Friday, January 25, 2008

These Feet Were Made For Giving

This is one of the best stories this year. Once again, someone proving that even just one person can make a huge difference.
If you don't know the story, please take the time to read about the efforts of Ron Hunter. And the next time your feet hurt from a long day at work, think about how many people don't have any shoes to wear at all.

From news services

IUPUI coach Ron Hunter looked natty in his black shirt and cream-colored vest and slacks, ready to coach the Jaguars against Oakland University in a Summit League game Thursday night.

The only things missing were his shoes.

It was the most visible facet of his campaign to collect athletic shoes for children in need in Africa, something he started a month ago after meeting Samaritan's Feet founder Emmanuel "Manny" Ohonme.

Hunter's original goal was collecting 30,000 pairs. After news of his endeavor started to spread and shoes started coming in, he mentioned he might increase the goal to 40,000, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By tip-off, he had 110,000 pairs.

A crowd of more than 1,000 attended the game at IUPUI Gymnasium -- and some of the students showed up barefoot, in support of Hunter. The school announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had donated 10,000 pairs, with the possibility of more to come. Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based charity, donated 40,000 pairs. Wal-Mart gave 25,000; Nine West, a women's shoe company, offered another 5,200. Converse donated 15,000 during Hunter's appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" on Thursday.

"When we started this I thought 40,000 was going to be tough," Hunter told the Indianapolis Star. "When they told me before the game we already had 100,000, honestly, I almost broke down in tears."

Most of the shoes are being shipped directly to Samaritan's Feet, based in Charlotte, N.C. The non-profit group was started four years ago by Ohonme, a Nigerian whose own goal is to get shoes to 10 million people in 10 years.

"Imagine if every coach would pick a game to coach barefoot and use their influence," Ohonme told The Star. "We'd exceed our goals pretty quickly.

"And we're getting e-mails every couple of minutes from people who want more information or to say they just bought a pair," Ohonme added. "Plus, there's all these high school coaches around the country who say they want to coach a game barefoot."

Hunter, with a fresh pedicure, coached the Jaguars to a 82-69 victory. He's not noted for sitting down during games while he's wearing shoes, and that applied to his shoeless state as well.

"My feet hurt so bad," he told The Star after the game. "But imagine a child or a human going their whole lives without shoes."

Hunter, 43, has said he has been deeply affected by Samaritan's Feet and the mission he's joined, and his players have been touched as well. Some of them are intending to join Hunter this summer, when he flies to Africa to help distribute the shoes. Hunter has said he would like to go specifically to Cameroon, the homeland of Jaguars freshman guard Christian Siakam.

And, according to The Star, a man with no ties to IUPUI has offered to charter a jet to fly the team and the shoes to Africa -- pending NCAA approval, of course.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Black History Refresher Course

I’m writing this post from Dulles International Airport on my way to Eugene for this week’s PAC-10 Hoops games. Oregon hosts UCLA on Thursday and USC on Saturday. Check your local listings for times and channels.

Some of you might be thinking that flying through Dulles might be a round about way to get to Oregon. Well, you don’t know the half of it considering I started this 8-day trip by traveling to Pullman for Washington State’s win over Oregon last Sunday. Frequent flyer Premier Class, here I come!

The reason I came to Washington, DC was to shoot segments for FSN’s presentation of Americans In Focus, a half hour special showcasing some of the most heralded and unheralded figures in African American history. The show debuts nationally on February 2.

I am so proud to be a part of this ground-breaking effort by FSN. Not only is it the first show of its kind to air on our network, but it also takes audiences away from the world of sports and introduces them to those who sacrificed their livelihoods and their lives in the battle for equal rights as well as those who helped shape African American culture.

I consider myself above the learning curve when it comes to the average person’s knowledge of black history, but the preparation for this 30-minute special was an eye-opening experience. Not only did I learn more about the history of my culture, but I gained an even greater appreciation for the efforts of my forefathers.

