Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Scott Park’s Story Explains Why We Must All Challenge Our Assumptions

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About a year ago, college basketball fan Scott Park was gaining notoriety for missing a million dollar half-court shot. As he looked healthy, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Mr. Park was mocked by thousands upon thousands of people after he missed that half-court shot.

But there was much more to this story, which ESPN found out. They made a video for their E:360 program, which was also aired yesterday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines…and because I saw that, I felt the need to discuss it further. (While I haven’t figured out how to link directly to OTL’s feed, I can send you in the direction of OTL’s “extra” footage discussing why both Bob Ley and reporter Ryan McGee found Scott Park’s story to be both relevant and inspirational.)

Granted, once I saw the story myself, it’s obvious why Scott Park’s story is inspirational. This is a man who has nearly died — not once, but twice. (See McGee’s article from March of this year for further details.) He suffers from a condition called CAPS — otherwise known as catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome — and because of it, he’s already endured a kidney transplant and suffered serious and life-threatening consequences.**

Scott Park’s story is inspirational. (We need more stories like this in this world.) But we’d not know about it except for two things: first, Scott Park missed that half-court shot, and because he looked healthy people made fun of him for doing so. And second, the reporter who posted the clip of Mr. Park missing that shot wrote a follow-up story to explain just why we should be ashamed of ourselves for jumping to conclusions. That got other writers, including ESPN’s Ryan McGee, interested in Scott Park and following along with Mr. Park’s story of persistence, faith, hope, and chronic struggles against his disabling conditions — though the way Scott Park carried himself during the E:360 piece (shown on OTL yesterday), it’s obvious that he is emphasizing the “half-full” part of the equation.

Simply put: While he may be disabled today, he is a lucky man. He has a caring, loving, and devoted wife and family, and many good friends (one who donated his kidney in order to give Scott Park more time on this Earth). He loves college basketball, even now. He holds no animus toward anyone, including the reporter who posted the clip of Park’s abortive half-court shot effort. And no one should feel sorry for him, even with his health challenges, physical therapy, and all…because he’s had a good life, he’s still in there fighting, and — maybe this is leap of faith on my part — life is all about what you do with it.

Scott Park has done a great deal with his life. And that’s what no one knew when the clip of him missing the half-court shot was taken.

Fortunately, we did learn “the rest of the story” with regards to Scott Park. But we don’t always know everyone’s stories, and there’s an awful lot of assumptions going on. We live in a world where it seems everyone rushes to judgment, and sometimes, that judgment is plain, flat, utterly wrong.

So, the lessons I would like you to take away from this are these:

  1. Challenge your assumptions. Challenge them often.
  2. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
  3. Be as charitable and forgiving as you can. Because some day, you may just need some of that charity and forgiveness for yourself.
  4. Do not assume that the initial narrative framing is correct.
  5. And, finally — DO YOUR RESEARCH.

If you do all that, you are much less likely to be an obnoxious, uncaring, unfeeling butthead. (End rant.)

————

**At the moment, Mr. Park is in the hospital, recovering from a series of strokes. He is alert, aware, in good spirits, doing physical therapy, and hoping to regain the use of his right arm and to walk again. Wish him well, will you?

Two Quiet, Heartwarming Stories in the News

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Folks, over the last few days, there have been two inspirational stories that caught my eye. They are quiet stories of resolution, strength, grit, determination, and nerve, in two very different arenas — but they are both heartwarming in their own way.

First, and most recent — yesterday (January 26, 2016 to be exact), the FBI office in Milwaukee avoided a potential mass shooting. According to various local news reports (including this one from WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee), a twenty-three-year-old man, a United States citizen I will not name, wanted to shoot up the local Masonic Temple. He had apparently bragged that he wanted to kill at least thirty people — and he’d purchased weapons to that effect. All he needed now, he believed, were silencers…

Fortunately, the FBI swooped in as he was buying those (according to the news reports I heard), arrested this individual, and we did not have a mass shooting in Milwaukee.

