Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #150

Feb. 8 – Feb. 14, 2015

Welcome to week one hundred fifty of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. For Patrick Ewing, deep-rooted dedication drives him towards head coaching goal
  2. Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista giving back to Latin America by giving kids an education
  3. At Cricket World Cup, a Group of Underdogs Gets a Rare Opportunity
  4. From Touchdowns to Takeoff: Engineer-Athlete Soared To Space
  5. The Basketball Diaries of Barack Obama
  6. From the Grounds Up
  7. Special Olympics – The You in Unified: The Siler Brothers
  8. In New York, Uzbek Immigrants Invigorate High School Wrestling
  9. Why I Am So Grateful For Legendary Sportswriter Alison Gordon
  10. Nike Partners with Athletes for Hope; Working together to make physical activity fun for kids

We have highlighted the idea of legacy before at Sports Doing Good but this week seemed to really offer up a wider array of articles that speak to that important concept. For example, Patrick Ewing, whose legacy at Georgetown and with the New York Knicks is legendary, continues on impacting others in his quest to be an NBA head coach; MLBer Jose Bautista, who sees opportunity for those who seek careers in and out of baseball and aims to support their efforts; how a guy with a pretty busy full-time job, POTUS, desires to teach his daughter and other young girls the finer points of basketball and life; the efforts of Christchurch, New Zealand, to recover its physical, mental, and emotional foundations in part by putting on a wonderful world championship event; the groundbreaking efforts of female sportswriter Alison Gordon for those following in her footsteps and even those in other walks of life; and a partnership between two leading organizations, Nike and Athletes for Hope, in furtherance of the health of this nation’s children.

Other wonderful stories this week include: former NFL player and current astronaut Leland Melvin; inspiring athletes and brothers Tim and Todd Siler; and the emergence in New York of a generation of young athletes excelling at a sport long practiced by their fathers and grandfathers in a homeland far away.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

For Patrick Ewing, deep-rooted dedication drives him towards head coaching goal
Thirty years after graduating from Georgetown and going first overall to the New York Knicks with aspirations of winning titles at the rate of Bill Russell, Ewing is associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets and harbors grander aspirations. Ewing is still hoping some owner or general manager will finally decide to take a chance on an all-time great who has been paying his dues on the sideline with a sharp suit and a clipboard for more than a decade. Ewing’s pursuit of an NBA head coaching job has yielded only two interviews in 13 years, but he remains committed to chasing it — just like his long and ultimately fruitless quest for a championship ring.

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford (left) talks with associate head coach Patrick Ewing. (David T. Foster, III/The Charlotte Observer)

Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista giving back to Latin America by giving kids an education
Proving that his trip to Chipola was about more than just getting increased baseball exposure, Bautista went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in business last year. He didn’t stop there. Through his not-for-profit foundation, the Bautista Family Education Fund (, Bautista is trying to help more young players from outside the U.S. understand that college in the States can be a viable alternative to signing a professional contract at 16 or 17, and that the value of an education can be immense.

Jose Bautista (right) has an education fund that is designed to help kids focus on being more than just ballplayers. Photo: Courtesy of Fernando Isa

At Cricket World Cup, a Group of Underdogs Gets a Rare Opportunity
Avoiding the well-known national teams, Wigmore and Miller focus on the development and prospects of cricket in Ireland, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Nepal, among others, as well as efforts to make the game more popular in the United States and China. To play cricket for one of these nations can be an experience in frustration, infighting and scarce opportunity. But the picture that emerges in the book is familiar to fans of underdogs everywhere: Against long odds, coaches and players balance cricket and full-time work (Khurram Khan, the United Arab Emirates’ captain, has a job as a flight purser) to pursue their dreams of sporting glory. One difference from those classic underdog stories, however, is that the deck is stacked against these nations in several important ways.

Mirwais Ashraf of Afghanistan training last month. The country will compete in the World Cup, cricket’s biggest international tournament. Credit Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

From Touchdowns to Takeoff: Engineer-Athlete Soared To Space
You may recognize retired astronaut Leland Melvin from his famous 2009 NASA portrait with his two dogs, Jake and Scout. Or maybe you’ve seen him on the Lifetime channel hosting Child Genius. But his first claim to fame wasn’t in space or on screen — it was on the field. Melvin, who is part athlete and part engineer, was drafted in the NFL in 1986. He was signed to the Dallas Cowboys the same year he enrolled at the University of Virginia, studying materials science and engineering. “They videotaped the courses and mailed them to me in Dallas,” Melvin says. “So by day, I’m catching balls for America’s team and at night, I’m watching materials science and engineering courses in a master’s program.”

