Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Recap of The Ed Block Courage Awards


The Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet is traditionally rich with stories of inspiration and conquests of the human spirit. Each of those athletes were reached by someone or something that brought them face to face with their touchstone of inspiration and it steered their will to succeed down a path that many dream of yet few follow.

For me the Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet serves as an annual reminder that the NFL is choc full of players who are kind, giving and God-fearing men and that their numbers and significance far outweigh and dwarf the severe inadequacies of human beings like PacMan Jones and Chris Henry and Joey Porter. The banquet offers proof that no mountain can deny the determination and perseverance of a properly channeled will yearning for success.

The players find that determination and strength to persevere from many sources: from their own parents to a college roommate; from financial hardship to the children of Courage Houses across the country like St. Vincent’s here in Baltimore.

For me, my inspiration comes from my Dad. As a mason and eventually a partner in a small masonry company, he struggled to put me through private schools throughout college and always reminded me as I worked with him during summers and through the grueling physical demands of the occupation, “If you learn anything while you are out here, learn that you don’t want to do this for a living.”

Coming from a man who willingly did that every day of his life, it was hard not to allow his generosity and selflessness propel my will to succeed. To my Dad, my friend, my inspiration, thank you.

*****

As for last night’s awards ceremonies, here are the things that I witnessed that I’ll remember and that I walked away with:

Detroit Lions Director of Security Ricky Sandoval: Steve Mariucci with style and class and emotion introduced Sandoval who was given a 4-7% chance of survival after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May of 2005. Sandoval’s attitude – “Well then I have a chance.” Sandoval’s award was the first of its kind. Never before has it been given to anyone but a NFL player. To a man the Detroit Lions believed that Sandoval was their club’s deserving recipient.

Chicago Bears, QB Rex Grossman: No one in the NFL was ridiculed, ripped or criticized more than Rex Grossman in 2006. Despite some rather horrific performances last year, Grossman held his head high, his teammates supported him and his head coach never wavered from starting him despite the massive outcry for his benching. Listening to Grossman last night, it’s easy to see why and it’s hard not to hope for special things for a young man who hardly avoids adversity but instead dares it to stop him.

Jon Ryan, P Green Bay Packers: Ryan learned during training camp that his dad had been diagnosed with cancer. He lost his dad during the season, a man who clearly inspired this young man immensely. Ryan’s dad Bob was involved with abused children and committed his time and energy to support and nurture them, similar to the namesake of this award. Jon Ryan was clearly caught up in a perfect storm of emotion while accepting his award – understandably so and for a moment, his mind went blank and he stood there speechless. Mark Viviano was superb in complimenting Ryan and getting his train of thought back on track. Ryan was extremely humbled by the award and you could feel through his body language and the look in his eyes how desperately he wished his dad could be there for that one moment in time. The rest of us wished exactly the same.

A few general observations…the players almost unanimously wished for more time with the children of the St. Vincent’s Center. I say, “Give it to them!”…The attendance by the recipients was lacking as were the excuses in my opinion for their absences. If any team could stand to use a shot in the public relations arm it’s the Cincinnati Bengals. Yet Carson Palmer was a no-show…Scott Garceau knows his way around the Ed Block stage and he and Viviano should be teamed more often in the future…Rachel Nichols from ESPN was nowhere near on par with her ESPN alums who have co-hosted in the past…This is an annual must for all of you to refill your inspirational fuel tank. If this event does provide inspiration, you are not inspirable.

2 comments :

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the synopsis on the night Tony. What a shame there were no shows. I have attended the event in the past and it can be a tearjerker, especially the footage from St. Vincents. I have been to St. Vincents with Roost 50 and I walk away weepy everytime because I get to leave and those poor kids must stay. Thank God for the Ed Block Foundation!

Anonymous said...

I work at St. Vincents center as a counselor... and I love my job despite how hard it is. It is upsetting to me that not everyone who has the chance can take a few hours out of their day to show up. It means the world to these kids to have these players in their presence. They have never had much... as a professional athlete it should not be hard to give them a little bit of your time to make a big difference. Thank you to those who came and made a difference for the children of St. Vincents who I cherish everyday.