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Good Guys Do Finish First. Even if Overshadowed by the Worst.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

Beamer, Benz or Bentley? Mazda.

So this week the Baltimore Ravens finally released Ray Rice for literally knocking the flipflops off his fiancée in a casino elevator (and TMZ became a reputable news outlet).

This after months of other NFL suspensions for pot, PED’s, and a little Percocet promenade by a team owner. NOT to mention Roger Goodell et. al. imposing sentences for these infractions that would give you whiplash (2 games-4 games-6 games-8, what don’t fans appreciate? Arbitrary penalties, that’s what.)

So for some relief, I asked my Facebook friends to tell me their favorite football players—no, any athletes—who demonstrate the good, honest, charitable side of sports–and just human nature. And they delivered (pro wrestlers! Woot!).

By the way, I’m focusing only on the fellas here, not because women athletes don’t have legal issues (Hope Solo, come on, honey), but it’s the gentlemen who have dominated the police blotters of late.

So here, in no order, are just a FEW gallant guys who are using their athletics platform (or just plain old good hearts) to make the world a place of shiny, happy people holding hands, not punching women with them:

Grapplers Giving Back
The longtime WWE favorite “Mankind,” Mick Foley, now donates hours lobbying against sexual assault with the group RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). John Cena has granted more than 400 “wishes” for the Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation, making him the current record holder.

Stop or I’ll Shaq!
Countless NBA players have or support charities—James, Jordan, Battier… But as the kid of a homicide detective, I find it quite touching that Shaquille O’Neal has applied to become a reserve police officer in Doral, Florida—a job he did once before in Miami 2005. That’s 7-1, 325 pounds of serving and protecting.

Feel-Good Football Players
I’ve written before about St. Louis’ Scott Wells and his three adopted Ugandan children. Now I have to give a nod to my Redskins, particularly Darrell Green, whose name was mentioned a LOT today. Not only an amazing athlete and Hall of Famer—maybe the best the nation’s capital has ever seen—but a true philanthropist, founding or supporting children’s charitable organizations, September 11 relief, education efforts and numerous boards and councils.

That said, I find running back Alfred Morris pretty awesome just for driving, still, his 1991 Mazda 626 that he bought for $2 from his pastor. OK it’s been fully restored, but it’s nice to see a player keepin’ it real.

Many friends like Holly Peterson Linder and Michelle Burstion Young pointed out not just one player but the entire Bengals organization not only for keeping defensive lineman Devon Still on the practice squad after being cut, but donating all proceeds from the sales of his jersey to pediatric cancer research. His daughter Leah is in Stage 4 with a 50-50 chance of survival. The good news is at this time his jersey is the highest selling Bengals jersey ever.

Don’t Mess With Widows
As for hockey, a classic name came up today. Mark Messier has served on a number of boards, including the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, and the Tomorrow’s Children Fund, as well as helped bring more ice rinks to the city. The NHL created the Mark Messier Leadership Award in his honor.

But most important, says my friend H. Paul Brandes, “Leading the Rangers to their only Stanley Cup in my lifetime should be considered a charitable act in and of itself.”

Children’s Home…Runs
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw received rousing votes today from Vin Scully cousin Patti Shea and others, and it’s easy to see why. He and wife Ellen raised money to build an orphanage in Zambia and he recently hosted a massive ping pong tournament on the field of Dodger stadium as an ongoing part of “Kershaw’s Challenge.” He has already received the Roberto Clemente Award and the Branch Rickey Award for his humanitarian work – Cy Young is probably next, for, you know, like garden variety pitching and stuff.

The Phillies’ Chase Utley and wife Jennifer work closely with animal causes like the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and encourage people to adopt pets, not buy.

The Rays’ Evan Longoria is a downright superhero here when he saves a reporter from a stray ball.

I also still love how the Mets’ Daniel Murphy missed opening day this year for the birth of his son, despite some announcers’….different (dumbass) views of paternity leave and C-sections.