Leland Melvin floats inside the International Space Station alongside astronauts Stanley Love (left) and Rex Walheim, (right) during Melvin’s first mission to space. AP

The Basketball Diaries of Barack Obama
When we met them on the court, I realized that as talented and smart as we thought we were about basketball, teaching fifth-graders the art of hoops was like herding giggling cats. We were used to sharing the court with players who loved the game and played with skill. These 9-year-olds would throw the ball over their teammate’s head, directly out of bounds, and then laugh about it. It was tough to convince them there wasn’t anything funny about turnovers or air-balling a shot from seven feet. The powers of the president’s office were useless, but he had all the powers of an engaged and interested parent. He would see me getting frustrated and interject. “This is not a slumber party,” he would tell the girls. “You have to run hard, throw the ball hard, stand tall and be strong. You have to listen to your coach.”

President Obama and Reggie Love, second from left, coaching Sasha Obama’s basketball team in February 2011. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

From the Grounds Up
On Feb. 14, Christchurch will hold the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia), the city’s first major sporting event since the earthquake. After a contentious court battle, the government fast-tracked approval for a new cricket oval in Hagley Park, hoping the World Cup excitement would bring its fractured community back together and alert the world that Christchurch is again open for business. The city’s rebuild is expected to cost more than $31 billion, and the oval is the government’s first completed major project. What is the healing power of sport? Christchurch is about to find out.

Christchurch, New Zealand, is hoping the ICC Cricket World Cup will help heal the physical, structural and emotional wounds brought on by earthquakes that leveled much of the city in 2010 and 2011.  Joel Ford/Getty Images

Special Olympics – The You in Unified: The Siler Brothers
Four years ago Tim came to me with a request to ignite a powerlifting team. He saw an opportunity to bring the sport to our county and asked me to help get the ball rolling. It sounded like a wonderful idea so we proceeded. The first year roster had only two athletes, my brother and his friend, Andrew. Fortunately, Tim is an incredible ambassador for the sport and a social butterfly as he recruited more and more athletes in the years to follow. We begin our fourth year of powerlifting this January and are expecting over a dozen athletes to accompany this season. Being familiar with the inside of a weight room, Tim doubles as an athlete and as an assistant coach in many ways. By setting the example, he has inspired several peers to begin exercising regularly and create positive nutritional habits.

Tim (left) and Todd (right) Siler taking a break from swimming in 2014.

In New York, Uzbek Immigrants Invigorate High School Wrestling
“If you’re struggling in school with a new language, it’s a lot easier to go to school every day when you, your teachers and your peers know you excel at something else,” Mr. Walsh said, adding that Zafar had difficulty in the classroom when he first arrived but had greatly improved. “With wrestling, they learn how effective hard work can be.” Jahongir, the Midwood wrestler, said: “Without wrestling, school can sometimes get boring. This is the best thing in my life.”

At least nine high schools in Brooklyn and one in Queens have Uzbek immigrants on their wrestling squads. Jahongir Davronov, 14, who came to New York in 2010, said his father also wrestled in his homeland. “The people of our country were made for wrestling,” he said. Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

Why I Am So Grateful For Legendary Sportswriter Alison Gordon
Alison’s razor-sharp humor taught me so much, especially how to shrug off the louts with a “didn’t land a punch” smile. Our conversations were not pity parties, but wonderful opportunities to compare notes, laugh at the insanity of certain portions of certain clubhouses. And behind the humor was an immense resolve. And when she did not cave or sink to the level of those who tried to torment her, she made all of her peers proud. “I saw how a certain Detroit Tiger treated her and lost respect for him for life,” said Mike Downey, formerly a columnist for many a newspaper, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Detroit Free-Press. “Alison had all the class he lacked.”

Alison Gordon, 1943-2015, Keith Beaty/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Nike Partners with Athletes for Hope; Working together to make physical activity fun for kids
Since 2007, Athletes for Hope has been committed to helping athletes make a difference in the world; today marks another major step towards achieving that goal by announcing a new partnership with NIKE Inc. The partnership connects Athletes for Hope’s over 2,000 professional athletes to Let’s Move! Active Schools around the country, reinforcing the importance of incorporating physical activity before, during, and after the school day. “At Nike, we believe in the power of sport to unlock human potential,” said Caitlin Morris, North America Executive Director, Global Community Impact, Nike, Inc. “We are excited to partner with Athletes for Hope so that together we can bring the joy of movement to thousands of school children across the country.”

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Contact InformationSarbjit “Sab” Singh