Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #96

Jan. 26 – Feb. 1, 2014

Welcome to week ninety-six of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s first 10 stories include:

  1. Deaf NFL Player Surprises Girls Who Wrote Him Adorable Note
  2. High School Kicker Born Without Arms Is A Total Boss On The Field
  3. Weinstein Carnegie Exclusive Interview: Seth Wescott, Olympic Snowboarder
  4. Incredible journey to Super Bowl started with building radiators on assembly line for Broncos’ Sylvester Williams
  5. Taking notice of the hidden injury; Awareness, better treatment of athletes’ mental health begins to take shape
  6. Kenya’s first international skier recalls the unexpected friendship that turned him into a poster boy for snow sports in Africa.
  7. Northwestern football team takes first step in forming college players union
  8. Braylon O’Neill: Making Strides
  9. Sports on Earth enters digital documentary game
  10. Remembering what Stern did, and how he did it

Not surprisingly, this week’s newsletter has a football (American version)-heavy slant to it. This country’s biggest sporting event – some would say cultural and social as well – invites great stories of the participants, coaches, and fans. We certainly have those stories this week, including a third piece on Seattle Seahawk Derrick Coleman, high school football player Isaac Lufkin, Denver Bronco Sylvester Williams, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll.

But not all of the stories involving the Super Bowl or football dealt with on-the-field participants. I was fortunate to be part of a special experience in the heart of New York City Super Bowl Sunday morning. Thanks to the graciousness of my brother, I, along with three of his friends, joined him for a “you are never too old to feel like a kid” opportunity. At the invitation of ESPN’s Adam Schefter, we were guests at one of the network’s signature shows, Sunday NFL Countdown. Taking place in Herald Square, yesterday’s show was the last one for this season and it wonderfully set up viewers to take in Super Bowl XLVIII later that day. It also allowed the 5 of us, and several others, to see individuals we have watched on TV for years – as broadcasters and athletes – in their element. Funny and serious at the same time, these guys were committed to getting their jobs done at a high level, but never too busy to shake a hand and take a picture.

The experience was quite special. And much of it was because it was sports-related. As athletes and fans, we are drawn to sports for a host of reasons, hopefully one of them being they are just so much damn fun. Smiling should be part of every sports experience, on and off the field. And yesterday it surely was. Connecting with each other, meeting new people, and learning what drives our collective commitment to sports remain an important part of people’s lives, and are all benefits we walked away with yesterday. So thanks again go out to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and his colleagues Boom, Mort, Coach, Tom, Key, and CC. Thanks for making our Super Bowl Sunday, well, super.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Deaf NFL Player Surprises Girls Who Wrote Him Adorable Note
Derrick Coleman — fullback for the Seattle Seahawks and the NFL’s first legally deaf offensive player— gave two of his biggest fans the surprise of their life. You probably remember Coleman from this happy cry story, when twin nine-year-old sisters Riley and Erin Kovalcik (who called him their “inspiration,” as they both wear hearing aids) sent him an adorable letter and he tweeted this…


High School Kicker Born Without Arms Is A Total Boss On The Field
Isaac Lufkin was born without arms, but that doesn’t affect his ability to score a field goal. The 14-year-old kicker helped his team take home the freshman football state title in Rhode Island this year. He also led his division in onside kick recoveries. After an undefeated season, Lufkin has high hopes for the future. “I want to play in the NFL,” Lufkin told CNN’s Poppy Harlow during a recent interview.

Weinstein Carnegie Exclusive Interview: Seth Wescott, Olympic Snowboarder
I lived on China Lake in Maine, and my parents encouraged me to be active every day and go outside. I learned from my parents and my experience snowboarding in Maine that it’s okay to risk a typical path in life to go after your dreams. This gave me a sense of freedom. I grew up snowboarding with people that were nationally and internationally known in the sport, so to have role models around me was amazing.

Incredible journey to Super Bowl started with building radiators on assembly line for Broncos’ Sylvester Williams
Back in Jefferson City, this weekend brings a rare kind of inspiration. A kid went from a manufacturing plant “making radiators from scratch” to the world’s stage. “It just gives you chills all through your body,” Solomon said. “Seeing this young man go from where he started to where he is.” There will be no more packed leftovers, no more safety goggles. All Williams took with him from the assembly line to the defensive line was the dedication to put in a good day’s work.–sylvester-williams-171106998-nfl.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory

Taking notice of the hidden injury; Awareness, better treatment of athletes’ mental health begins to take shape
Last January, the NCAA hired neurologist Brian Hainline as its first chief medical officer. In late November, 30 members of the newly formed NCAA Mental Health Task Force met at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis and is updating the NCAA Mental Health Handbook, scheduled to be released this spring. And last fall, the National Athletic Trainers Association released its first consensus statement on the psychological concerns of student-athletes.

Michigan football player Will Heininger came forward for treatment of depression after he had a near breakdown on the practice field. University of Michigan Photo Services

Kenya’s first international skier recalls the unexpected friendship that turned him into a poster boy for snow sports in Africa.
His rivals included the world’s most successful cross-country skier, Bjorn Daehlie, who was and remains a huge icon in Norway, where the sport is as popular as football. “The whole Norwegian team had heard about this strange guy from Africa who was trying to participate,” he recalls. “We thought that was quite interesting and we were eager to see if he would succeed!”

Northwestern football team takes first step in forming college players union
This is just the first step, and it comes with a long road ahead and no guarantee of success. Yet the act is significant, and the latest in a rush of challenges – both legal and political – to the basic concept of amateurism that is the bedrock of the NCAA. Before anyone brushes off the possibility of a college athlete’s union as farcical and farfetched, there was a time when professional sports owners said the same thing about the likelihood of organized labor in their leagues.

