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Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

 

I  was scanning the archives for the blog and came across this entry from four years ago, written in the immediate aftermath of that year’s West End Gallery opening.  It had the story of a young boy with a rare disease and a message that really touched me then and now.  Thought it deserved another run today:

josiah-vieraWell, the opening is over and the show continues to hang at the West End Gallery.  Good opening.  Talked to a lot of really nice people, many new to me.  Many thanks to everyone who came out.   You made the evening complete and  I could not be more grateful.

That said, I was sure glad when the night was over.  There comes a point near the end of an opening, especially in the aftermath of constantly promoting it by writing about it here,  where I am really tired of talking about me and can’t wait for that moment until I don’t have to say anything to anyone.

So later that night, we came home and decided to quietly watch that night’s Jeopardy,  a show I have watched intently since I was a child when Art Fleming was the host in the 60’s. Before it came on, I caught the end of the ABC Evening News and there was a story about their Person of the Week.  It was a young boy, Josiah Viera, from central Pennyslvania who suffers from Progeria, an exremely rare (something like only 54 cases in the world) disorder where the child begins prematurely aging, most having a life expectancy of between 8 and 13 years.  Josiah, now 7 years old, has the tiny body of a 90 year old, taking cholesterol and arthritis medications. He is 27 inches tall and weighs 15 pounds.

But Josiah doesn’t dwell on the hardships of his condition.  Instead he concentrates on his passion, that thing that brings him sheer joy: baseball.  He lives for the game, wanting to play it from the minute he wakes until the end of each day.  He approached a coach at the local t-ball league in Hegins, PA and told him that he wanted to play in the games.  They feared he might not survive more than a single game and indeed, after his first game, Josiah suffered a series of mini strokes and was hospitalized.

But he recovered quickly and his desire for the game was so strong that he was back after three weeks.  The news of this little boy and the joy with which he played the game captured the hearts of the local folks and by the last game there were several hundred fans ( not your usual t-ball crowd!) all cheering him on and chanting his name.  And as he stands on the bag at first base, which seems like a table under his small body, Josiah smile glows with the sheer and absolute joy of being safe.

Absolute joy.  How many of us allow ourselves to feel that?  Josiah’s time here is limited, as it is for all of us.  Yet his life is not sadder for that knowledge.  Instead he has somehow chosen to find joy in those few days, rejoicing in the moment instead of fearing the future or focusing on the  life that might have been under different circumstances, things which too many of us allow to take over our lives.

Life is now.  His pure joy is a lesson for us all.  Life’s too short to not revel in those things that make us happy.

What is your joy and if it’s not the biggest part of your life, why is that so?

Below is the longer version of the story from ESPN on which the ABC story is based.  It’s a beautifully done report.  Have a great Sunday and again, thank you for everyone who came out Friday night– you brought me a little of that joy that I speak of.

2015 Update:  Josiah is now 11 years old and still as much in love with baseball as ever.  He is the an honorary bench coach for the State College Spikes, the St. Louis Cardinal’s Class A minor league team located in central Pennsylvania.  He plays cards with the players before the game, gives the manager bits of advice on game moves and provides the team with much more than they could ever give him in return. He also went to spring training with the  major league St. Louis Cardinal, getting to hobnob and even play a pickup game with their star players.  Throughout it all, that joy sparkles and inspires.  As one player said after going through a particularly tough game, “When I see that little guy across the clubhouse, I know I’ll be fine.”

There’s a great article from MLB.com that gives all the updates on Josiah.  Click here to see it.

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valvanoThere is a telethon of sorts today on ESPN.  Every year they take a day of broadcasting and devote it to raising money for the Jimmy V Foundation which raises money for cancer research.  The foundation is named after Jim Valvano, the college basketball coach who died from cancer back in 1993.

For those not familiar with Valvano, he was a pretty good coach but a great personality.  He is best known for his mad dash across the court looking for anyone to hug when his North Carolina State team improbably won the NCAA championship on a miraculous last second play.  His thick New York accent and fast, humorous banter were trademarks.

Well, every year during this day ESPN repeatedly plays Valvano’s final speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, made mere weeks before he died.  I’ve seen and heard this speech probably a hundred times and am always moved by its power, humor and message.  It is a tour de force of speechmaking.  He makes you laugh.  He makes you cry.  But at the end, he makes you think about how you’re living your own life.  His words make you want to be better.

That’s real inspiration.

Here’s the speech.  It’s about 11 minutes long but trust me, if you haven’t seen it , it won’t be time wasted.  If you want to learn more about his foundation, click on the Coach’s picture above.

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Out of ChaosI don’t know if it’s sad commentary on the world or just myself but I have started to have an extreme distrust of anyone who is ultra confident in their ability to predict what the future will bring.  Be it a politician predicting doom and gloom if the opposing party comes to power or an evangelist spouting that the rapture is imminent or even the pundits on ESPN during the NCAA tournament, guys like Digger Phelps, who say definitively that this team or that team will run roughshod over the opposition.  Okay, Digger Phelps being compared to someone saying the end is near is out of line but his certainty is the same even if more trivial.

I used to defer to those with lofty positions and supposed knowledge of things beyond my little world but have come to the realization that these people are as clueless as anyone, myself included.  It’s just that there is no economic advantage in saying that you don’t really know, that you can’t be sure.  Who would send a check to a televangelist who couldn’t definitively offer you eternal salvation?  Who would vote for a politician who wasn’t absolutely positive  that his judgement was correct in all matters?  

The problem with our dependence on this absurd over-confidence is that many good and valid ideas are kicked to the curb, never heard because they are drowned out by the din of the “experts” pounding their chests and yelling that yes, they alone have the answers that we seek.  Political discourse has become a matter of who can turn up their volume most.  The sectors of religion that grow fastest spout the loudest, most extreme versions of their beliefs.

And this over-confidence doesn’t apply to believers alone.  To me, the atheist is little different than the most ardent believer.  Both have an absolute belief that their view is correct.  Both claim to know that the eternal is or isn’t.  Take your pick.

Me?  As I’ve said before, the only thing I’m certain about is my uncertainty.  And I guess in some cases down through history that would make one a heretic.

Amen to that, brother…

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