Not the Skill” which extols the trials and efforts of former NFL player and head coach Herm Edwards, I found inspiration in the example of special athletes everywhere. Indeed, it is expressed in the title; while dissimilar in many aspects to those with developmental challenges, Edwards’ path to NFL success emphasized the to will to attempt it. That very same will employed by my “wheelchair Al Unser” those many years ago.
From the sidelines at a number of these special games, I have admired not only the competitive spirit of special athletes, but the sportsmanlike attitude of each. At one high jump event, competitors who were waiting their turn vigorously clapped and cheered for another competitor who cleared the bar, and consoled another whose attempt fell short. I would have liked to have seen that same sportsmanlike spirit recently from a MLB player, whose towering fly ball was turned from a home run into an out by his competing outfielder’s spectacular catch atop the wall. Just a tip-o’-the-cap would do.
Will you follow the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt!”
For more about sports and life issues, get Jim’s three books: (“It’s the Will, Not the Skill,” “101 Best of TunneySide of Sports,” and “Impartial Judgment”) now being offered at the reduced price of $40. – a $20. discount. Please email him. Thank You!