And finally, my friend Jeff Jackson sums it up: “Real athletes don’t tell everyone the good things they do, they just do it! Derek Jeter!”

Yes indeed, Shortstop, Number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

PS – some of the honorable mentions today: Tiger Woods; Ole Miss’ Deterrian Shackelford; Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf; Brandon Marshall; Russell Wilson; Warrick Dunn; Caron Butler; Andrew Luck; Mary Lou Retton; Joe Torre; Albert Pujols; Serena Williams; Ryan Zimmermann; Ted Williams; Stan Musial; Mario Lemieux; Jacob Tamme; Brett Keisel; Kenny Perry; Vincent Lacavalier; Brooks Laich; Nicklas Backstrom; and duh…OVIE!

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A Sports Poet and I Didn’t Know It…

For today, a little bit o’ verse to sum up last week’s biggest headlines:

I'm here, I'm queer, and I'm gonna make you wish you'd never picked up a football.

I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m gonna make you wish you’d never picked up a football.

Duke beats Syracuse when Coach Boeheim is sent away

Michael Sam’s football prowess overshadows being gay

Jason Collins, also gay, returns to play in the NBA

(Could it be we’re FINALLY seeing opinions on this issue sway?)

American hockey teams are sad Olympics reach final their day

With round-one knockout, Ronda Rousey makes Sara McMann pay

Dale Jr. wins Daytona (and sends first-ever tweet!) after rain delay

And a career-best win for adorable Aussie golfer Jason Day!

Happy Monday! Remember, the Olympics may be over, but pro hockey is BACK and baseball spring training is starting up! WOOT!

High Five Headlines: A Crap-Ton of Football. And a Little Men’s Figure Skating.

1–Like most kids, I was a very logical little girl. So I never could understand why our U.S. service academy football teams always seemed like sort of an afterthought. They were America’s smartest, bravest, and fittest young men, weren’t they? So why didn’t we see them in the sports headlines, like, every single day? I didn’t grasp that the academies don’t have as much flexibility in recruiting like other schools, and these soldiers were also tasked with the tiny burden of defending our country and that football might not be their top priority.

Can somebody help me up, please?

I’ve fallen since last season, and I can’t get up. (No, really, lil’ help here?)

Except for one day a year—the annual Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia, when the U.S. Military Academy and the Naval Academy square off in what is considered by many to be college football’s greatest rivalry. Unfortunately, the last decade or so, it really hasn’t been. Navy has won every year since 2004, including Saturday 34-7 over an Army team that has averaged fewer than three wins a season since 1998. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds set a Division I record for quarterbacks when he rushed for his 29th touchdown of the year and will lead the 8-4 Midshipmen to the Armed Forces Bowl against Middle Tennessee State. As for Army, well at least they will always be our heroes, long after their football careers end.

2–Speaking of struggling programs, I usually try not to focus on my local Washington Redskins, but they were the NFL’s top story last week, so…

OK, so Coach Mike Shanahan “shut down” quarterback Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season, ostensibly to rest the knee he blew out in last year’s playoffs. He won’t play at all, while backup Kirk Cousins has taken the helm. RGIII was literally in the national sports news every day the last year—fans and non-fans alike wanted to see the affable, witty, Subway Sandwich-loving Offensive Rookie of the Year return to full strength. He did not. Challenged by his knee, a weak defense and a shaky relationship with Shanahan, RGIII’s sophomore year was middling at best, with a bunch of icky stats I don’t even have the heart to go into.

Then there is the Family Shanahan: Coach Mike, who by most accounts seems to be lobbying to be fired so he can depart his Skins losing legacy fully paid. His son Kyle is the offensive coordinator—therefore having a direct hand in RGIII’s performance. Would he be fired too? Or follow Dad if he quits? Or stay on and try to atone for the “RedSins” of the father? To be continued. Wish *I* could authorize a shutdown.

