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The Essence of Sport, Diana Nyad Style

Photo of Diana Nyad, courtesy of

 "I have three messages: one is we should never ever give up; two is you are never too old to chase your dreams; and three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.” 
 I’m not a swimmer. In fact, if there are two sports I never took to and have no desire to start, it’s swimming and running. Most certainly, it’s because my attention span isn’t what it needs to be in order to sustain either of those. In other words, I’m kind of a wimp.
Which is what makes Diana Nyad’s historic swim so awe-inspiring to me. Here’s a woman who, at 64 years old, isn’t anywhere close to winding down (although, she might deserve a little breather now…). This was her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida; her first attempt was when she was 29. Her last fourattempts have been since she’s been 60.
It's not her age, but her words (no doubt crafted over the hours she spent in the dark water, rotating one arm in front of the other and fluttering her legs over and over) that we should pay the close attention to.
Never ever give up. As a parent whose kids play sports, this is one of the lessons I want them to learn. So what if you aren’t the best or the quickest or the most talented? That’s not the point. The point is to keep trying, in spite of setbacks and frustrations. Now I can add, “And it’s not like you got stung by a jellyfish in your mouth like Diana Nyad” in order to further reinforce that message.
You are never too old to chase your dreams. Kids might not understand that lesson right now, but as adults, we can. She’s not just sharing wisdom about sports. She’s reminding all of us, even if we aren’t athletes, that we can dream of something and set about achieving it. Become a writer, become a singer, change careers, pursue a passion, find those things that will make your life an authentic representation of who you believe yourself to be. Chase. Your. Dreams. Surely, whatever it is you want to do will seem a lot easier than plunging your face into cold, dark salt water thousands and thousands of times and wondering if your shark spotters have managed to stay awake.
It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team. I suspect Diana was referring specifically to swimming, but we can consider this lesson in broader terms. Sometimes, we think we’re alone in this life—that our struggles are ours alone and that our failures are debilitating and shameful. We turn away from help and we shy away from helping others. But one of the most important concepts to take away from sports as a metaphor for life is that we’re interconnected and interdependent. Diana had an entire team of people on her exhibition. Those people weren’t allowed to provide physical support (like, hold her up), nor was she allowed to touch the boats. But they navigated and swept for predators and monitored her. Isn’t that what life’s “game” is about? Finding a team of friends and/or family to help you search your way in the dark, keep an eye out for bad people and situations, and check in with you to make sure you’re okay.
When I think about swimming, I become very conscious about every breath—even though I’m nowhere near water. Having watched Diana Nyad’s dream come to fruition and hearing her words about sport and life, I think (maybe) I can breathe a little easier now.
For more information about Diana Nyad’s amazing journey: 

Youth soccer player may be charged with homicide by assault


LOS ANGELES, May 10, 2013 — In Utah this week, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo died after being in a coma for a week. Late last month, Portillo, a passionate soccer fan and long-time referee, was doing what he loved most, officiating a soccer game, when he was attacked by an upset player. 

During the game, one of the goalies pushed a forward who was attempting to make a corner kick. Portillo gave the goalie a yellow card. A yellow card in soccer is a warning and tells players that future unsportsmanlike behavior will cause increased consequences. Receiving two yellow cards in a game means that a player is then given a red card and has to leave the field.

According to reports, the goalie began arguing with Portillo about the yellow card and subsequently punched Portillo in the head. Like with many concussions, Portillo felt fine at first, but then became dizzy. By the time emergency services arrived, he was spitting blood and lying on the ground in a fetal position. He complained of head, neck, and back pain.

A short time after being taken to the hospital, Portillo slipped into a coma due to brain swelling. He never regained consciousness and died a week later.

Both the goalie and poor sportsmanship are clearly the culprits in this tragedy. The player’s unsportsmanlike actions during the game garnered him a yellow card. The player’s continued arguing with Portillo led him to physically attack the official.

Unfortunately, the goalie’s actions are not isolated...Continue Reading

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New Sports Illustrated poll examines reader reaction to first NBA gay player


WASHINGTON, April 2, 2013 — In historic professional sports news this week, a well-known NBA veteran came out as gay. In an article in this week’s Sports IllustratedJason Collins, a 12-year basketball veteran and former Stanford player, explained in very simple terms who he was. “ I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

For the past few months, the professional sports world has been buzzing with rumors that an NFL player was close to coming out. Whether or not those rumors are true, Jason Collins apparently decided now was the time to begin living a life that authenticates both his career in the NBA and his private life.
Another part of the story is that even his twin brother, Jarron Collins, was surprised, which shows just how hidden Jason Collins kept his sexuality.

Sports Illustrated, in order to capture reader reactions to Collins’ announcement, posted a poll on their website. To see the poll results, KEEP READING HERE...

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Related: Jason Collins receiving death threats?
Sports Illustrated articles

Sports and the Tsarnaev brothers: Their backgrounds and their target


WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013 - As details emerged about the Tsarnaev brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokar, in the last week, two particular ones seemed atypical of other domestic terrorists—their involvement in sports and their focus on a sporting event.

According to numerous sources close to the family, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an accomplished amateur boxer, “fighting in a Golden Gloves Tournament in Salt Lake City and sparring in local gyms around the Boston area.”

The younger brother, Dzhokar, was equally accomplished in wrestling, becoming the team captain of Cambridge Rindge & Latin’s wrestling team his senior year. However, according to his coach, Peter Payack, he didn’t become team captain because he was the best wrestler, but because...READ MORE

How much does a trashed hotel room really cost?

Credit: J. Meric/IMG Academy

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2013 - In February, 2013, over 300 NFL draft hopefuls converged on Indianapolis to perform for the biggest job interviews of their young lives. They ran, jumped, threw, lifted weights, and showed their tenacity and skill.

A couple of them may have also excelled in the age-old skill of acting like spoiled brats. Reports are out that a hotel room used by two players was trashed while they were there...CONTINUE READING

Gay athletes: 3 possible outcomes of coming out

Despite the craziness of March Madness basketball, swirling around sports bars and basements, one decidedly different story is making itself known: A current NFL player is now considering coming out.

Prior to the Super Bowl, former NFL player Kwame Harris was publicly outed after having a physical altercation with a former boyfriend. Harris ignited some backlash from other players, most notably 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who reportedly said, “I don’t do the gay guys, man. I don’t do that.” (Culliver has since volunteered at the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention program for LBGTQ youth.) 

Although it’s not yet known if Harris’ situation prompted the current player, whose identity is still unknown to media outlets and the public, to begin discussions about coming out, the fact that he might be close is causing discourse in the sports world.

So what happens if gay athletes decide to stop hiding their sexuality? There are three possible scenarios that may occur...CONTINUE READING

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Three sportsmanship tip(offs) from a weekend of basketball

FGCU's Sherwood Brown and teammates
Credit: AP Florida/Michael Perez

Over the weekend, there was about as much basketball as one could hope to watch. Not only was March Madness on up to four channels at once, but our local high school played in the Minnesota state championship. As a transplanted Hoosier, I was in heaven.

It was a weekend of listening to squeaky shoes and watching for examples of sportsmanship. Following are three take-aways from the basketball-full weekend:

1. Drawing attention to sportsmanship issues really does work. On Saturday morning, many hours before the Apple Valley High School basketball team took on Park Center at the Target Center, a Facebook post mentioned that at Thursday’s qualifier, our students turned their backs when the opposing team was announced.

Almost immediately... Continue reading...

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