Thank goodness.

This story makes me wonder just how many other mass shootings or acts of domestic terrorism are being averted by members of the police, the FBI, and other federal and state agencies. It also makes me grateful, because I’m glad that Southeastern Wisconsin didn’t have to deal with yet another shooting of this nature. (The mass shooting in the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek a few years ago was more than bad enough, thanks.)

So, that story covers man’s inhumanity to man (and how just this once, the good guys won). The next story is more a “man against himself” sort of deal, and is much quieter…but still is quite an interesting story in its own right.

You see, over the weekend, figure skater Adam Rippon finally did something he’d been trying to do for years: he won the United States Championships. While I don’t completely understand how Rippon, who’s a beautiful skater but did not fully complete a quad jump**, beat Max Aaron’s technical score, I do understand how Rippon beat Aaron artistically…there’s a style and grace to Rippon’s skating that I’ve long admired, and now that he’s fully matured into his ability, the sky is the limit.

But why do I care, precisely?

Aside from the fact that Adam Rippon is a brilliant skater, he’s also done something historic. He’s only the second man to win the United States national championships after telling the world openly that he is gay. (Rudy Galindo, in 1996, is the only other man to have done this.) Rippon is also only the third openly gay male figure skater to ever win a gold medal at the U.S. nationals — the third being Jeremy Abbott.***

Now, why wasn’t this covered much in the news? It’s simple: our society has changed so much in the past twenty years, it’s not considered major news any longer.

We’ve had twenty years of progress since Rudy Galindo won his U.S. skating championship in 1996. We’ve had many people in many sports come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. And society, while still not approving of it, no longer seems to condemn it, either.

When we’ve had men and women coming out as gay and lesbian in multiple sports, Rippon’s matter-of-fact disclosure (done via Skating magazine, if memory serves) doesn’t warrant more than a blip on the national radar.

That said, it was still an historic event. And as such, I am very pleased to discuss it — though I’m more pleased to discuss just how well Rippon did, and why, and how after all these years as a high-ranking skater, he’s finally reached the pinnacle of winning the U.S. National Championships.

Adam Rippon is a great figure skater, and is also a proud gay man. And all I can say is, “Good for you, Adam!” (Now go get ’em at Worlds.)

I think that’s wonderful.

Anyway, these were the two stories that riveted my attention, albeit not for the same reasons. But they both were heartwarming in their own way, which is why I wanted to discuss their impact.

I also wanted to remind everyone that just because a story seems quieter, that makes it no less important.

So, two unrelated things. Both great news of the quieter sort.

And I couldn’t be happier about them.

———

**Quick note: I do know Rippon attempted the quadruple Lutz. That’s the hardest quad jump there is. And he wasn’t far from landing it; I have the sense that he will land it, and soon, in a major championship event.

***Originally I had forgotten to mention Jeremy Abbott, which is ridiculous on my part as I’m a huge fan of his. (I blame the flu I’ve had the past few days for this glaring omission.) Abbott has acknowledged openly that he is gay, and basically said it should be no big deal.

I agree. But it’s still history in the making — and as such, I want to applaud him. (It’s not easy to be an openly LGBT athlete.)

Thoughts About Lamar Odom

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Folks, as most of you are probably aware, former NBA star Lamar Odom is currently in a coma. As he is a major media personality due to his marriage with Khloé Kardashian, his illness has been front-page news in many places — not just the sports pages, and not just the society pages, but the general interest pages as well.

Why is this?

Some of it is because of Odom himself. He’s a talented basketball player, yes, but he also has appeared to be a warm, caring human being during episodes of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and “Khloé and Lamar.” Teammates have come forward saying this was no act; Odom was known as being a “good egg,” helping younger teammates in various ways (including buying them designer suits); he was seen as someone who wasn’t all about himself, but truly a team player.

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV (my interest in “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” notwithstanding), but I have seen Odom in context amidst the sprawling Kardashian-Jenner family. Odom seemed a bit bemused to have support, especially as he’d married Khloé after a whirlwind one-month relationship…but he also seemed to enjoy having the Kardashians and Jenners around him.