3—Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was named the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner by a landslide Saturday over five other players, including last year’s winner Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron–who I calculate got about 1/16 of the camera time as his girlfriend (you know it by now, say it with me) Miss Alabama Katherine Webb in the audience. Winston thanked his family and coaches ebulliently, noting several times his gratitude for the “truth” being on his side. Winston was cleared last week of potential rape charges from a 2012 incident, and will lead FSU into the national championship game against Auburn January 6. The alleged victim, meanwhile, has had to withdraw from FSU. I’ve said it before—no one knows what happened but the accuser and Winston. There are unscrupulous people out there of both genders. It’s just sad to me that one party is starting a great career, while the other is likely launching one at Taco Bell. But the law has spoken, so we move forward.

4–Sometimes good just isn’t good enough. Head football coach Mack Brown resigned from the University of Texas Saturday, but will stay on to coach the Longhorns against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Texas went 8-4 this year, but detractors still have questioned Brown since the program began declining—despite double-digit win seasons from 2001-2009—after its 2005 national championship. Coaches come and go every year, but if you know “Friday Night Lights,” you have some inkling of what football means to the Lone Star State. Brown’s departure is major news because he has had what is, in his words, “the best coaching job at the premier football program in the country” since 1998.

Another reason football fans’ antennae were up over this one was the possibility of Alabama coach Nick Saban coming aboard, and he’s won the last two national championships. But the hope didn’t last long—Saban signed a deal last week to remain with the Crimson Tide for roughly $7 million a year, a raise of about $1.5 million a year and more than that of most NFL coaches.

5—American 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek will not be able to defend his title at the Sochi Winter Games due to ongoing issues with a torn labrum in his hip. Lysacek hadn’t competed since his win in Vancouver four years ago, but had remained optimistic for Sochi. During his comeback attempt last year, he experienced an abdominal tear, followed by the hip injury, which doctors feared could be permanent if he did not stop.

But in happier news, skier (and Tiger Woods paramour) Lindsey Vonn returned to the snow for practice runs in Colorado this weekend for the first time in the nine days since she reinjured her right knee. She had torn it completely February 5 of last year. Vonn hopes to return to competition next weekend and keep her Olympic hopes alive. She is the defending downhill gold medalist, holds four World Cup titles and is considered the most accomplished Alpine skier in American history.

Hingle McCringleberry. THE Ohio State University. Real vs. Key & Peele Names

key and peele football character bismo funyuns

Don’t you CALL me Bismo Bugles!

Once again Wednesday, my favorite skit-sters Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele delivered, in honor of football bowl season, their lead-up to the annual “East-West Bowl” with the usual curious characters, including a player who speaks in Morse Code and one named for a popular, onion-y snack.

Of course what’s really going on is “Key & Peele’s” gentle skewering of some African-American athlete name choices. But the truth is, black, white, male, female–there are some pretty odd or downright unfortunate sports names out there. So I wonder, can you tell which of these names are real, and which are Key & Peele? (Scroll down for answers.)

And speaking of weird names, you need look no further than some of this year’s bowl games. Famous Idaho Potato? Royal Purple Las Vegas? AdvoCare V100? Think I’ll watch my Key & Peele reruns. OK here we go….

  1. Tyrell Smoochie-Wallace
  2. Craphonso Ja’won Thorpe
  3. Ibrahim Moizoos
  4. Phyllis Mangina
  5. God Shammgod
  6. L’Carpetron Dookmarriot
  7. Jenni Asserholt
  8. Quatro Quatro
  9. Coco Crisp
  10. Ozmataz Buckshank
  11. Dick Trickle
  12. Fartrell Cluggins
  13. Dick Felt
  14. Elipses Corter
  15. Richie Incognito
  16. Nyquillus Dillwad
  17. Dean Windass
  18. Decatholac Mango
  19. Irina Slutskaya
  20. Goolius Boozler

—ANSWERS—

(Scroll down…)

