An opportunity!

ON THE TUNNEYSIDE OF SPORTS August 29, 2016 #608 Up next… An opportunity!

After further review…With the XXXIst Olympiad completed, many countries are busy counting the medals won by their athletes and comparing their numbers to other countries. We have become obsessed with numbers, rankings, and the hierarchies of success they seem to define. The thought here is any medal count, in a comparison mode, is misplaced. Oh, sure every country ought to be proud of the accomplishments of its athletes, but the opinion here is that the Olympics were designed for individual athletes to compete with the purpose of bringing people and countries together. Somehow, over time, that idea has been lost or discarded.

Fast approaching are the Paralympics, which will be held from September 7-18, in the same Rio venues as these summer games. While I have never attended the Paralympics, and will be unable to be in Rio for these games, I have watched with admiration (awe is more like it) what these athletes can do despite their limitations. The Paralympians use the term “Sport doesn’t care who you are.” So these athletes’ motto is: “Yes I can!” Let’s applaud them as individuals!

Some 40 years ago – about midway in my NFL tenure – I received a call from Teresa Brown, who invited me to attend the California Special Olympic Summer Games at U.C.L.A. with the idea of providing encouragement and inspiration to some 3,200 special athletes as they competed. Man, was that idea misplaced! After three days of watching these special athletes compete, awarding their medals, and taking pictures, I left as the recipient of more love and inspiration than I ever could impart to them.

Take Evelyn, an 11-year-old girl who won the 3-meter diving championship – and she was blind! Can you picture yourself climbing a ladder 10 feet high, walking out to the edge of a diving board, and diving into the water – that somebody told you was there?

Or watching an athlete, in a wheelchair with no use of either hand and the use of only one leg, due to cerebral palsy, push his wheelchair backwards 25 meters. It took him eight minutes, and he finished third! At the finish line I gave him a high-five and took a picture with him, then noticed his name tag, which read “Roger Tucker, age 59!” When is it too late to not keep trying?

“Be a Fan!” says the Special Olympic slogan, and I am certainly one. It is a privilege to be part of the Special Olympics and to speak to volunteer organizations in California, Arizona, Montana and others to encourage their involvement. “Let me win; but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt!”—is the Special Olympic motto.

Will you log-in about your volunteer involvement?

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Jim’s book “Another 101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” has examples of how sports can help bring involvement and joy into your life. Available for $20. Includes tax and shipping. Please email to the above address. Thank You!

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