Anyway, Odom is now 35. He hasn’t played in the NBA for a few years. He’s been battling a drug addiction for a few years, and perhaps because of this, cheated on his wife, Khloé. The two had been presumed to be divorced, before Odom fell ill during a sojourn at a legal brothel in Nevada…but apparently, they are still legally married.

I never thought I’d say this, but I feel terrible for Khloé Kardashian right now. I’ve been where she’s standing, to a point; my husband Michael was in a coma, had brain damage, and no one knew what his outcome would be during the final day of his life. (Granted, Michael did not cheat on me. He would not have ever done that; he was not that type of person.)

It is not easy to stand by and watch, in a hospital. All you can do is talk with your beloved, and pray. (Or think good thoughts. Or grasp for positive vibrations. Or think about positive, healing energy. Whatever you do to try to tap into the Deity — or at least the good wishes of fellow humans.)

There’s an old song by Kansas called “Dust in the Wind” that pretty much sums up how I felt when I stood there, in the hospital, desperately praying that my husband would not die.

Khloé Kardashian has many things I never had. She’s young, beautiful, extremely wealthy, has access to the best of medical care (and has for most if not all of her life)…but all of that does not help, when you’re there in the hospital.

Mind, from what little I can tell from the copious media reports, Khloé has done everything possible — everything I’d have done, in her place. She flew in Lamar’s father and children; she’s been beside Lamar Odom, talking to him, talking to the doctors, doing what she can to let Lamar know that she’s there and will do everything she can to help.

(I know she doesn’t need me to say this, but I will anyway: Good for you, Khloé. Doing your best in a bad situation is admirable.)

I don’t know what’ll happen next with Lamar Odom. Most media reports I’ve seen, either online or on TV, have said that he’s suffered at least one and possibly as many as three strokes. He’s obviously unwell. He may have cocaine in his system. He may have taken too much herbal Viagra, which could’ve led to many of the health problems he’s now suffering…there is the possibility that he will never wake up. And there’s also the possibility that he will, but much altered.

Though I’ve never met Lamar Odom or Khloé Kardashian, I wish them well. I hope that out of this awful illness, there will be peace. And that Lamar will wake up again, know who he is, know who Khloé and the rest of his family is…and can restart his life again.

Written by Barb Caffrey

October 16, 2015 at 7:21 am

Milwaukee Brewers Shut Down Ryan Braun for the Rest of 2015

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Folks, this is how you know the Milwaukee Brewers have had a horrible year.

Ryan Braun has a back injury that he’s been playing through for most of the year. Recently, when he spent seven games without playing whatsoever, the team admitted that Braun will have surgery in the off-season to repair a herniated disc. So the assumption was that Braun would not play any more during 2015.

Then Braun played last night in St. Louis.

Now, the Brewers have returned to their original script with Braun. He’s been shut down for the remainder of the year, mostly because there’s no point to playing as the Brewers cannot affect the outcome of the regular season at all. Every playoff team in the National League is now set; three of them, the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, come from the NL Central Division. And the only thing that could change between now and the end of the season is whether the Cardinals hold on to their NL Central lead, or if the Pirates manage to best them.

Everything else is set in stone, barring a major losing streak for the Pirates and a major winning streak for the Cubs — and all that will change is which team hosts the Wild Card game.

Look. I understand why the Brewers have shut Braun down. There is nothing for him to prove, and very little for him to gain. Braun could worsen his back if he plays, though that wasn’t a concern last night for some reason…and if Braun worsens his back injury, that may put part or all of 2016 in jeopardy.

I get all that.

But as a Brewers fan, I’m disheartened. There are very few stars on the Milwaukee baseball club right now. The team that started 2015 has been almost completely dismantled; Braun is out, Carlos Gomez got traded to the Astros (and has been in a hitting funk ever since, from what I can tell), Gerardo Parra got traded to the Orioles, Aramis Ramirez got traded to the Pirates (at least he’s going to the playoffs), Mike Fiers — possibly the Brewers most consistent starter during 2015 — got traded to the Astros and promptly threw a no-hitter.

