Greg Smith Keynote Speaker

Leadership Expert on Resiliency and Inner Strength – Greg helps leaders and teams “Go Full-Strength!” for maximum productivity.

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Inner Strength insights from the world of sports, disability, entertainment, business, politics and everything else I’d like to share with you.

Monthly Archives: January 2014

Listen to me on “Disability Matters” Radio!

I’ve loved radio my whole life!

I was on the radio yesterday!  I remember my first time ever on the air. I was a freshman in high school, about to broadcast my first high school football game live.  The Downers Grove South Mustangs were hosting the Hinsdale South Hornets in Downers Grove, Illinois.

My father had to make two trips from the field level to the press box.  On his first trip, he carried me up the bleachers and lifted me over the window into the booth.  On his second trip, he carried a big black box containing the radio equipment that would be needed for the remote broadcast.

Time was short.  The introductions had been announced.  The national anthem had been played.  And we still weren’t on the air!  My dad and a few teachers who were working PA and stats bumbled around with the equipment and finally, we had a feed to the studio.  The intro played and my life suddenly changed.

I knew that day that my future was in broadcasting.  I went on to do 4 years of play-by-play in high school, 4 years of play-by-play in college and work at a top news/talk/sports radio station after college.

After 5 years on the job there, I became inspired to combine my radio skills with my experience as a person with a disability and started a radio show called “On A Roll – Talk Radio on Life & Disability.”  The rest of the story is well-documented.

Yesterday, I was a guest on Joyce Bender’s “Disability Matters” show on the Voice America network.  There is something special about a host and a guest bonding, sharing important information and stimulating thoughts with an audience.   I hope you’ll agree that Joyce and I broke new ground in communicating the disability experience to the world.  Take a listen by clicking the image below!

“Racializing” Richard Sherman

Is it ok to be black and root for Denver?

Richard Sherman

By Greg Smith

I’ve never liked Richard Sherman.  I didn’t like him when he caught six passes for 105 yards as a Stanford wide receiver against my Arizona State Sun Devils his junior year.  I didn’t like him when he had three catches for 54 yards against ASU his senior year.   I didn’t like the fact that he kept Brandon Marshall scoreless in the 2012 game against the Chicago Bears.  That Seahawks win cost my team a trip to the playoffs and resulted in the firing of Lovie Smith, my favorite NFL coach.

So when Sherman shot off to the world after the NFC Championship game through Erin Andrews microphone, I did what a lot of Americans did at that moment.  I went to Facebook and posted:  “Alright, I’m just gonna speak my mind. Dear Peyton: Please shut Richard Sherman the hell up!”

That was me, as a fan, reacting to a villainous sports nemesis who had foiled me once again.  We all have our sports villains.  Some of my other NFL villains are Aaron Rogers, Ndamukong Suh, Clay Matthews, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, “Megatron,” and anybody who beats up on the Bears with regularity.  Football is entertainment.  Games are like movies.  As fans, we choose our good guys and villains.  The good guys are the guys on your team.  The bad guys are the good players on the other team.

But I reacted too quickly and with naivety.  I didn’t stop to think about the facts.  I’m black!  Richard Sherman is black!  Erin Andrews is white!  Thousands of racist idiots concurrently Tweeted and “Facebooked” about Sherman, some using words like “thug” and others holding back nothing with blatantly offensive phrases.  Suddenly, I found myself regretting my post.  But the worst feeling came from sadness about my need to regret my post.

What started out as a nation buzzing in response in the aftermath of its favorite pastime, swiftly shifted into a racial firestorm.  I was naive to think that football couldn’t be just about football.

“When you’re a public figure, there are rules,” wrote Greg Howard in his Deadspin column, The Plight of the Conquering Negro.  “Here’s one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can’t be any more than two of these traits at a time.”  Howard goes on to make this point: “Black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It’s been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping. It’s uppity.”

I completely understand Howard’s opinion.  My response:  So what?  I happen to be black, talented and some might say, arrogant.  I also completely ignore those who dislike my self-confidence.  Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, Randy Moss, Serena Williams, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Floyd Mayweather, and Tiger Woods are all black, talented and arrogant.  None of them fell victim to any “plight” or even acknowledged its existence.  I love all those people.  I just don’t like Richard Sherman.