*

*

*

  1. Tyrell Smoochie-Wallace: K&P
  2. Craphonso Ja’won “Cro” Thorpe: REAL. Professional wide receiver for numerous NFL and Canadian teams, currently a free agent
  3. Ibrahim Moizoos: K&P
  4. Phyllis Mangina: REAL. Former Seton Hall women’s basketball coach.
  5. God Shammgod: REAL. Former professional basketball point guard for the Washington Wizards
  6. L’Carpetron Dookmarriot: K&P
  7. Jenni Asserholt: REAL. Swedish hockey player
  8. Quatro Quatro: K&P
  9. Covelli Loyce “Coco” Crisp: REAL. Professional center fielder for the Oakland As
  10. Ozmataz Buckshank: K&P
  11. Richard “Dick” Trickle: REAL. American multi-champion racecar driver
  12. Fartrell Cluggins: K&P
  13. Dick Felt: REAL. Former American Football League defensive back for the New York Titans and the Boston Patriots
  14. Elipses Corter: K&P
  15. Richard Dominick “Richie” Incognito, Jr.: REAL. NFL guard currently on indefinite suspension for harassment of Miami Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin
  16. Nyquillus Dillwad: K&P
  17. Dean Windass: REAL. English former professional soccer player for Bradford City
  18. Decatholac Mango: K&P
  19. Irina Slutskaya: REAL. Russian figure skater and Olympic medalist
  20. Goolius Boozler: K&P

High Five! Jason, Johnny, and James

Happy Monday! This week an MVP reports to court and when good golfers go grumpy in my High Five best sports headlines to discuss with the office, the other half, and the offspring….

1) Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is in some very hot water for allegedly selling autographs, as claimed by an eBay dealer who released photographs of the alleged evidence. Though far from fair–considering how much money the NCAA, colleges and other entertainment entities make off of student-athletes–rules are very clear about the kids selling such merchandise to profit themselves. Whether Manziel will be play this season remains to be seen (I’m guessing he will); as of now he is practicing as investigations continue.

Is it 3 o'clock yet?

Is it 3 o’clock yet?

2) After setting a course record 63 on Friday, Jason Dufner slipped past leader Jim Furyk to win the PGA Championship in Rochester on Sunday with a 2-under-68, despite bogeying the final two holes. The tournament was the last “major” of 2013. The win redeemed Dufner for the 2011 championship, where he lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.

But Bradley still haunts Dufner, with whom he is a buddy off the course. A photo Bradley posted of Dufner sitting slumped against the wall during a youth center appearance has set off an Internet rush of “#Dufnering”–fans recreating the pose (see Golf.com’s gallery here), even brides, bears and Lebron James, who had a busy week himself…

3) The NBA champion Miami Heat’s Lebron James was summoned for jury duty in Cleveland last week, tweeting about how honored he was to be serving his civic duties—although he was later dismissed. The Akron native is no longer Ohio’s favorite son, having departed the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010 in a very public snub to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade for what has become a potential dynasty in Miami. Still, James not only showed up like the rest of us common schlubs, but he reportedly sat in the foreman’s office reading to avoid unnecessary attention—no autographs or distractions (and Lord knows Cleveland has had a few crimes lately), and for that, I salute him.

4) If your husband has a certain gleam in his eye lately, it may be because NFL pre-season has begun. While league teams are currently at their respective training camps, they are also squaring off in games throughout each weekend leading up to the official season start, Baltimore at Denver on Thursday, Sept. 5. The games, though ticketed and televised, really are glorified scrimmages; “starters” may play little if at all, while rookies and lesser-known players get playing time on a real field. With the competition and possible injuries, even at the elite level, no one is ever really safe–only 53 players can be on an active NFL roster once the season begins. Pre-season is when we find out who.

5) After Russia’s parliament overwhelmingly supported a new anti-gay law, celebrities, athletes and activists are speaking out worldwide in protests, “vodka-dumping,” and even calls to boycott the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, as the U.S. did for the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow. It is feared gay athletes and their supporters could be arrested. Still, many (myself included) feel another boycott would punish American athletes, and that our gay team members and those of other countries should enter Sochi with heads held high, forcing Russia to re-examine its human rights policies on an international stage.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has issued a statement claiming that the “highest levels” of Russian government (because that’s going so well for the U.S. lately) promises that gay athletes, visitors, media and the like will not be affected by the law.