As for those who remained?

  • Jean Segura had a nice bounce-back year on both offense and defense. He narrowly avoided a major injury a few weeks ago (more on that in a bit). But he’s not playing much right now, as the 2015 season is lost.
  • Jonathan Lucroy was out for nearly ten days with a concussion, though he’s back now (and limited to first base).
  • Jimmy Nelson got hit in the head by a batted ball and was shut down for the year with a concussion.
  • Wily Peralta was generally ineffective during 2015 and has been shut down, reason unknown or untold.
  • Matt Garza also was ineffective, and has been shut down since mid-September.
  • And poor Elian Herrera — he ran into Shane Peterson while trying to field a ball in “no man’s land” (behind third in shallow left field shading toward the foul line), and has been on crutches ever since with what’s been called a “thigh contusion.” Herrera was one of the few guys who’d stepped up after all the trades, and performed consistently both on offense and defense; his steady presence in the infield has been missed since he got injured. (As for Peterson, he’s pinch-hit a few times; he came away from that collision injured, but lightly so, compared to Herrera…who, of course, has also been shut down for the year.)

So who’s left?

Well, Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has done well as the closer, and he’s still here. (He gets maybe two attempts a week to close a game, but that’s not his fault.) Lucroy is able to play a little at first base. Adam Lind’s back has been a little balky lately, but he’s played more games with the Brewers than he managed with the Blue Jays last year (at least, that’s what they keep saying) and he’s done better defensively at first base than I’d expected.

And then there are all the rookies. Only three have impressed me thus far: Zach Davies, who the Brewers got in the Parra trade, has shown some good flashes since getting the call to come to the big leagues. Catcher Nevin Ashley spent ten years in the minors, and reminds me a great deal of Vinny Rottino (my favorite player, also overlooked to my mind). And Domingo Santana has shown unusually good plate discipline and some real power, even though he’s been forced to play out of position most of the time in center field (he’s a corner outfielder).

The rest…meh.

For weeks, watching games has been like watching Spring Training, except these games count. Most of the guys seem eager, young, and want to make a good impression. But for me, as a fan, I feel fatigued; there have been 11 guys making their major league debut this year, with a twelfth coming today. I have a hard time keeping up with all these people, and while I’m glad all these young guys have managed to get call-ups (most especially Ashley), it’s hard to figure out what I’m watching.

Truly, these teams are like seeing a Triple-A version of the Brewers with a few stars sprinkled in. And that’s not what I’d expected for the 2015 season, even though I do think retiring General Manager Doug Melvin did the best he could with what he had (and received several strong players in return for our previously established stars).

So here we are: Braun won’t play again this year. The young, eager, Triple-A-like Brewers will continue to do their best to make some sort of impression.

And while I’ll continue to watch, I don’t hold out a lot of hope that this depleted Brewers club will win many more games.

Suzy Favor Hamilton Opens Up About her Call-Girl Experiences, Being Bipolar

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Folks, I am stunned.

Suzy Favor Hamilton, who I wrote about back in 2012 after the story broke that she’d become a high-priced Las Vegas escort, was interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas last night on ABC’s 20/20 news program. (Here is an article about the show from ABC News.) I watched this online, and was riveted. Not by the admission that she’d had sex with five guys in one night (though that didn’t surprise me much; if you’re an escort, you do what you’re paid to do), but because it appears being bipolar and being misdiagnosed sent her into her double life and downward spiral in the first place.

But let me unpack that a little.

Suzy Favor Hamilton is now 47. She’s still the best female runner to ever come out of the state of Wisconsin, and one of the best female athletes the United States has ever had. She’s a three-time Olympian, had multiple endorsements because of her good looks and running success, and, according to the story on 20/20, major anxiety issues.

