Friday, February 25, 2011

When Your Back is Against the Wall

(Note: The following is a post by Justin Brown, one of the students in the Sports Information Services class that I'm teaching for the first time this semester. We talked about social media in class on Wednesday. When I asked the 21 people in the class if they had ever blogged, not a single person raised their hand. Well, I got snowed in today, so I decided to cancel class and instead have them try their hand at writing a blog. This was what Justin sent me. Let me know what you think.)

Last week was the three year mark of an event that has been a great learning experience for me and has propelled me in reaching goals in my life. The setting was the 2008 Central District Sectional wrestling tournament. At 145 pounds I entered the tournament ready to stand up to a metaphorical bully that had gotten the best of me for three years. I battled feelings of self-doubt, “Was I really going to fail to qualify for the fourth straight year?” What happened to the freshman phenom that was ranked in the top five in Central Ohio?

In the postseason of wrestling the top four place winners of each sectional advance on to the next stage of the competition. The first three years of my career I had accomplished some great things, but at the same time a lot of people would say that I had underachieved. I missed qualifying to the Central District tournament three straight years, when my talents and abilities were certainly capable of doing far more than that. Each time I missed qualification it set off an emotional train wreck. I can vividly remember the feeling each time, exhaustion, disappointment, on top of breathtaking sobs of tears. Each year my heart was broken on the mat; but I kept coming back.

This year in my senior year I was ready to attain what I set out for at a young age. I felt unstoppable, confident, and unbeatable. Put Hulk Hogan on the mat with me, I didn’t care; I’d whoop him with ease. At least that’s how I felt. I had a first round bye, and then I lost my second match. Are you kidding me? And it wasn’t even to Hulk Hogan either. I fell to the consolation bracket, needing to rattle off win after win, if I lost one more match my career was over, and more sobs of despair were waiting for me. My back was against the wall.

I sat in the bleachers in a mental funk that was surely going to lead me to what I didn’t want to do. I was going to be bullied yet again, for a fourth straight year. Demons of doubt surrounded me and something had to change. My mom was that change, without saying a word she handed me her iPod cued up to a song that I had never heard, but I listen to often now. It was “All These Things I Have Done” By the Killers. I recommend this song to anybody who needs a pick me up. Suddenly I was back to my confident self, ready to string together the best day of wrestling in my career.

Match after match, win after win I began rolling. I had dominated two more opponents as I wrestled the way I needed to. My dad described me as “A man on a mission.” The two wins in the consolation brought me one win away from where I needed to be. This was the infamous “go-to” match. Win and you advance to the next event, lose and you go home. I had already experienced the go home aspect of the “go-to” match in my career, and now I was trying to avoid it again.

I was set to face off against a freshman from Mount Vernon named Jordan Montgomery. As the match got closer and closer I began warming up on the side, bouncing to pick up a sweat and get lose. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blaring from my headphones. I felt calm and confident, I stared at Montgomery as we warmed up, looked him dead in the eyes and thought to myself “He has never been here before, he is a freshman facing a senior, he is more nervous than you.” We walked on to the mat and I thought “Wait your turn; I’ve waited my turn, now you wait yours.”And it began. Six minutes later I yelled out a piercing scream of celebration. Finally I had done it; finally I beat the bully, this time the tears down my face were not from despair but rather joy.

I think of this event often, it taught me a lot about myself, and it has propelled me to do some great things in other goals in my life especially with baseball at MVNU. What a person does when their back is against the wall says a lot about who they are. I thrive on those go for broke moments, I think that is why I love being a reliever so much. You enter the game often times with your back against the wall, and the teams back against the wall. Either lie down and die, or start swinging at the bully. What is the bully in your own life? The time to stand up to it is now. Go for broke.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Social Media Makes a Difference

Wow, talk about being overwhelmed! Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for the way my family, friends, and total strangers have responded to the last blog that I wrote about my grandma and her recent fall. I am truly blessed with the people I’ve crossed paths with, but more on that later.

