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Green: Finding sports’ silver linings (Nov. 4)

Mary Green | Monday, November 4, 2013

“Justin Blackmon to enter rehab.” “Jonathan Martin fears retribution.” “Meriweather vows to go after knees.”
This is a sampling of some of the sports headlines I’ve read over the past few days. They all reflect controversy in sports, with players bullying teammates, trying to play against the rules or just not being the best people they can be.
I will be the first to admit controversy fuels journalism – we debate it, discuss it and break down every aspect of it. Sometimes, journalists even add to it, and then we debate it all some more.
But sometimes we, sports fans and journalists alike, get lost in the chaos of controversy and forget about the people who quietly do what is right.
We are four days into November and approaching Thanksgiving, so it is time we give thanks for all the good people in sports.
I’d first like to thank all the men and women who competed yesterday in one of the most grueling events in all of sports, the New York City Marathon. I think 26.2 miles is a long drive, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to run that distance, without a break, up and down hills and all over the place.
It’s always nice to win, so congratulations to men’s and women’s winners Geoffrey Mutai and Priscah Jeptoo for taking first place in their respective events. But in an event like a marathon, everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner in my book, so congrats to the rest of the field as well for fighting through fatigue and dehydration and showing the rest of us what it means to persevere to reach a goal. Thanks, marathon runners around the world.
Hats off to Larry Fitzgerald for growing his dreads out. The Cardinals receiver stopped cutting his hair in 2003 to honor his mother, who died the same year from breast cancer and wore her hair in the same style. Fitzgerald makes statements every Sunday with his otherworldly skills on the field, but he makes an even bigger statement by staying out of controversy and making headlines for the charitable work he does for breast cancer awareness.
This year, he pledged to donate 25 cents for every new follower, $1,000 for every catch and $10,000 for every touchdown he had in the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. He had 15 receptions, two touchdowns and too many followers for me to count during that month, making a donation of at least $35,000. Thanks, Larry.
Kudos to Richard Sherman for talking trash to challenge his hometown friends to reach their potential. In a cover story from July on the Seahawks cornerback, Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins wrote, “According to [Sherman’s high school coach, Keith] Donerson, eight players from Sherman’s graduating class earned scholarships to Division I schools, several of whom had walked into the coach’s office at one point or another to ask, ‘How do I get into college? Because if I don’t, Sherm is never going to let me hear the end of it.'”
Keep in mind, Sherman grew up in Compton, Calif., where a college education could mean a ticket out of one of America’s roughest towns. The fast-talking defensive back certainly realized that, graduating from Stanford in three years and capitalizing on his opportunity to attend college while pushing his teammates to do the same. Thanks, Richard.
Special recognition goes to late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for not caring what anyone thought of him. When you mention Steinbrenner, most people think of “The Boss,” the intense, hot-tempered, no-nonsense tyrant of the Bronx Bombers who infamously hired and fired manager Billy Martin five times and led the regimented, militarily-groomed Yankees organization to seven World Series titles.
But not many people think of the other side of Steinbrenner, the one who donated millions of dollars to organizations in New York and Tampa, the home of both Steinbrenner and his team’s spring training.
Each year, Steinbrenner and the Yankees hosted a luncheon benefiting the Boys & Girls Club in Tampa, one of the owner’s favorite charities, and the event raised over $300,000 annually. He founded and funded the Gold Shield Foundation in seven Florida counties and the Silver Shield Foundation in New York, which provide aid to the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.
That side of The Boss isn’t always what comes to mind at the mention of his name. But for those of us who grew up in Tampa and New York, we know a hard exterior doesn’t always mean a hard heart. Thanks, Mr. Steinbrenner.
And thanks to everyone else in the sports world who visits the troops instead of spending a night in jail, who donates to cancer research centers instead of buying drugs, who helps make a difference in the world instead of contributing to its chaos.
Hopefully, one day, you’ll take over the headlines for all the right reasons.

Contact Mary Green at mgreen8@nd.edu
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.