Unbeknownst to anyone, Favor Hamilton also had bipolar disease. At the time, she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and thought her problems were solved. But the antidepressants that were given to her made her hypersexual, more willing to try risky behaviors — and isn’t becoming a high-priced escort the epitome of risky behavior?

Anyway, Favor Hamilton’s husband continues to stand by her, and I don’t understand why. (Neither does Vargas, who asked him point-blank why he’d stayed. Mr. Hamilton admitted he didn’t know why; he just did.) He is obviously an incredibly patient man, insofar as he’s stayed with his wife as she’s endured many ups and downs — most particularly this last, major scandal of being exposed as a high-priced Las Vegas escort.

(Even though I don’t understand it, more power to him. I hope their marriage will survive. But I digress.)

Look. I know many people with anxiety, depression, and even bipolar disorders. But I hadn’t any idea that being bipolar could make you do anything close to how Favor Hamilton behaved…that it could make you hypersexual to the degree that you could sleep with five men in a night, and still want more, is much more information than any doctor has ever told me (or any of my friends with bipolar disorder, either).

So just by being willing to discuss what she did before being properly diagnosed as bipolar, Favor Hamilton has done a great service.

Favor Hamilton has written a book called FAST GIRL, a play on words that makes perfect sense. In her book, she discusses her mental illness, along with what Vargas called her “scandalous life in Vegas” (my best paraphrase, as I don’t have a transcript). And she also has gone further, discussing what she’s done since to heal herself and her marriage, including moving to California, being honest with herself about her health and her personal needs, and much, much more.

As sportswriter Christine Brennan said during the 20/20 episode, what Favor Hamilton is doing today in discussing her bipolar disorder and all the things that she did until it was properly diagnosed is possibly the best thing Favor Hamilton has ever done.

While I’m still shocked that anyone with the looks, brains, and money that Favor Hamilton had would ever become an escort, I’m glad that Favor Hamilton has healed. She’s become an advocate for mental illness along with physical fitness, and it seems to me that she’s doing all she can to rebuild her life.

More power to her.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 12, 2015 at 3:02 am

Sunday Inspiration: Schroeder and Favre Have Their Days

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Folks, over the last two days, I saw a couple of inspiring things that I wanted to share with you.

On Friday night, the Milwaukee Brewers honored long-time television announcer Bill Schroeder before the game at Miller Park, as Schroeder was enshrined on the Brewers Wall of Honor. Schroeder started his big league career with the club, and has now been a TV announcer for twenty-one years.

“But why is this inspiring?” you ask.

It’s simple. Schroeder thanked everyone he’d ever worked with in the TV booth, mentioned something specific about his former partners (starting with Jim Paschke, and ending with his current partner Brian Anderson), and said that he’d learned from every last one of them.

You see, Schroeder had a fair-to-middling career as a big-league catcher. He caught the Brewers’ only no-hitter (thrown by Juan Nieves), hit .332 in 1987, and finished up his career in 1990 with the then-California Angels.

He played eight years in the majors. And for some, that would be enough of a legacy.

But Schroeder was still a young man. He wanted to do more. And he became a broadcaster, starting his second career in 1994.

Starting over probably wasn’t easy. As Schroeder has said many times during Fox Sports Wisconsin broadcasts, it’s easier to play and stay in the moment than it is to be upstairs and have to critique everything that’s going on.

But Schroeder swallowed his pride, and learned. That was his first step in being a successful broadcaster.

What’s kept him on the air for twenty-one years? Other than the fact that Schroeder knows his stuff cold and always comes prepared (his colleague Anderson more or less pointed this out during Friday night’s broadcast, though I’d understood this long since), it’s the fact that Schroeder continues to learn and grow as a broadcaster.

By this point, Schroeder has become a consummate professional. Yet the players still see him as one of them, because of Schroeder’s eight years in the bigs.

My guess is that when Schroeder started his broadcasting career, he had no idea just where his path would lead him. He stayed within himself and learned — or, to put it perhaps a better way, he stayed humble. And didn’t insist that he knew it all already, so he had no reason to learn.

