The holiday season is always a good time for reflection. We take a little extra time out of our busy days to think about the things that really matter – family, friends, helping those in our community. In a year where so much of the news has focused on the negative, it’s important to recalibrate ourselves and to celebrate the positive.
We love sports for many reasons – the achievements that occur on the field, the epic battles, the great underdog stories of overcoming tremendous odds to succeed. But ultimately, it’s about more than just what happens on the field. What occurred this year at Penn State highlights the darkest side of sports – when people put winning and “protecting the program” ahead of doing what’s right.
Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is one very vocal example. Tebow’s foundation is teaming up with CURE International to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines, where Tebow was born. He also inspires inmates through jailhouse talks.
Last Sunday, as part of the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Wish 15″ program, he brought in Kelly Faughnan, who’s dealing with tumors and seizures, to watch the Broncos’ game against the New England Patriots.
“It gives her an opportunity to have a good time and gives her a little hope and puts a smile on her face,” Tebow said. “Ultimately, that’s what’s important. As hard as it is to say it, that’s more important than even winning or losing the game.”
For an athlete to make a statement like that may not reflect Vince Lombardi’s values, who famously said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” No one can argue that Tebow doesn’t do everything in his power to win on the field as well, but once he steps off the field, there are other things to think about.
Perhaps no player has as many off the field charity engagements as Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson. Wilson formed his S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation (Save Adolescents From the Everyday Trials of Youth) to give back, and he’s involved in everything from football camps over the summer, to a leadership retreat, to a mentorship program called That’s Life, to food and toy drives through the holiday season. He has twice received the President’s Volunteer service award, but it’s not about accolades for Wilson.
Falcons’ linebacker Stephen Nicholas participated in a Toys-for-Tots event in Atlanta earlier this month. Nicholas said, “. “It was such a special night, and the kids had an incredible time. One kid was crying because he couldn’t believe he was getting a bike. That is the whole reason we do these events. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back.”
Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain hosted his second annual 53 Families Dinner in partnership with The Salvation Army and Macy’s, an event named for both his jersey number and the number of families they feed every year. McClain explained, “It’s a great event. There are so many kids there with so many smiles on their faces. That’s why it’s my favorite event every year, by far.
These are just a few examples of players that really make a difference in their communities all over the league. And as much time and effort as they spend on the field, working to win games and entertain the fans, they work tirelessly off the field as well. It’s a good time to think about what the fans can do as well, to support these efforts or to make a difference ourselves.