“High Five”: A Jockey’s Triumph, Rainbow Gorillas, Goodbye to a Golf Great

I know I say this a lot, but the reason I write this meager little sports offering isn’t home runs and hockey goals, but the stories that stay with you, get you thinking. Or are just uber-cool. Here are five of the best headlines (out of dozens), and some other notes to know for the upcoming week:

1. Higher Power at the Preakness
Kentucky Derby winner “Orb” didn’t take the Preakness, but the real story Saturday was jockey Gary Stevens. Already a Hall-of-Famer, now-fifty-year-old Stevens retired in 2005 with debilitating knee pain and became a TV commentator. But he returned to the track in January this year after struggling with alcohol, depression, and a sense of loss that only racing could fill. Undergoing an intense physical and psychological rehabilitation program last year, he shed 25 pounds and embraced total sobriety. Riding Oxbow, Stevens led wire to wire for the win.

"Rudy" or "Rrrrow"? Either way, he will be missed.

“Rudy” or “Rrrrow!”? Either way, he will be missed.

2. Venturi Highway to Heaven
I admit I had never heard of Ken Venturi when it was announced the golfer had died of pneumonia complications at age 82. Great people die every day, and 82 is a pretty solid life.

But Venturi was the “Rudy” of golf (though quite a handsome devil). He overcame a severe stutter, suffered repeated just-this-close losses in big tournaments, struggled with lasting injuries from a car crash, and endured a years-long slump that would have most people typing up new resumes. Then in 1964, in 100-degree heat and with life-threatening dehydration, Venturi finally won his first major title at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., nearly collapsing in tears of joy and exhaustion. He became a longtime CBS golf analyst and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

PS–2013’s “Congressional” as most call it (officially the “AT&T National,” but I won’t say that until AT&T’s 4G isn’t full of it) with Tiger Woods and his frenemy Sergio Garcia starts June 27.  And on a lighter note, take a look at the video of Belgian golfer Nicolas Colsaerts at the weekend’s Volvo World Match Play, in which his ball lands in, let’s just say, a place that caused some “toilet humor.”

3. Baylor Stars Speak out on Gay Rights…and Wedding Gifts
After years of the speculation that—come on, people, we all do (out loud or in our own minds) about people with certain affectations–Baylor basketball phenom Brittney Griner has publicly confirmed she is a lesbian. Now an alum of the private Baptist school, the Phoenix Mercury WNBA rookie is openly discussing what she feels is the rainbow gorilla in the room of women’s college basketball—don’t ask, don’t tell, just rebound. She claims coaches and other advisors told her not to discuss her sexuality because it would hurt Baylor’s recruiting. More to come in the next ESPN the Magazine.   

Meanwhile, Baylor-star-turned-Redskins-QB Robert Griffin III is getting married July 6, and naturally some fans located his gift registry on Bed, Bath & Beyond. But when the 2013 Rookie of the Year Tweeted a picture of thanks—him standing in front of a mountain of opened boxes—detractors spoke then and did not hold their peace. Obviously a star athlete hardly needs help from the public to furnish a 10,000-square-foot house, so demands for him to return or donate the gifts to charity flooded his phone (as well as jokes—“put a better defense on the registry” said one Skins fan). Whatever he does, I personally want to thank him, at least, for his store choice. As a multi-platinum bridesmaid who once attended a bride registered at Tiffany, a $30 Lazy Susan option is always appreciated.