Schroeder concluded his day at the park by thanking the Brewers fans, an act that felt surprisingly meaningful. Because Schroeder didn’t just say the words; he was moved by them.

Brett Favre’s induction into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame last night was in some ways strikingly similar to Schroeder’s day at Miller Park on Friday. Favre thanked many people, including his former quarterback and strength coaches, people who did security for Lambeau Field, folks in the office…and paid particular attention to the memory of Lee Remmel, long-time Packers historian.

Brett Favre is one of the biggest sports stars the state of Wisconsin has ever had, while Schroeder (as a player) was only fair. Yet like Schroeder, somehow the fans always saw Favre as one of them.

And like Schroeder, Favre went out of his way to thank everyone he possibly could for allowing him to become the best he could possibly be. He especially thanked the Packers fans, and said he knew he had a special relationship with them — this is my best paraphrase, as I don’t have a transcript in front of me — and that considering he’d played elsewhere, he knew full well how to value the people of Green Bay. (The crowd roared.)

Both of these men got standing ovations. (Favre’s lasted longer, but then — who can compete with Brett in the state of Wisconsin?) Both of them admitted they’d had to swallow their pride at various times, stay within themselves, and keep trying — that even though it might’ve looked or seemed easy, it wasn’t.

There was a lot of preparation that went into game days for Brett, despite his good-time guy image.

And there has always been a great deal of preparation that goes into game days for Bill Schroeder, despite his down-home image.

Ultimately, these two men have much more in common than it might seem at first. They’re both hardworking, driven men, who’ve succeeded in difficult fields when perhaps very few gave them much thought at first. (Trust me: Favre fully remembers what it was like to be traded from Atlanta and to be so lightly regarded. The rest of us may see him as an icon, but he definitely doesn’t see himself that way.)

Now, what both of these men’s “days” have taught me is this:

  • Work hard.
  • Stay humble.
  • Learn everything you can. Then learn more.
  • Be gracious. (AKA, “Remember that you’re not the only human being on the planet.”) and, finally,
  • Never stop improving, in one facet or another.

If you can do all of that, you are a success — whether anyone else knows it or not.

——–

Edited to add: My mother came to WordPress and tried to comment, but something glitched and the whole post re-posted again.

Here is her comment in its entirety:

I enjoyed both events as well…Let us not forget the wives of these men as well…They have made many sacrifices for their men’s love of sport..

Why Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPY Award Speech Matters

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Even though I’m a sports fan, I rarely watch the ESPY Awards. But I made a point of it this evening, as I knew Caitlyn Jenner would receive an award for courage (the Arthur Ashe Award, to be exact).

Some have given Jenner a very hard time since she came out as transgender months ago. This mostly is because of two things: One, the former Bruce Jenner has been a high-profile athlete and media personality since he won the Olympic gold medal in the decathlon in 1976. And two, Jenner was married to Kris Jenner — matriarch of the Kardashian clan — for quite some time. (They are now apparently on the road to divorce and seem to be living separate lives.)

I said months ago when then-Bruce Jenner admitted that he saw himself as “she” that many people were missing the point. Whether Jenner is outwardly male or female, the soul inside is still the same. And we need to start understanding that people are a diverse bunch, and stop condemning people for being different.

I know, I know. Most people don’t condemn people. (Thank goodness.) It’s only a vocal minority that does. But as Jenner said tonight at her ESPY Award speech (my best paraphrase), she can handle criticism. But the young transgender children out there cannot…they are being bullied, shunned, and treated worse than their peers for the simple fact that they carry more of their differences on the outside.

I wrote about Leelah Alcorn a while back, too. She was a young girl who had a family that totally did not understand her, and parents who were so rigid, they only would refer to her by her birth name of Joshua. Not by the name she knew herself as, Leelah.

