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