4. Jayhawks Hatch Fledgling High School Star
Whenever you doubt your kids will emulate you, take heart in this one. The #1 high school basketball recruit, Andrew Wiggins, announced last week he will attend Kansas. The 6-8 small forward (here I demonstrate “small forward” with awkward family photos) can play multiple positions and is as good a defender as offensive player. His father is former NBA player Michael Wiggins, and his mom is Canadian Olympic sprinter Marita Payne-Wiggins. They gave him great athletic genes, but they also ensure he maintains his 3.2 GPA at West Virginia’s Huntington Prep.

But, Wiggins is already a heavy favorite for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like, next year. Which is something to discuss with your kids as this year’s draft starts tomorrow. Should a player be allowed what they call a “One and Done?”—one year of college, then on to the pros? What is the proper balance between money and education? How do you prepare for a future if your original dream fails? Lebron James is doing just fine, and he didn’t go to college at all. But far more professional athletes find that dreams of fame and money lead to bankruptcy, addiction, and worse. Speaking of Lebron…

5. Playoffs Continue on Court, Ice
The Memphis Grizzlies/San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers/Miami Heat NBA matchups are now underway. Winners of the two series will meet for the finals beginning June 6. Sadly, my hometown Grizzlies (key names: Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph) were declawed Sunday 105-83 (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, once married to “Desperate Housewives’” Eva Longoria), but the teams meet again in the best-of-seven series on Tuesday. The Pacers (Roy Hibbert) will meet Lebron’s Miami Heat for Game 1 on Wednesday.

In hockey, the Chicago Blackhawks (Patrick Sharp – or as I call him, “Why Wasn’t HE Cast Cast as the New Superman?”) and the Detroit Red Wings (Henrik Zetterberg) series continues this week, along with:

  • Boston Bruins (David Krejci) vs. New York Rangers (Derick Brassard)
  • Current champions L.A. Kings (Mike Richards – also Hollywood worthy) vs. San Jose Sharks (Logan Couture)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins (Evgeni Malkin) vs. Ottawa Senators (Sergei Gonchar)

Now go forth into this good week and conquer, ladies, knowing that your kids look to you, that no one can tell you how to live your life, and that you can conquer anything if you just Don’t. Give. Up.

Females and Feelin’ Good

That’s why the lady…is a champ. Sorry, gentlemen. As it turns out women are better drivers, can play thrilling basketball, and can whip your butts. Why?

  • Danica Patrick finished eighth in Sunday’s Daytona 500, the highest finish ever for a woman. She was also the first female to lead (five laps) under the green (“all-clear”) flag.
  • Baylor 6-8 center Britney Griner is nearing the NCAA all-time women’s scoring record.
  • Ronda Rousey (known for model looks and a mean armbar) defeated Liz Carmouche Saturday in the first female fight in the UFC’s (Ultimate Fighting Championship) 20-year history.
  • Cheerleader Ashlee Arnau hit a basketball trick shot that has gone viral as the best play of the week. The William Carey University (Hattiesburg, Miss.) senior tumbled into a front-handspring, picked up the ball, and…oh trust me, just watch it.

I feel so good, let’s keep it going with some more feel-good sports stories, followed by a quick summary of this week’s other important headlines.

Kami Wolk clears a jump with "Hurricane Bay." (Kami Wolk/Brant Gamma)

Kami Wolk clears a jump with “Hurricane Bay.” (Kami Wolk/Brant Gamma)

Howard Versus the Hurricane
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Howard, a two-year-old pinto “carriage horse,” was abandoned. Stranded in five feet of water, many of his friends did not survive, despite efforts to float hay to them on boats. Enter Kami Wolk, a professional trainer who drove from New Hampshire to help. She rescued and relocated Howard, who now “events” (jumping and dressage) around the U.S. at one of the sport’s highest levels, under the name (of course) “Hurricane Bay.” Are the Olympics in his future? Who knows? But for now he is safe, sound, and a survivor.

Pint-Sized Point Guard
Julian Newman can dribble two balls simultaneously in and out of his legs. He can lead an offense and averages 12 points, 11 assists and 4 steals per game. He is also 11. The 4-foot-5 fifth grader starts for the varsity basketball team at Downey Christian in Orlando. His dad is his coach, but no nepotism here. Newman earns his keep by draining three’s—and making straight A’s. Check out this video of the basketball boy wonder.