The Alcorns did everything they could after their child’s suicide to show that “Joshua” was a normal boy in interviews. They also said they “didn’t believe in that” when any reporter tried talking to them about their biological son’s transgender identity. And they made the funeral service private, kept away Leelah’s closest friends, and took down Leelah’s final note asking for acceptance and tolerance for others (as they had that right, ’cause Leelah was underage).

So I am certain that Caitlyn Jenner understands what’s at stake for transgender youth.

I’m also certain that Jenner understands just how important it is for the entire LGBT community to have positive role models.

Much is made of what Jenner wears nowadays — the hair, the clothes, the shoes, the makeup, etc. And I understand why. The Kardashian clan is widely followed; they are famous for being famous, the lot of them, and the paparazzi cannot help themselves whenever any of them are around. (Why that is, I haven’t the foggiest. But it is undeniably true.)

But I would rather there was more focus on what Caitlyn Jenner is saying rather than what she wears, who she goes out with, whether her divorce is in train or whether or not her family agrees with her decision to be open about her new life as a woman.

What Jenner said tonight about acceptance, about trangender people needing to be respected, was vital. So if you haven’t seen her ESPY speech yet, you really should seek it out. (If you need a quick read, check out this one from Yahoo Celebrity.)

I’m very glad that someone has finally said what needed to be said, though if you’d have asked me a year ago, the last person I thought would ever say it would be Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner.

Please read these words, ponder them, and then ask yourself this question:

What can I do today to be more tolerant, more accepting, and more nurturing?

Former #Brewers OF Darryl Hamilton, 50, Killed in Apparent Murder-Suicide

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Folks, this just breaks my heart.

Darryl Hamilton was known as one of the original good guys in Milwaukee. He played full-time for the Brewers from 1990 to 1995, and debuted with the team in 1988. He was a brilliant defensive outfielder and a good clutch hitter with a lifetime batting average of .291 (not too shabby)…eventually, he made his way to the World Series with the New York Mets in 2000 during the course of a successful thirteen-year career.

Now, he is dead.

As Adam McCalvy reported, Hamilton was shot to death over the weekend by Monica Jordan — Jordan was his girlfriend, and the two of them had a child together. Then Jordan turned the gun on herself.

What’s even sadder is this: a little child, born of Hamilton and Jordan, was left behind.

Words fail me in this tragedy.

The first thought I had after hearing this terrible news was this: Domestic violence is real, whether it’s at the hands of a man, like Ray Rice, or a woman, Monica Jordan.

(Or Hope Solo, who hasn’t been sanctioned at all by USA Soccer. But I digress.)

My second thought is how much Hamilton will be missed in Milwaukee, and all around MLB. He was a good-hearted man who enjoyed life, and had a boundless passion for baseball.

He should not be dead at age 50.

—–

Edited to add in Hamilton’s stats, and his “cup of coffee” with the Brewers in 1988. Also edited the bit about Ms. Jordan; she now has been positively identified as his late girlfriend.

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm

What Michael Jordan’s Baseball Odyssey Reveals About Hope and Faith

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We mere mortals often misunderstand sports stars.

We can’t help it. Their lives of money and fame seem glamorous in the extreme. They can fly anywhere they want in the off-season, and seemingly don’t bat an eye. They can drop hundreds of thousands of dollars in Las Vegas in a night, and walk away unscathed.

No mere mortal can understand that.

Yet there’s a more human side to these stars. They have hopes and dreams just like anyone else. They want to please their parents, just as most people do…and they want to do something special, something no one else expects them to do, just like everyone else.

In 1993, basketball star Michael Jordan seemingly had the world at his feet. His Chicago Bulls team had just won three NBA titles in a row. He was the best player in the NBA. And he’d just celebrated his enormous success with his teammates and his father, James Jordan.

Then his father James was murdered.

This threw Michael Jordan into a tailspin. He loved his father. Loved him without reservation. And without his father, life did not seem to have much savor.

All of this was chronicled at the time, mind. Michael Jordan’s relationship with his father was very well-known. And Michael Jordan’s grief was open and palpable — a wound that would not heal.

