Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Can you we not see greatness anymore? Perhaps, in this Twitter, Facebook, iPad, and iPhone
world we are just too distracted to truly appreciate it. Maybe we don't even care about because
we've seen the great ones like Tiger Woods and Brett Favre create such personal messes that it's overshadowed their personal achievements. And we all know that athlete who's been anointed
as the next best thing, is just a failed drug test away from being insignificant.
But why is it that when the greatness of Derek Jeter smacks us in the face, we don't see it?
DerekJeter has done everything right in a sports world where most athletes are on the bad side
of wrong. Scandal has never met him, a bad attitude has never arisen, and his first class has
never changed it's status. He is everything a great athlete should be. He is a person that nearly
every parent hopes their child emulates and morphs into.
One of the marks of true greatness and character is how you act and react when things have
gone bad. How does a person handle being criticized and doubted? Last year, the Yankees captain
got off to bad start and people not only dug his grave, but threw dirt on him, as well. Forget about
the five World Series rings and .313 career batting average, Jeter was done, washed up, and ready
for the glue factory. Yes, Jeter was overmatched early on and it appeared his bad speed had
vanished quicker than "Linsanity". But the last time I checked, the back of a player's baseball
card doesn't say, "He was hitting .218 on May 21." It's what you hit for the year.
Through all the negativity and criticism, Jeter didn't get frustrated, rattled, or throw a hissy fit.
Come to think of it, have you ever seen Jeter throw a helmet, break a bat, or shout profanities
in the dugout after striking out? Me neither, because it's never happened in his career. He just
kept working and grinding and didn't let doubt or the critics break his will or focus. After Jeter secured his 3,000 hit on July 9, he hit .342 for the rest of the season to finish with a .297 batting average. A lot of players in baseball would love to have a "bad" year like that.
This year, when his birth certificate says he'll turn 38, Jeter has gotten off to a blazing hot
start. There are no calls from Vinny in the Bronx suggesting the Yankees to trade for Troy
Tulowitzki. Mike in the car is not railing about the slow bat speed of Jeter. The "experts"
on the phone lines have gone radio silent. Jeter hasbeen all but silent. If would be easy for him
to say, "Who's washed up, now?" Or ignore all the reporters on the Yankees beat for starting to
write his obituary. But that's not Jeter. He's 100 percent class and has always had it figured out but
doesn't let everyone know that he does.
There is no one is sports like Derek Jeter. Tim Tebow, like the Yankees shortstop is a man of
great character, but he doesn't and never will, have Jeter's greatness athletically. He will never
win five championship rings or be a hall of famer. Lebron James? He makes all the right moves
on the court, but all the wrong ones off it. In a Metta Peace World of bad characters and even worse behavior, Jeter is all that is right. Appreciate true greatness. It might come in spurts, but nobody
will be able to sustain it on and off the field like Derek Jeter has, for a long, long, time.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
This will be the first and last time you'll probably ever read the name of Anton Deiters in a sentence. He's not on any list of Forbes nor is he a talentless wannabe actor on one of the million reality shows that poison and flood the airwaves. He's never signed a pro contract or picked up a medal for finishing first in an Olympic race. Anton Deiters is a 72-year old man who lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut that just happens to be my new hero.
On a sweltering day in Boston last April, Deiters, who was born in Holland, finished the Boston
Marathon in just over 5.5 hours. That's not really a great time for an avid runner, but for someone who is 72-years old, it's pretty remarkable. More shocking and amazing, Deiters completed the
race less than eight months after flat-lining during a field hockey game in Scotland.
That's right. A 72-year old man was participating in a senior-senior game of field hockey. How
great is that? The guy is running around with a short stick chasing around a ball with players
who are 60 and older.
At halftime of the game, Deiters collapsed in the locker room. He suffered a heart attack and was
gone. No heart beat. Dead. The fat lady had sung. But the paramedics re-started his heart with a defibrillator and took him to the hospital where he was put in a medically induced coma. Deiters
recovered and walked out of the hospital but he wasn't about to quit living just because he had
The former banker and lawyer slowly but surely got back to doing what he loves and that's running
marathons. He had done 25 of them in his career before the heart attack, competing in a lot of them
all over the world. In 2010, at the ripe old age of 69, Deiters ran the Zermatt Marathon in Switzerland, which was basically 26.2 miles UP a mountain. It took him 6:29 hours to finish,
which came just three days after he scaled Matterhorn, a significant mountain near the one he was going to try to run.
Deiters ran his first marathon in New York City in 1976 when the organizers reconfigured the
race to go through the five boroughs of the Big Apple. Deiters was hooked. He said he runs
"anywhere, anyplace, at anytime". He's like Forrest Gump in the movie, "Forrest Gump". Deiters
just keeps running and running until he decides he doesn't want to run anymore.
