Tag:Jason Taylor
Posted on: April 2, 2008 6:21 am

People Who Care

It’s a character issue.  Professional athletes especially in the NFL, are nothing more then a bunch of thugs.  I’ve heard this characterization, I’m sure you have also.  Perhaps it’s easy to believe this, given the headlines concerning Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson, Tank Williams, Cedric Wilson, Adam “Pacman” Jones and more.  Of course, this is nothing new.  We remember the drug issues with the Dallas Cowboys of the 90’s and the legal problems with the Cincinnati Bengals players.  It’s not uncommon to see a bench clearing brawl in the MLB and NHL.  The NBA isn’t immune from it either, after all, how many times was the brawl during Pacer-Pistons game replayed on ESPN and other sports shows?

Then of course, we have the South Carolina doctor who was arrested for giving athletes performance enhancement drugs, there’s the Mitchell Report and the infamous “spygate”.  Okay, maybe spygate doesn’t need to be there, but it left questions to character.  Even team cheerleaders aren’t exempt from it, given the incident in Florida by a few Panthers cheerleaders a few years ago. 

Okay, let’s admit it.  We love the sensationalism that these stories bring.  Come on, how many slow down to get a glimpse of the nasty accident on the side of the road?  Why did the slow speed car chase with O.J. Simpson make national news?  Why was it replayed and reported on, over and over again.  The media knows what brings in viewers and readers.  They feed our desire for that “dirty laundry”.  Let’s face it, all you have to do is look at the boards on Sportsline and see that some of the most popular threads are the ones that point out the human error. 

I’m not saying we don’t follow the feel good stories.  The relief effort and the volunteerism by numerous sports figures to those affected by Katrina.  Watching the amazing progress that Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills has made since his injury.  We pulled for the Saints to have, at least a good year, during their displacement after Katrina.  Nothing new, Lou Gehrig won peoples heart when he disclosed he had ALS. 

Yet, even these feel good stories tend to get pushed back into the recesses of our memories, or just dumped from it, because soon another story, another incident comes around and we’re eating up these misdeeds, twisting and turning them until we’ve worn them out, then just wait for the next one to come up.  And as we’re feeding on them, we ask ourselves the stupid question of what happened to integrity?  The thing is, that integrity is still out there and is more the rule then the exception.  Yet we focus on the ill-begotten and miss the what goes on every day, outside of the spotlight. 

I had often heard that there aren’t people like Roberto Clemente and Walter Peyton around anymore.  People who care about others, who don’t have the “me me me” attitude.  Interestingly enough, there are more individuals who are like that.  Jason Taylor of the Miami Dolphin’s is one of them.  He’s this years recipient of the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award.  Actually, the exception in professional sports is the thug like mentality and the rule are individuals who give back to their communities.  And the sports “franchises” encourage this.  Why else would the NFL present the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award or the MLB give out the Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award?  Yet it’s often just a small blurb in the news, perhaps buried somewhere on the back of a sports page that gets overlooked, more often in the community section.  It’s only news when there’s an award attached to it.  It doesn’t get much play time, unless, like after Katrina, there’s a national effort.

So why does it matter, why write about it?  Well, it matters to me, after all, I’m not only a big one for activism, but also volunteerism.  I guess where there’s a call or a need to help, I’m there.  I quit counting how many March of Dimes walkathons I’ve been on.  I’ve been a girl scout volunteer, not only as a troop leader but also cookie mom (don’t ask me how I got conned into that one) and recruiter for the girl scouts.  I was at one time a certified Red Cross CPR instructor, then there’s the times I’ve acted as a “hugger” (had to be a hugger, nothing less would do) for the Special Olympics events.  The weekend time at the orphanage in Korea, fundraising coordinator for the United Way, blood drive coordinator, organized a few Toys for Tots events, a toy drive for Katrina victims, and the list goes on.  Oh and now that I’m in shape, will be walking in the local Walk for the Cure for Breast Cancer. 

