Between the almost nightly police blotter on SportsCenter and our very own Cy-Hawk Offseason Misery Index on KXNO, we all hear quite a bit about what degradation the typical, contemporary pampered athlete engages in away from the arena.
Folks often complain to media people like myself that they're tired of reading and hearing about such drivel. Yet viewer and listener interest soars when the personal peccadilloes of sports' superstars are reported. Is the media driving the interest, or is the interest driving the media? That's a little bit like the chicken or the egg question and I don't know the answer.
However, it is accurate to point out that we don't hear enough good news anymore. It is accurate to point out that the media – myself included – put too much emphasis on the fall and not enough on the redemption.
So it is with that in mind this week that I'd like to cite two examples of grace and character that have gone largely unnoticed.
Two weeks ago, Jordan Bishop was just another 17-year old in Libertyville, cheering on his Cyclones. That was until a devastating car crash left him paralyzed and without a father. Now he is a young man facing a tough road after life dealt him one of those hands that we always think happen to somebody else, not us.
While recuperating at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, Jordan has used Iowa State's recent seven-game winning streak as a rare respite from the grief, trauma, and pain. Last Thursday morning Jordan awoke from another night of solitary sleep in a hospital bed, and probably envisioned it would be just another day like the last several. Another day of visitors, well-wishers, and prayer-warriors. Another day of questions, anguish and confinement, with several interruptions courtesy of the doctors and nurses mixed in. Another day leading up to March 1st, when he departs for strenuous rehabilitation therapy in Colorado.
Then something happened that made Thursday morning unlike any other morning beforehand, and probably like few others ever since.
Jordan looked up and saw four men who looked vaguely familiar from afar, or his television screen. Now they were standing in his hospital doorway. They were Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock, John Neal, and Tasheed Carr; four of ISU's "magnificent seven" rotation. On their day off, while balancing the rigors of collegiate academics along with the stress of being an NCAA Tournament bubble team, they each took time out of their busy schedules to visit Jordan in the hospital. According to reports this wasn't just a cursory visit. The quartet hung around for a while to talk hoops with Jordan and gave him an ISU jersey signed by the squad. Stinson even offered up one of his trademark headbands.
I'm guessing that Stinson, Blalock, Neal, and Carr have no idea what impact they had on the future of Jordan Bishop. Heck, I'm guessing right now that Bishop isn't yet fully aware of the impact that visit had on him. And you know what, I'm guessing Stinson, Blalock, Neal, and Carr haven't fully grasped yet what impact Bishop had on them. There isn't anything more worthwhile in all the world then investing in the life of another by freely giving of yourself, even if only for one instant. We are relational creatures, which is why we are to love each other as ourselves.
And the ironic twist of all this is that a took a family tragedy to make it happen. Since the accident folks around Jordan, and maybe Jordan himself, have probably spent some time asking the essential question of justice: why do bad things happen to good people? Can there be any meaning found in a 17-year old losing the full use of his body and his father at such a young age?
And stories like this say the answer is yes.
These stories actually happen all the time. I know that firsthand, because I've been blessed with personally being involved in setting them up before. Often they go unreported in the media for two reasons. First, in my case because the coaches or players who made the visit are worried that publicity will take away from the moment and trivialize it. Second, because in the media we treat these "Hallmark moments" as fodder for TV-movies. They're cliches.
No, the real cliché is the police blotter on SportsCenter and the Cy-Hawk Misery Index. The real cliché is the steroids, drugs, and domestic abuse. Dictionary.com defines the word cliché as "a trite or overused expression and idea. A person or character whose behavior is predictable and superficial."
There was nothing predictable or superficial or trite about what transpired between Stinson, Blalock, Neal, Carr, and Bishop. This was profound. Let's face it, in this world it's not often that a black guy from the Bronx or Boston would have much reason to talk to a white guy from Libertyville, or vice versa. Yet through this tragedy, and the giving of themselves, a real connection was made.
There is at least one cynic reading this who is wondering why I'm not lashing out at the crushing loss to Nebraska yesterday, and thinks I'm just overreacting to an isolated moment of human kindness. That's half right. These moments are often isolated because we are human. The kindness, patience, and selflessness exhibited by these four ISU players is anything but human. I know, because I'm very human and those aren't often characteristics that are easy for me personify, how about you? Unfortunately, it takes tragedies like what happened to Jordan Bishop to make us think beyond ourselves. It's times like these when we take off our humanness and take on the likeness and image of our Creator.
In our humanness it's too easy to worry about what we've got to do, accomplish, and think. In our humanness it's all about us. In our humanness it's too easy to judge just by external standards.
Our opinion of this story is effected by what happens on the court. Last week, coming off the big Kansas win, this story would've been met with bouquets. Had this transpired five weeks ago when the Cyclones were mired in a six-game losing streak that threatened to wreck the season, our admiration of it would've been tempered by our disappointment over the continual defeats. Yet the same Stinson whom I criticized for immaturity and selfishness earlier this season because of his on-court performance is the same Stinson who freely gave of himself in order to offer a little joy to Jordan Bishop in a hospital room away from the court.
I'm not here to beatify these four ISU basketball players for this one act of graciousness. But the next time I go to tear them down so cavalierly because of a basketball game I will think twice about it.
And that leads me to Reggie Roby, my second example. Reggie went from Waterloo East High School to the Rose Bowl. From the University of Iowa to the NFL, where he played in three Pro Bowls and for Don Shula, arguably the greatest coach in pro football history. Along the way he accumulated some modest wealth and fame, but the abundant life is what he'll leave behind.
I knew Reggie well, although it had been over a year since I'd last had the pleasure of his company. Reggie freely gave of himself constantly, which is how I got to know him in the first place. Reggie freely gave of himself to his wife, his six children, his multitude of friends, and his non-profit organization that assisted inner city youths to learn character and value through football and academics. If you can truly tell a lot about a man from the friends he has then Reggie's life spoke volumes.
I'm guessing that in this age of "street cred" there are more Reggie Robys out there than we think there are. And in exchange for permanently retiring the Cy-Hawk Misery Index I'm going to endeavor to spend more time looking for them.
Sweet 16 Seeds
Selection Sunday is just 13 days from today. Here are the teams I think have the inside track on being given the top four seeds in each region.
(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network.)