I have a son who plays college football and has dreads sprouting under his helmet.  If my son made Richard Sherman his role model, I would be happy with his choice.  As a scholar, an athlete and a citizen, Sherman is an upstanding example for young people.  His academic accomplishments and his rapid rise to the very top of his profession are undeniable.

But as a football fan, I don’t like Richard Sherman.  I hope Peyton Manning shuts him up.  The people who posted racist comments in response to his interview are like terrorists and we can’t let the terrorists win.  Guess what?  Racism exists.  When it rears its ugly head, we don’t have to dignify it with a response.  And we definitely don’t need to shine a spotlight on it brighter than the lights at the stadium.  Let’s look at this like football fans and not react like gasoline exploding at the slightest spark of hate from the weak-minded.

The “conquering negro” doesn’t care what racists think.  There is no plight.  Responding to racists is not a cross I choose to bear because it serves us not.

Do your thing, Richard Sherman and pay no mind to the hate.  If the Bears made a deal and brought you to Chicago for Alshon Jeffery, an second-year Pro Bowl wide receiver, I would buy the #25 Bears jersey and be excited about what you would do to revitalize the Chicago defense.  But the reality is, until then, you are a nemesis.  I hope you lose this Super Bowl Sunday.

To black Broncos fans in Denver and around the world, and to those like me who just don’t like Richard Sherman, the athlete, the entertainer, the performer, but do respect the man:  You are not alone.  You should feel no dissonance.  You are free to root for Denver without feeling like a race traitor.

I am an NFL fan and I will not allow racists to take away my complete enjoyment of the experience of rooting for and against whom I choose.  Having said that, I still wonder if my “black card” will now be revoked.  What do you think?

 

As a man thinketh… a lesson in self determination.

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“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

By Greg Smith

My father hammered that quote into my skull my entire life.  It stuck.  I didn’t use the same terminology as a parent to my kids, but the main idea made the generational transition.  I told my kids to be the authors of their own self-definition.  “Don’t let anyone’s opinion of you change the way you feel about yourself and your abilities.”

My son Donovan thinketh he is a pretty darn good football player.  He has thought that since the day he putteth a helmet on as a child.

In middle school, he was the starting quarterback and led his team to the championship game.  In ninth grade, he was all district.  In tenth grade, he was the starting junior varsity quarterback and in the spring of that year, he started at quarterback on the varsity team.  He believeth he should have started his junior year but instead, was forced to stand on the sidelines, his talents not utilized at all until late in the season when he was put in at wide receiver.  Of course he shineth at that position.

As a senior in high school, he accounteth for over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing.  He was named to the Sun Herald All-Coast team and had a “highlight” touchdown reception in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic.  But the college scholarship offers didn’t flow as he had expected.  Out of high school, instead of accepting a Division II offer, he chose instead to play at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, improve his game and move on from there to a 4-year Division I school.

At Gulf Coast, his role on the team never really reached the level that he aspired.  He played sparingly as a freshman.  As a sophomore, he started and played in every game, but didn’t get the ball thrown to him much.  He finished the season with 12 catches for 105 yards.

After games, I would have to calm him down and remind him to keep believing in himself.  “What do I have to do?” he would ask me.

“Keep working hard in practice.  Keep a positive attitude and put ‘team’ first.  Keep blocking hard.  Don’t take plays ‘off.’  Stay enthusiastic.  You know who you are, and the truth will one day be revealed.”  It was my weekly, post-game on-the-field sermon.

After the season, only two Division II offers came in.  Should he have accepted one of them?  Perhaps, but Donovan believeth in himself.  In his mind, he is, without a doubt, a Division I talent.  So he called the coaches at the University of Southern Mississippi who told him to enroll in school and come on the team as a “preferred walk-on.”

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He’s not celebrating.  Donovan hasn’t played one down for the Golden Eagles.  He will probably “redshirt” this year and won’t see the field until the fall of 2015.  But for now, his name is on a locker at Southern Miss.  He is a Division I college football player!  And I admire his courage, determination and his belief in himself.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”   I thinketh I’m a pretty proud poppa.