There’s little recognition that goes with volunteerism, and we do it, not for the recognition but for the ability to help others and how it makes us feel.  So since it’s not done for recognition, why write about it?  Perhaps to offset the negativity that is so often seen in the national media.  Perhaps to remind us that integrity in sports on the field and off the field still exists.  For this reason, I’ll be featuring a Wednesday blog extolling the virtues of past and present sports personalities and their charitable works and volunteerism.  It deserves to come off the back pages, it deserves to be recognized.  It’s not something new.  The Fedex Air and Ground Awards gives contributions to the players favorite charities, as does other awards in sports.  Of course, I am not in a financial position to give out large (or even small) checks to every charity or cause, but I am in the position to give my thank you to these individuals (even if they don’t read them).  This is my thank you to them.

Next Week:  A former Baltimore Raven and current Raven front office person and his struggles with ALS,  a former Pittsburgh Steeler and his haven for abused and neglected boys,  A former LA Laker and his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

Posted on: January 31, 2008 1:02 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2008 1:03 pm

Remembering Sweetness

It will be the biggest day of the NFL year, something that football fans look towards every year.  The final destination of the last two teams surviving.  The battle of the Titans of each conference in football.  Already the media has converged on Arizona as the teams arrived to practice.  A somewhat circus atmosphere has developed with the festivities, with media day, fan day, wheaties day, etc...

Already we're seeing advertisers jockeying for the best spots during the Superbowl.  KFC has already promised a check to a players or performers charity, should they do the chicken dance during the game.    Through the week, we've seen the interviews, the analysis and the side stories that accompany the teams and players involved in the game.  We, as fans, have sat an predicted, who was going to win.  What player would be named MVP.  What Tom Petty was going to sing during the half-time show.  Amidst all the hype and storylines that have been fed to fans by the NFL, teams and media, another process is taking place quietly behind the scenes. 

On February 3d, 2008, not only will we have the final winner of Superbowl XLII, but we will also find out the recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.  Once known as the NFL Man of the Year Award, which recognized and honored, not only a players performance on the field, but also what they gave back to their communities.  Walter Payton, himself, received the NFL Man of Year Award in 1977.  It was after his death in 1999, that the NFL chose to honor the Bears running back and changed the name of the award to the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Four players have received nominations for this award this year.  Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jason Taylor from the Miami Dolphins, Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys and Brian Waters from the Kansas City Chiefs.  Each of these individuals not only have a stellar career, but have given their energy and their backing to projects that reach out to the community or causes they feel strongly about, much like Payton did during and after his career in the NFL. 

As I await the announcement of this recipient of this award, as eagerly as I await the outcome of the game on Sunday, how can I not reflect on the career and life of "Sweetness".  Though I was never much of a Bears fan, I do remember in those games that I've watched, when Payton started his dance, I found myself whispering "run, Sweetness, run".  Many a runningback who has entered the league within the past few years, have sited that Payton was his inspiration.  Indeed, no one could argue how great a running back Walter Payton was. Yet, Sweetness was so much more.  The work he did with underpriviledge and abused children in the state of Illinois.  How he made his battle with a rare liver cancer public to show the dire need for organ donors.  How we saw the pride and love of father and son for each other when he was introduced to the Hall of Fame.  The love of a wife, as she continues to support the causes of her late husband through the Walter and Connie Payton Foundation. 

In a profession where greatness comes and goes, where players and plays become memories and stories of legends, one player is forever immortalized, not just on game field, but to all of us who remember and who will come after and learn of him.  It is fitting that the NFL continue to honor Sweetness's memory and to pay tribute to those who continue on as an inspiration to future players and fans in their works on and off the field.


Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominatees:  http://www.jointheteam.com/press/pr

Walter and Connie Payton Foundation:  http://www.payton34.com/

Walter Payton Liver Center:  http://www.walterpaytonlivercenter.

Past Walter Payton Man of the Year/NFL Man of the Year Recipients:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter

Join the Team: Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award:  http://www.jointheteam.com/programs



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com