Braylon O’Neill: Making Strides
All kids deserve the right to play.  Five year old Braylon O’Neill was born missing the tibia and fibula bones in both of his legs. Now, he’s making strides, pushing limits, and playing sports because of technology.

Sports on Earth enters digital documentary game
“We feel like we’ve established our voice, our DNA and our credibility,” Madden told Awful Announcing after the private screening in New York City. “People know what we are now and that gives us a lot of license to move in different directions and I want to take advantage of everything that the digital medium offers us. To me the very logical next step is video.”

Remembering what Stern did, and how he did it
“He reinvented himself in my mind. He was a young, very highly thought of lawyer when he came into basketball. And he made himself a marketing guy. He just put his mind to it and he really got himself involved in new technology like cable television, which was a kind of a new thing back then. So he was prepared to take the league to another level.”


Stunning return to form earns Danny Davis X Games gold and a surprise trip to Sochi
But even with his success of late, Davis is staying realistic about his Olympic chances. After his win at the Olympic qualifier in Mammoth, he said, “I’m not snowboarding to go to the Olympics. I’ve had a rough four years of getting hurt, and this year was just about getting better at snowboarding again. I’m getting there.”

The resurgence of snowboarder Danny Davis in the halfpipe has been the story of the qualifying season. So can he stun in Sochi? Photo by Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images

Pete Carroll can extend University of the Pacific’s Super Bowl legacy among coaches
Call it a coincidence if you choose. None of these coaches spent a long time at Pacific, and it’s not like the school was ever an athletics titan. Despite being the oldest chartered university in the state, Pacific has fewer than 8,000 students and the football team, when it existed, won only 46.4 percent of its games. But the list of coaching greats is too long to be lucky, especially when you add the other Pacific whistles who went on to NFL careers: Hue Jackson, Ron Turner and Jim Colletto (who has his own Super Bowl ring, as a staffer with the 2000 Ravens).

Before he was a coach, Pete Carroll suited up for Pacific. (Courtesy of University of the Pacific)

Council For Responsible Sport Updates Certification Standards For 2014
In addition to field-testing the new certification standards at pilot events, a draft of the standards was circulated to some 50 stakeholders last fall for feedback. Lessons learned from the pilot events and comments received from stakeholders were then reconciled and finally published as v4.1 on January 14, 2014.

Through The Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, More Than $500K Distributed to 25 Central Florida Organizations
The OMYF-MFF All-Star team was announced in the spirit of the NBA Draft as each nonprofit organization was recognized and presented with an OMYF-MFF jersey or specialty basketball. Representatives were greeted by Orlando Magic Chairman Dan DeVos, Magic CEO Alex Martins, Magic Vice President of Philanthropy and Multicultural Insights and OMYF President Linda Landman-Gonzalez and the OMYF team.

It’s Phil Knight’s night as the University of Oregon pulls out all the stops
Several members praised Knight’s support for the university. He is the most generous philanthropist in the university’s history. Knight’s gifts include $25 million to the law school, $27.4 million to the library and $100 million to the athletic department. He also funded the new $68 million football training facility.

MLB approves a pitcher’s safety cap
Major League Baseball has approved a protective cap for pitchers, hoping to reduce the damage from line drives to the head that have brought some terrifying and bloody scenes in the last few years. The heavier and bigger new hat was introduced Tuesday and will be available for testing during spring training on a voluntary basis. Major leaguers and minor leaguers won’t be required to wear it — comfort is likely to be a primary concern.

Major League Baseball has approved the protective cap for pitchers to reduce the effects of being hit in the head by line drives. Photo: AP

Charles Tillman wins Walter Payton Man of the Year
Tillman’s Foundation provides pediatric hospital patients with access to iPads, laptops, gaming systems and other kinds of entertainment to help pass the time during their hospital stays and annually reaches more than 370,000 children. His fund has also distributed more than $1 million to over 300 families who have been identified by local organizations as at-risk or in need. The support is provided to families and individuals to strengthen their ability to care for themselves.

Celebrating the Super Bowl With Philanthropy; Three Families to Donate a Million Dollars Each
On Monday, the Tisch, Johnson and Mara families will announce $3 million in donations to the NY/NJ Snowflake Youth Foundation, the independent charitable arm of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee… “The game has a period of time where people are talking about it,” said Mr. Johnson, who also serves on the NY/NJ Snowflake Youth Foundation board. “You certainly want community service to be a very, very important part of it. That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

Laurie Tisch, seen here in 2012, is giving toward healthy food initiatives. Emily Berl for The Wall Street Journal

Kids Foot Locker Teams Up With Anthony Davis In New Campaign Inspiring Kids To “GO BIG!”
The commercial, titled “Buzzer Beater,” features an unexpected appearance from NBA player Anthony Davis during a little boy named Alex’s driveway basketball game. While driving in his car, Davis notices Alex in his driveway as he is getting ready to take the game winning shot, all the while announcing in a sports commentator’s voice a play-by-play for the imaginary crowds. Davis decides to join in the game by rejecting the boy’s mid-air shot clear into the front yard and responding in his own sports commentator’s voice the surprising events that have unfolded.

Professional athletes and discrimination
These athletes are not deliberately making political statements but their stories have become political in some way. On numerous occasions throughout history, we have seen that – contrary to the cliché – sport and politics do mix. This ranges from discussions about the host nations of major sporting events to incidents highlighting stereotypes and discrimination that persist in society about race, gender or homosexuality.

In January 2014, Thomas Hitzlsperger became the highest profile football player to announce he is gay.

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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