It was four weeks ago yesterday that I got the phone call telling me that Grandma had fallen. This story could have taken many different turns since then, but I am very pleased to report that things seem to be going as well as we could have hoped. Thank you so much to everyone who read the blog and passed it on to others. I am humbled by all of this.

Two Sundays ago, while most of America was making their last-minute Super Bowl party plans, I packed up the family and headed to Cincinnati to see how Grandma’s rehab process was going. It had been over two weeks since she had fallen and broken her right femur, and busy schedules and bad weather had kept me from making the two-and-a-half-hour trip to see her in person and relegated me to daily phone calls to check in.

Upon arrival, I have to say that I was impressed by the facility that Grandma is in. Chesterwood Village is one of three complexes in the Hillandale Family of Communities. When you walk into the very well-lit and extremely clean entrance, you come to a guest services desk to sign in and figure out where you are going. My two daughters were impressed with the movie theatre, root beer float pub, pet shop, ice cream store, and exercise room. In fact, Ashley (my 9-year-old) uttered this classic line: “Wow, these old people really know how to live, Dad!”

We met Grandma as she was getting out of her church service in the facility’s chapel. After we wheeled her to her room in the rehab area of the facility, she immediately wanted to show off her stash of letters, cards, and other goodies that had been pouring in.

For the next couple of hours while watching the Buckeyes beat Minnesota to remain the nation’s only unbeaten Division I hoops team still at that point, I read through the very thoughtful letters and cards that Grandma had received. Based on our daily conversations and messages that I received from those who had read my blog, I knew that quite a few had come or were coming, but to see them overflowing a basket and then to read through the heart-felt comments was a true joy.

Among the more than 150 cards and letters that she has received, she’s gotten mail from Curves members in 15 different states from coast to coast, Canada, and even England thanks to the fact that Curves posted the blog on their Facebook page. Your notes of encouragement and support have flattered Grandma and lifted her spirits more than you’ll ever know.

She’s also gotten lots of mail from the sports community. The Reds front office sent a card signed by numerous coaches, broadcasters, and players along with a yearbook and hat. Matt Maloney of the Reds sent a ball and his wife wrote a nice letter. Chris Sabo, one of her favorite players from the 1990 team, sent a signed photo. Jim Day, the host of Reds Live on Fox Sports Ohio, also sent a nice card. She got a letter from the Cleveland Indians and an invite to come to a game at Progressive Field when she gets better despite the “minor transgression that she roots for the other team in the state.” The Washington Nationals also sent a note and a blanket.

My sports information family has also done a great job of showering Grandma with cards. I need to especially thank my friend, Shelly Poe, at Ohio State for her help in getting the word out. Thanks to her work, Grandma received a letter from Jim Tressel and an invitation to attend the OSU spring game with a seat in the press box as an incentive to get better. She also got a note and signed book from Dick Vitale.

I know that by listing names of people who have sent cards and letters I run the risk of leaving someone out. My intent was to show how amazing the response has been. Grandma has enjoyed especially the homemade cards and drawings she’s received from children, some of whom she’s never even met. It really has been an amazing response and I know that she waits excitedly each day for the mail to come to see what surprise awaits her next.

Grandma has at least two more weeks to go in the rehab facility. She has been doing great with several hours of rehab each day and is looking forward to the day that she can walk back into her Curves again. She’s also looking forward to eating home-cooked food and drinking piping hot coffee. For those of you who get the opportunity to visit her, there’s nothing she would appreciate more than a hot cup of coffee and a chicken sandwich from the Chick fil-A across the street.

To everyone who has sent cards and letters, I send a big thank you from the bottom of my heart. For anyone who would still like to be a part of Grandma’s recovery and cheer her on from afar, here’s her address through at least the beginning of March:

Olive Mahaffey
Chesterwood Village
8073 Tylersville Road
West Chester, Ohio 45069