Then Michael Jordan did something completely unprecedented. In his prime, he walked away from the NBA — and became, of all things, a minor league baseball player. The Chicago White Sox organization signed Jordan, and assigned him to play in Double-A for the Birmingham Barons.

The conventional narrative was that Michael Jordan had completely lost his head. Why would anyone want to walk away from fame and glory, and put up with the indignity of striking out several times a night, much less having to ride a bus everywhere he needed to go rather than taking short plane rides on luxury jetliners?

The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Jordan Rides the Bus discusses this time in Jordan’s life. It makes the case that Jordan’s odyssey in the minor leagues has been completely and totally misunderstood.

You see, at the time, sportswriters tended to believe that it was either all about Michael Jordan’s ego — the best basketball player in the world believing he could be just as good at baseball despite not playing it since high school — or that maybe Jordan had such a big gambling problem, then-NBA commissioner David Stern had unofficially given Jordan an ultimatum to stay away from the game for a year.

But neither of those things was true.

Jordan was grieving. He loved his father. And his father had asked him, apparently more than once, if he’d go play baseball again. His father must’ve remembered games Jordan played in high school, and believed that as an athlete, Jordan could compete at the highest level in any sport Jordan wanted to play.

But baseball is a game of timing. Repetition. Day after grinding day of hard work will lead to results, yes…but you have to be willing to put in that hard work.

The conventional wisdom was that Michael Jordan would not do that. He was a mega-star. So why should he?

Yet Jordan Rides the Bus disproves that theory, too. Michael Jordan actually worked hard every day, and improved so much that in the fall of 1994, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League — where the most talented prospects get sent — in order to keep working on his swing.

I also learned several other things about Michael Jordan from Jordan Rides the Bus that I’d sensed, but had never before been explained.

You see, even before James Jordan died, Michael Jordan had become burned out by the game of basketball. This may seem very strange to us mere mortals, but ask yourself this: Have you ever been burned out by something you love?

Then ask yourself this question: What would you do if you’d just lost the person you loved most in the world?

What Michael Jordan did is a testament to hope and faith. He somehow believed, deep inside, that trying something new was necessary, perhaps in order to help himself heal from the deep wounds inflicted by his father’s murder. He had to know that he’d not succeed immediately, and that perhaps he’d not succeed at all.

But he did it anyway.

He put up with the jeers from the sportswriters, who didn’t understand. He put up with the multitude of fans, some of whom assuredly asked him, “Why don’t you go back and play with the Bulls? You’re so good…why do this?” (And some, I’m sure, were not nearly that polite about it.) He put up with the difficulties of the minor leagues — the lousy hotels, the bad food, the long bus rides, the poor lighting of the ballparks.

And he did so with class and grace.

This was possibly the worst time in Michael Jordan’s life. So to embrace change, and turn it into something hopeful and optimistic, is a story worth telling.

Ultimately, Jordan did not become a major league baseball player. Instead, he went back to the Chicago Bulls and led them to three more championships. He resumed his place as the best player in the NBA.

But his coach, Phil Jackson, said that Jordan’s odyssey in baseball’s minor leagues made him “a better teammate,” and also quite possibly a better person. It reminded Jordan of how hard it was to become a professional athlete — something Jordan hadn’t thought about in a long time — and how much he’d taken for granted.

Hope. And faith.

Those two things can take you very far indeed, albeit not perhaps everywhere you want to go.

Even if you’re Michael Jordan.

Memorial Day for Sale: NFL Teams Take Money to ‘Honor’ the Military

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Is Memorial Day truly for sale?

It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.

I found out about this last Friday (May 22, 2015) by watching Keith Olbermann’s ESPN2 show. As quoted from the website PoliticsUSA.com:

In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.

This disturbs me for more than one reason.

First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.

Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.

It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.

We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.

But they are. And that’s wrong.

Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:

“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..

Agreed. (To the Nth power.)

Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.

Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.

But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.

As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.

But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.

That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:

…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.

(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)

Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.

NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.

That they did was absolutely reprehensible.

******
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?

Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?

I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.