Sports and diversity rule!

Let’s talk inspiration.

Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA, signed a temporary contract to play with the Brooklyn Nets on February 23rd, will now remain a Net for the remainder of the season. Collins made a huge statement by selecting #98, in honor of Matthew Shepard and touching off a bit of controversy from the usual cast of blowhards taking to the airways following the announcement. imagesCollins could have skipped the added attention by simply keeping the #46 jersey the team first gave him. But he felt strongly about making a statement by way of tribute to Matthew Shepard. Yesterday, the announcement that the Nets had signed Collins for the remainder of the season proved that he’s first and foremost a talented basketball player, who just happens to be gay.

Onto hockey, where a kick-butt goalie from the gold medal winning Canadian Olympic Team made the jump to the US Southern Professional Hockey League. Big deal you say? Well, hell yeah, because this outstanding goal-tender is Canadian Women’s Hockey star Shannon Szabados, who made history last Saturday night as the first female to play professional hockey on a men’s team. As the net minder for her men’s college team in Alberta Canada, Shannon set records for the most shutouts in a season (5) and lowest goals against average. Szabados downplays the significance of her gender, but there is no doubt about her impact as a trailblazer.

Photo by Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com
Photo by Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.com

When asked if she hopes to advance to the NHL, Szabados says only that she’s focused on her current team. I’ll bet the NHL is keeping an eye on this goaltender with a mane of curls hanging out the back of her helmet. A record-setting goaltender, who just happens to be a woman.

Amy Purdy in SochiAnd did you get a chance to check out the Paralympics? If not, you missed a spectacular display of heart. All I can say is wow. The big news of the games was the US men’s sled hockey team winning gold medal vs. the Russians in a tight 1-0 contest. Marine Corps vet Josh Sweeney scored the lone goal of the game to lift his team to victory. Another fantastic story is Paralympian Amy Purdy, who became a double amputee after a severe meningitis infection at 19. Instead of giving up, Amy doubled down on her dream to be a snowboarder. Purdy is now one of the top ranked US adaptive snowboarders and was instrumental in the sport being included in the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. She won bronze in the inaugural run. Amy and Josh are world class athletes and Olympic medalists, who just happen to be differently-abled.

So, in the flood of over-paid, prima donna professional athletes, who seem to constantly act out or fall short of our probably unrealistic expectations, I thought it would be great to celebrate those who stand out despite all the odds stacked against them. They compete in their sport of choice and succeed, even when the world is telling them they cannot. There’s a great lesson in that for all of us. Even if you don’t have the luck o’ the Irish, grit and perseverance can get you where you need to go. Never give up.

Peace. Thanks for reading.

~LM

Rebound is coming!

Sapphire Books 2014
Sapphire Books 2014

Women’s basketball star Conner Maguire has the world by the tail. She’s at the top of her game, in demand, and life is good. One day the unthinkable happens and her world is ripped apart. That split second event forces Conner to re-evaluate her entire existence. A beautiful warrior with a shattered heart and incomparable spirit may be the key to conquering her fears, if Conner can open her heart enough to see the world from a new perspective.

The Different at the Lammy’s

I was in New York last week for the amazing honor of being a finalist at the Lambda Literary Awards. The nomination, my first-ever trip to New York City, and sharing the company of so many gifted writers, were experiences that I will long remember. Little did I know the most important lesson I would come to learn had little to do with the awards and everything to do with humanity and real strength.

My nephew met Sandy and I at our hotel. He made the nine-hour bus trip to support me and I was thrilled to have him with us. Because we live so far apart, I rarely see Chris, and it’s rarer still that I have the opportunity to observe him simply going through his day. Chris suffered a spinal cord injury as a young child, and uses a wheelchair to get around. He’s luckier than some because he has the use of his upper body, but still the simple act of traversing a city block is a challenge that I had never realized until spending the day with him. I lost track of how many times the ‘cuts’ in the corner curbs, designed to be ramps for the disabled, were blocked by piles of garbage, parked cars, dumpsters, or even clueless, able-bodied people oblivious to his attempt to cross the street. I was appalled at the number of businesses in the city had only stairs to access them. It made me angry for him. On more than one occasion, I watched taxi drivers look directly at him, his arm raised to hail them, and they drove right by. They made my blood boil.

And then I realized something amazing. Chris was always smiling. The injustices I witnessed and reacted to were things that I guess are commonplace to him. He noticed my irritation and said, “It’s okay. I’m used to it. We just do the best we can; either figure out a way around the problem—or not.” From that moment, I began to watch in wonder at the positive way he interacted with the world around him. He always sought the bright side of everything, and it’s true what they say about getting what you give. I noticed that people around him responded to his positive outlook and beaming smile. I had always known Chris was an athlete and motivational speaker, but to see the way he interacts with everyone he meets was incredible.

At the Lammy’s, Chris made more than a few new friends. To think I had been worried he would be bored at an LGBT Literary event. Ha! Even there, he made easy connections. In his wise way he drew a correlation between the biases endured by LGBT people and those with disabilities. He related a story to a group of attendees about how he’s often told by religious people that they will pray for him. “Pray for me?” Chris said. “What they’re saying is that I’m damaged or unworthy.” How many of us have gotten a similar message because we’re queer? Chris instinctively understood the parallel. “We don’t need their prayers to be fixed, there’s nothing wrong with us.”

Then author Nicola Griffith took the stage to accept her Outstanding Mid-career Writer’s Award. Her words summed up what I had yet to analyze:  “I’ve spent my whole writing life feeling like a stranger in a strange land: the foreigner, the cripple, the queer. But tonight this award says: You belong here. We value who you are and what you do. We see you, we know you, you’re one of us.” Chris squeezed my hand and I realized that was what has really bonded us. Although I’ll never know the difficulty he overcomes daily, being one of the different is the shared experience that makes us the same.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that true of everyone?

Peace~LM