Jim Valvano’s ESPY Speech Never Gets Old

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Today is a dark day in American sports.  Or maybe boring is a more apt adjective for the day.  You see, today is the only day of the year in which there is no game from any of the four major sports, MLB, NBA, NFL, or NHL.  This happens every Wednesday following the MLB All Star Game, and ESPN, with the marketing juggernaut that they are saw an opportunity.  They decided to put their sports awards show, the ESPY’s, on this night to fill a void and grab some viewers.  The ESPY’s are an award show in the vein of the Academy Awards, and started back in 1993.  And in 1993, the ESPY’s produced their best, and probably only great moment when the magnanimous Jim Valvano gave one of the greatest speeches of all time.

Unless you are a huge NC State fan, you have probably only seen two things about Jim Valvano.  One is his NC State Wolfpack beating the top ranked and loaded with NBA talent Houston Cougars, nicknamed Phi Slama, Jama, for the National Championship in 1983.  And two was his diagnosis with metastatic adenocarcinoma leading to his ESPY speech.  I have posted a video of the entire speech, as well as the most famous excerpt from the speech.

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Watching and listening to the entire speech is definitely worth your time, even if you are already familiar with it.

Play Ball!

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Today is Opening Day (yes, I know that the Astros and Rangers played last night, but that isn’t the same as today) for Major League Baseball and it should be a national holiday recognized all across the United States, since, you know, it is the National Pastime, and even Canada (or at least in Ontario).  Doing so would save many baseball fans like myself a sick or vacation day at work, and would help keep truancy down in schools, especially those in cities where games are taking place.   Everyone that knows me knows that baseball is my ultimate sports obsession, especially the Atlanta Braves, but even if that weren’t the case, today would still be special.  In my mind, Opening Day signifies the beginning of warmer weather.  It means the summer is rapidly approaching and the dreariness of the winter shall be left in the past.  I know some of these early games in Cleveland and Minneapolis don’t feel this way, but that is where I go mentally regardless.  Joe DiMaggio, aka Joltin’ Joe or the Yankee Clipper, summed up Opening Day rather well with the following quote:

You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.

Taken from the Braves Facebook page

Taken from the Braves Facebook page

Opening Day is a day of ultimate enthusiasm.  It is the only day of the year you are guaranteed to proclaim that your team is in first place!   Even Cubs fans that tirelessly cheer “Maybe next year!” for take comfort in seeing their beloved Cubbies in first before some tragedy befalls them once again.  The small market teams in Pittsburgh, Miami (maybe not them thanks to their greedy owners), Tampa, and Kansas City are optimistic today.   Growing up a Braves fan in the 1980’s, I could not proclaim that very much, so I relish it whenever I can, even if the 1990’s did it’s best to spoil, yet humble me.

Pic from MLB's Facebook page

Pic from MLB’s Facebook page

I have only had the privilege of attending one Opening Day game in person in my lifetime (but I have called in sick to watch several others), and that was back on April 5, 2010.  That day also served as my first game at Turner Field (yes, I know that is a terrible admission for a rabid Braves fan).  I live in Memphis, which is Cardinals territory and most of my friends, and even my twin brother are Cardinal fans.  That being said, this was not my first Braves game.  I had attended numerous games at Fulton County Stadium, as well as catching the Braves on the road in Cincinnati and St. Louis over the years.  But I had never seen white home uniforms at Turner Field, so it was great to finally go to the current home of my beloved Braves.  It was a warm and sunny day, and hopes were high.  Despite not making the playoffs the previous season, the Braves had showed some life in 2009 that the 2010 squad was certainly going to build upon.  Highly touted and number one overall prospect Jason Heyward had launched baseballs all spring and won the job of starting right fielder on Opening Day, creating an electricity around the team.  And Heyward did not disappoint, launching a homerun in his first major league at bat!  The Braves thumped the Cubs that day 14 to 2, and contributed to the dismantling of Carlos Zambrano’s career.  Opening Day often sets a tone for the season, and it certainly did here with the Braves and Cubs.  Heyward went on to be an all star and nearly won the NL Rookie of the Year Award.  The Braves won 91 games and the National League Wild Card.  The Cubs lost 87 games and Zambrano was demoted to the bullpen for a portion of the season.  But before the rout on this day, Cubs fans could still hold their heads high and take solace in the fact that they were a first place team.

Hammerin' Hank Aaron throwing out the first pitch 4.5.10

Hammerin’ Hank Aaron throwing out the first pitch 4.5.10

Tonight, starting at approximately 6:10 CST, I will be parked on my couch, watching the Atlanta Braves battle the Philadelphia Phillies as if it is Game 7 of the World Series.  Susan will wish that the season to already be over, and my workout routine will have to be adjusted accordingly.

And three more great Opening Day quote for your enjoyment:

There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness and the National Football League. – George Vecsey, New York Times sports columnist

There’s nothing like Opening Day.  There’s nothing like the start of a new season.  I started playing baseball when I was seven years old and quite when I was forty, so it’s kind of in my blood. – George Brett, HOF 3B

It’s like Christmas except it’s warmer. – Pete Rose, MLB all-time hit king