The pro football hall of fame is one of the most coveted and revered accomplishments in the modern era. This fraternity is so exclusive that only 267 men have been inducted over its entire history. As a fan, analyst, and critic (kritik) I was transfixed on the speeches of Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, and Deion Sanders. Of course the other inductees had compelling stories too but these guys stood out amongst the other 4 inductees. I’ve heard several moving speeches in my lifetime. Jim Valvano’s acceptance speech for his ESPY award in 1993 sticks out in my mind because even at death’s doorstep, he urged us to never give up. Jim Kelly’s speech hall of fame induction speech was equally riveting as he cited his son as a much bigger hero than himself.
Those seminal moments even had to take a backseat to what these three men told us last week. Our society has become fixated (to a large degree) on athletic achievement while putting on the back burner the everyday heroes that really make it possible for any of those 267 men to be called hall of famers. Did Faulk, Sanders and Sharpe mention the people that molded them in their speeches? REPEATEDLY!!! However it still seems as though that throughout their speeches most of us will remember their accomplishments rather than recognizing the everyday people in our lives that create the people that we overly celebrate.
Deion Sanders told us that if our dreams was just about us then what was the real purpose of the dream? Marshall Faulk talked remembered how his brothers, father and coaches advised him in ways that propelled him to be the man we saw standing on the podium. Shannon Sharpe never forgot the values of family and what it really took to make something out of nothing when given the opportunity. Our society must take the words of these great athletes and spread them to every poor community be in urban ghettos or rural slums that exist all over America. Obviously these men didn’t just “pull themselves up from their own bootstraps”.
They had people serve as a guide to their lives like the famous Indian explorer Sacajawea did for Lewis and Clark. We’ve heard many conservative voices of all hues tell us that the boot straps theory (as I like to call it) was the key to the success of these men. The transformation of Deion Sanders didn’t happen overnight but it started with his mother putting him in youth sports outside of the Fort Meyers, Florida ghetto. Love or hate the early Deion Sanders all you want but our society gave birth to him. In his speech he said he did it for his mother (all the bravado and characterization that came with being “Primetime”) which is plausible but one must look deeper. It was really the shame of being the ugly kid in school. It was the sting of your mother not having the proverbial “good job” that his other middle class peers had.
The most important lesson that many self reliant disciples willfully ignore is that a community is only as strong as it link to each other. Our country started out torn apart by class, race and many socioeconomic dynamics that many social scientist acknowledge. These three legends speeches told us that the socialism that many on the right tell us is “evil” is the very fabric that is germane for our very survival in 21st century America. Community involvement, team work, and charity(translated love) coupled with personal responsibility is the synergy needed to eradicate the deep seeded poverty and despair that has been associated with many Americans for generations.
So instead of scoring a Deion Sanders autograph, I’d like to meet his high school coaches and teachers. I want to bask in the glow of their unwavering love and support as a guide in the life of a Deion Sanders. I want to meet the football coach that told Marshall Faulk that he’d be better suited as a 5’9 running back instead of the pre-cursor and shorter version of Allen Iverson. It would have been a real pleasure to have met Shannon Sharpe’sgrandmother because she was truly the catalyst behind the success of two brothers who played football at its highest level.
Let’s try and get back to the basics of building strong communities. The focus needs to change on the challenges in front of us versus how things used to be. Now the strategy must be how do we impact the lives of children in all communities, regardless of its a single family or two parent home. Life, like football is a game of adjustments. Sadly we haven’t followed in taken a page from the game of football.