(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Monday, May 05, 2008

How the Other Half Lives

The sports pages typically cover the victories. They write about successful people, for even those who lose the big game are successful, precisely because they had to have enough talent, drive, discipline and coaching to get there in the first place. The sports pages cover the elite teams and leagues for the most part, and, in the lesser leagues and less-popular sports, those who win.

We don't usually get stories about those who don't make it, those on whom fame's unyielding spotlight shone at a young age, only to have the story not turn out the way it was predicted too when the spotlight first discovered a youngster. Sometimes the kid gets hurt. Others, the kid just doesn't improve, or the kid has bad work habits, substance abuse problems, problems with authority. That's the way it is, we suppose, some make it, others don't, but we don't usually find out what happens to those others.

They disappear, they find other things to do, they shun attention because who really wants to be a part of a "what happened to the guy who was supposed to be great?" story. What's compelling about some -- those who tried really hard -- is that they had a singularity of purpose usually ascribed to those who are very successful. These folks, like those who get the big contracts, are so focused on their craft that they do not want to do -- and sometimes cannot do -- anything else well. Or at least as well as how they played their sport. My big question there is how did you decided to give it up and how have you been able to replace your love of your sport? One day, perhaps, I'll get to write that story.

Stories about those competitors are compelling because those folks tried to maximize their talents, only to find that they weren't good enough. Then there are the folks who just can't handle the attention, who fail to put in the effort that their talent cries out for. The folks whom trouble continues to find.

The linked article is such a story. It's about a defensive lineman from the Philadelphia suburbs who, several years back, committed to Florida State. He never made it to Tallahassee, however, because of a variety of circumstances that demonstrated that the kid had a lot of growing up to do. According to many scouts, he was the best defensive lineman they had seen in 10 years, a sure thing for the NFL. And you know how the story goes, many who go into college as potential NFL starters come out as undrafted free agents. The talent business in professional football, you see, is an inexact science.

But this was no street kid. He went to a very good high school, the son of a single mother of three children, the other two of whom are college graduates. A good, dedicated mother, responsible siblings. But, for some reason, this kid just couldn't shake many distractions.

No, he's not dead, and, no, he's not in jail. He does have some charges pending against him, and he's now playing his college ball at a Division II school in North Carolina, trying to harness an amazing amount of ability into a potential career in the National Football League. It may be a long shot, but quick, very strong, energetic 6'3", 320-pounders who can play are few. He might, just have a shot.

Read the whole thing. You'll find the source of his attempted turnaround compelling, and you should empathize a bit with a kid who got too much attention too soon for his abilities and who just wasn't able to handle the notoriety that went with it.

Makes you wonder, though, for every Chris Long and Glenn Dorsey, how many more Callahan Brights are there?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have the wrong link – here is the correct one:

Two of my boys played lacrosse both with Callahan (when he was at Harriton) and against him (when he was at Glen Mills). I have never seen a person that size run that fast. He was an engaging kid, and just about everyone who has known him is rooting for him to do well with his life, whether in football or in some other endeavor. When I heard he was going to FSU, I was worried about his being in that kind of unstructured program.

By the way, his brother Eugene was a truly great kid who made the most of his ability.


9:20 AM  

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