After suffering a heart attack at age 72, Deiters could've decided that enough was enough. I mean,
there comes a point when we know when to say when, and put the running shoes away, right?
Not Deiters. He knew there was plenty left in the take and felt that life is meant to be lived. No
fear, no limits, no time to quit doing the thing he loves to do.
Deiters set a goal to run the Boston Marathon to prove that he could come back from his heart
attack and to show everyone that it would be he who decided when enough was enough. He ran
8-9 miles every other day and incorporated speed and hill work into his regime. Keep in mind
that he's 72-years old! 72!. Deiters, who was one of 11 children, warmed up for the Boston
Marathon by running in a half-marathon in his home state of Connecticut. No problem. He
finished in just over two hours.
When the Boston Marathon came around, forecasters predicted a brutally hot day for the
runners who would try to run 26.2 miles through the suburbs and streets of Boston. Officials
urged many people to come back next year, offering deferrals, which had been unheard of
in the country's oldest marathon. 3,000 entrants didn't even bother showing up. Running 26.2
miles is painful enough, trying to do it with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees is flirting
Deiters was unfazed. At 72-years old and coming off a heart attack, he didn't blink. He had
worked too hard and overcome too much to have a little heat prevent him from accomplishing
his goal. Deiters didn't win the race but he conquered the course and the inner demons that
often prevent many of us from fulfilling our true potential. He passed many runners who were
overcome by the oppressive temperatures and waved good-bye to all fear and doubt that may
have started to seep into his psyche.
Deiters completed the first marathon of his "second life" in 5:37:51 seconds. That's a very
respectable time for anyone, not to mention a man who is 72 and just coming off a heart attack.
He is living his life his way. There are no limitations or excuses in Deiters' life.
Anton Deiters is my new hero.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
When news came down on the UNC Baseball Facebook page that Grafton Garnes had
passed away, there was a collective gasp among all former Tar Heels who had the
opportunity to be around the longtime equipment manager. Garnes was a beautiful person,
the kind that you always remember long after you play in a North Carolina uniform.
We dealt with Garnes nearly every day for four years. He was the first man we saw when
we came in for practice or a game and the last one we saw when we left. Every player
would sack and pin their baseball undergarments in a fish net bag and send it down the
chute where Garnes would collect and wash them. He'd always have our gear and
uniform cleaned every single day and at UNC, it was almost 365 days a year, or at least
it seemed that way.
Garnes, who fought for our country in Vietnam, was cooler than the other side of the
pillow long before Stuart Scott, another Tar Heel, started screaming that phrase and
"Boo-Yeah" for ESPN. A tornado could blow through Boshamer Stadium and he
wouldn't be phased. Reggie Jackson and the New York Yankees once played a series
at UNC, and it wouldn't be surprising if you heard Garnes say, "Yeah, so what?"
Grafton Garnes didn't say a whole lot, but when he did, it was something thoughtful
and usually funny. UNC baseball during the 1980's was the Bronx Zoo South, a collection
of characters who were wild, funny, self-absorbed, and in some cases, just flat out crazy.
Garnes was often the most mature adult at the stadium, a man who didn't get caught up
in the ridiculousness that was often created by the leader of the program, Mike Roberts.
Every day was like a reality show with a cast of talented stars whose personalities
were bold, humorous, abrasive, and some that were unlike any that we ever experienced
before or after we left Carolina. But not Garnes. He was as steady as a cruise liner in
the ocean. He rarely went off course. Never too high, never too low. Oh, there were a
few times when "G-man" as the players liked to call him, let his guard down and let some
steam off, but that was certainly understandable when you had to work in that environment
day in, and day out.
As quiet and as invisible as he seemed to be, players may have thought Garnes didn't
hear what was being said, but he always was listening. Players may not have thought
Garnes was looking, but he always saw them. Always. Garnes was just so cool and so
unaffected by anything. He didn't care if you were the star of the program like
BJ Surhoff or the ball boy, he treated everyone the same.
There were times that I'd look at Garnes and say, "Can you imagine the things that
this guy has seen and heard in his years with Carolina baseball?" The man could've
written one helluva book. But that wasn't his style. He didn't spew gossip or talk behind
anyone's back. He didn't get caught up in the politics of the program, and if Coach
Roberts demanded something without showing him the proper respect, Garnes just
took it all and kept his trademark cool. But we all knew what he was thinking, "I could
break this little man in two and he wants to talk to me like that?"
Everybody loved Grafton Garnes, everybody. There wasn't one player who passed
through Boshamer Stadium who didn't admire and respect Garnes. If you can find
anybody to say something bad about Garnes, they'd be the first. Grafton Garnes was
special, as much as part of UNC program as Surhoff, Walt Weiss, or Scott Bankhead.
I, like everyone else who put on a Tar Heel baseball uniform, will never forget Garnes.
Never. Rest in peace, G-man, you'll be missed.