Black people not only built this country with their blood, sweat and tears, but black people helped shaped the ideals of The Constitution, made remarkable breakthroughs in science & medicine, and set the standard of excellence in the arts.

Besides being thoroughly entertained and educated by Americans In Focus, I hope people who watch the show are also inspired to learn even more about African American history-- especially black people.

It seems as though young African Americans today either don’t know or don’t care enough about their past to carry themselves in a more self-respecting manner. We see it everywhere from kids running to the back of the bus or the classroom to grown men and women dressing like they just got out of prison or are on their way to be an extra for a taping of The Wire.

Rosa Parks did not go to jail for Rodney and Tanya to sit in the back of a bus.

The "Little Rock Nine" did not risk their lives in the face of blatant racist terror so that Monique and Jamal would sit in the back of a classroom.

And 300,000 people did not march on our nation’s capital so that Shawn and Celeste could walk around looking like common street thugs.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated during his I Have A Dream speech: “Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”

We should have a greater sense of pride. Our ancestors deserve better.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Long Time No Blog

Sorry, I've been away for a while, but life has its ways of corralling you sometimes. Between work, traveling for work and pleasure, and doing chores around the house, blogging time ends up being a bit scarce. But who wants excuses, right? You want a blog, so here it is.

By the way, thanks so much to everyone who has sent me feedback on my posts. All of them have been favorable and I greatly appreciate it. Keep 'em coming!

Okay, let's get this catch-up post rolling. Since so much has happened since my last post, I'm going to just drop a few notes on several topics instead of writing long posts about everything. Plus, who wants to hear me ramble anyway?

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1) Roger Clemens: Sorry, future and deserving Hall of Famer, but you are LYING! As I stated earlier, I have suspected Roger Clemens of using some type of performance-enhancers for quite sometime, and the testimony of his former trainer, Brian McNamee just reaffirmed my thoughts.

The funny thing was when Clemens, in his usual bullying style, played the tape of his phone conversation with McNamee at the news conference following his 60 Minutes appearance. Did he really think that fake-ass phone call would make him seem less guilty? Does he really think people are that stupid? Never once did he ask McNamee why he lied nor did McNamee apologize for saying something that wasn't true. He was nothing more than a man who was sorry for selling out a friend by telling the truth. He let Clemens down by not taking the bullet for him-- that was his crime, not lying.

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2) Pacman Jones: I'm not about to guess whether the latest allegation about him punching a woman at an Atlanta strip club is true or not. I just don't understand why this man keeps going to strip clubs. Can't he "make it rain" at home?

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3) UCLA Hires Rick Neuheisel: He definitely has the charisma that is needed in the backdrop of Hollywood. His X's & O's skill on the offensive side of the ball might be as good as anyone in the college game. And keeping DeWayne Walker on staff as defensive coordinator will help him salvage one of the program's best recruiting classes in recent memory. I just hope he's true to his word about learning from his past mistakes. It would be a shame to bring embarrassment to his alma mater and to those who put their reputations on the line for him to come back home to Westwood.

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4) Patriots Complete Perfect Regular Season: I will be the first to admit that I thought there was no way New England would actually run the table and post a 16-0 record. The level of play in the NFL is at such a level each and every week that one lackluster game during the course of 17 weeks is more of a certainity than a possibility--something we nearly saw when Tom Brady and company needed a last-minute rally to beat the Ravens.

But having said all of that, their feat was nothing short of perfection. From the way they played and often dominated games to their handling of the pressure and constant questions about the streak throughout the latter part of the season was pure textbook.

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5) Britney Spears: Finally, would someone please help this poor child? I mean, seriously, this girl is freaking crazy. From her pantiless car exits to her public meltdowns, Brit is in serious need of professional help.

It's been said that money, power and/or fame do not build character, but rather reveal it. Something we are readily discovering from a teen idol raking in $700,000 a month just from interest on her pop music fortune. Hollywood is not for everybody. She should get out while she can.