Monday, November 26, 2012


It's easy to become cynical from a sports world that is littered with self-absorbed,
and self-promoting athletes, who in some cases, suffer major wounds to their careers
and reputations because of self-inflicted stupidity.

We see athletes kneel in post-game prayer, giving thanks to the Lord, only to be
arrested later that night for spousal abuse.

Tiger Woods gathers his loving family around the living room for pictures, but as
soon as the photographer says, "we're good," he's off to Perkins for the grand slam
breakfast and a side order of waitress.

And the one incident that pushed me into the cocoon of cynicism when it comes
to athletes, occurred several years ago when former NBA star, Latrell Sprewell said
he was "insulted" by the Minnesota Timberwolves offer of three-year, $21 million
contract because that wasn't enough to "feed his family." Good grief, Charlie Brown.

But for every hundred stories about selfish, out-of-touch athletes, who live in a
fantasy  world most of us never come close to experiencing, there is one that can
wipe the ugliness all away.

On September 26, Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. He had spent 28
years of his life paying his dues as he cris-crossed the country as an assistant coach
for several college and professional teams.

Last January, he achieved his ultimate dream of being a head coach when the
Indianapolis Colts tapped him to be the man to lead them out of the Peyton Manning
Era and resurrect the franchise. However, after just three games, Pagano got
the news that changed the course of his life.

It didn't seem fair that a man who had worked so hard for something and finally
had secured it, that it could all be taken away so quickly. But we all know that life
has never been fair. Bad things happen to good people, and bad people often
achieve great things through their calculating and manipulative ways.  It's life,
it happens.

Pagano went off for weeks of intense chemotherapy, losing all of his hair and a
lot of weight. Doctors say his leukemia is now in remission, but as much as Pagano
wants to, he's not ready to return to the sidelines. There is more treatment to endure
and he's not yet strong enough to handle the every day grind of being an NFL coach,
which demands long hours and strong shoulders to handle all the stress that
comes with it.

Pagano, who is as well-liked and well-respected as any coach in the game,
has spoken to the team and attended a few games. While he is often out of
sight, he certainly isn't out of mind to the players on the Colts, who've dedicated
the season to their coach, playing inspired football at 7-4. Their remarkable
season could end up in a berth in the AFC playoffs.

In a show of solidarity and support for Pagano, 30 players, including star quarterback,
Andrew Luck, have shaved their heads. It was a heart-warming gesture, but it
certainly wasn't all that spectacular. Men shave their heads all their time, and unless
you're really follically challenged, the hair will grow back pretty quickly.

On Sunday, a pair of Colts cheerleaders took the support for Pagano to a entirely
different level. In between the third and fourth quarter, the two women who had
A LOT of hair, shaved it for Pagano and to raise money for cancer research. This
was bold and something to be admired. It was the biggest shave to a woman's
head since Demi Moore got clipped clean in "G.I. Jane". The cheerleaders raised
$22,000 for cancer research. It's not a big number in the grand scheme of things,
but the gesture and commitment to Pagano is priceless.

Pagano might never make it back to the sidelines, that's just the harsh reality
of it. Cancer doesn't lose very often and anyone who has suffered from it or
has seen a friend or family member try to beat it, knows there are never any
guarantees. Never.

The support for Pagano is a real feel good story and it could grow as the
Colts continue their amazing run to the the playoffs. Nobody expected to
see the team rise to contenders so quickly. But they are proving to be fighters
Chuck Pagano has been during the biggest battle of his life. Everyone
is hoping that the Pagano story has a great ending, whether he coaches again
or not.

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