The Sound of Success
Seven-foot-three Andrew del Piero came to LSU on a tuba scholarship, but decided to join the basketball team as a “walk-on.” But he eventually earned a scholarship, despite having played only a small amount of basketball at Westlake (Austin, Texas) High School (Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ alma mater). Now a senior, his stats aren’t all-star, but he certainly has options for future careers. Scroll to the end of this Youtube video to see del Piero in the marching band—and one fan’s prophetic astonishment.

Steven Camara (bottom right) on "Signing Day." (Mark Brock)

Steven Camara (bottom right) on “Signing Day.” (Mark Brock)

Conquering Cancer and College
Steven Camara had big plans for his future—until the Dunwoody High School (Ga.) football and lacrosse player was stricken with lymphoma at age 13. He tried to play while enduring chemotherapy, at times unable to do a pushup or even climb stairs. But cleared to play as a senior, the 6-2, 225-pound defensive end started all 10 games and finished with 30 tackles and a 3.3 grade point average. He has signed to play with (my awesome alma mater) Centre College (Ky.).

Taking on the Taliban
Death threats have not stopped Maria Toor Pakay, a Pakistani squash player now ranked 52nd in the world. Encouraged by her father, the 22-year-old once played sports, even weightlifting, as a boy–until authorities demanded her birth certificate. As her squash prowess grew, so did the danger of the Taliban. She worried for her family, playing in a room by herself while being educated by her father who, along with his wife, taught young women in an underground school. Her efforts paid off, and she was eventually brought to Canada by former world champion Jonathan Power. Now residing in Toronto, Pakay speaks out for women’s rights and aims to be world champion.

Centenarian Runner Retires
101-year-old marathon runner Fauja Singh, also known as the “Turbaned Tornado,” ran his final race this weekend, a 10K in Hong Kong. The British Sikh, known for his turbans and flowing white beard, is a great-grandfather who began running at age 89 to overcome grief over losing his wife and son in quick succession. He could hold the Guinness record for oldest marathon runner (Toronto, 2011), but does not have proof of his 1911 birth. He finished the race in 1:32:28.

Wrestler Respect in Iran
Perhaps more thrilling than “Argo’s” win, last week, Iran welcomed Team USA in wrestling—a sport both countries fear will be eliminated from the Olympics. The Iranians cheered the Americans (mostly—some media interviews were confiscated) with no animosity reported. In fact, Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs was the star attraction. Iran won, but the respect shown by fans and men from both teams truly demonstrated the power of sports to unite, if just temporarily, even the deepest of enemies.

Finally…

Need-to-Know Basis
If you follow nothing else sports-wise, here are just some of the basics from this past week:
• The Miami Heat are really, really, really good.
• The Lakers…not so much. But a funny Kobe Bryant tweet in response to Dallas owner Mark Cuban’s suggestion Bryant be released was “retweeted” more than 50,000 times.
• At least 28 people were injured, none critically, on Saturday during the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona after a multi-car crash took down a spectator fence.
Indiana is the #1 men’s college basketball team; Baylor is the women’s.
#11 Georgetown defeated #8 Syracuse 57-46 in what could be (due to conference realignments) the last meeting of one of basketball’s greatest rivalries. The Hoyas’ Otto Porter scored a career high 33 points.
Oscar Pistorius posted bail.
• A pitch broke Yankees heavy hitter Curtis Granderson’s forearm in a spring training game; he is out for 10 weeks.
• The “NFL Combine” invites college football players (including Manti Te’o of the fake-Facebook-girlfriend scandal) to perform Mighty Feats of Strength and Speed for coaches and scouts. (Oh, they wear spandex and not much else—it’s a women’s version of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Check highlights on daytime ESPN through Tuesday.)
• Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg returned to the mound after a controversial decision to bench him last season to protect his shoulder after surgery.