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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.

Tag Archives: National Football League

“Boo-Yow” Must Live On!

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By Greg Smith

As I mourn Stuart Scott’s passing, I wonder if there is any closer connection in the media then that between the average fan and the favorite sportscaster.

The sportscaster is our buddy who goes to all the games and tells us the inside scoop. Their message arrives every day as a constant in our lives giving us the good news or bad news, depending on who we root for. Each does so with unique style and personality. Many of us force our way through the newscast because we need to stay informed, but we reward ourselves with the sportscast. And because of the joy they bring, just by the nature of what they do, we become connected to the sportscaster.

In my house, the voice of the sportscaster is the most prevalent reverberation booming from my surround sound daily. It starts with Mike and Mike in the darkness of the morning, and ends with the overnight repeating SportsCenter that I have fallen asleep on and listened to in my dreams a few times before grabbing the remote and completing the cycle. I’m not always paying attention, but the personalities on ESPN are constant company. They are my closest friends.

That’s why Stuart Scott’s death struck me so hard. In the hours and days since the tragic news, I’ve come to realize that what hurts is that I’ve lost not only a friend, but someone like family. Someone who was in my house every day.

Once, I aspired to BE Stuart Scott. I was a sportscaster from high school through college and worked professionally, ascending to broadcasts on game day for the Arizona Cardinals and covering Phoenix Suns games for major market radio stations. That was before I recognized a calling to broadcast about disability issues and built a show that was thriving by the mid-90s. And that’s when Stuart Scott came on the scene.

Remember how when we first saw him, we were captivated by how he wasn’t “acting” like a stereotypical sportscaster? He was being himself. And that honesty is what captured us and allowed him into our hearts.

After 21 years of entertaining and informing us, he inspired us with his remarks at the 2014 ESPYs when he was presented the Jimmy V Perseverance award: “When you die, that does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”

I don’t think you have to be a cancer survivor to take wisdom and inspiration from those words. How do you live? Why do you live? In which manner do you live?  For me, at age 50 with severe muscular dystrophy, those words and the way Stuart lived give me a sense of urgency to live with the purpose of inspiring people and enjoying the love of my children.

Boo-Yow Forever!

Stuart’s voice is silent now, but I for one, propose that his feel-good vernacular live on forever. At some point, when the time is right, I hope ESPN decides to encourage the occasional “Boo-Yow” as a tribute to the man who was a friend and entertainer to millions for over two decades.

What do you think?

NFL Fans: The Waiting is Over!

A faithful friend returns to our lives

Don’t you hate those agonizing daily countdowns? You know, the number of days you must endure until that date you’re really looking forward to finally arrives? For example, we have to focus on other things for 463 days until the new “Star Wars” movie makes its debut. We have to wait 107 days until Christmas. 35 days until the next “The Walking Dead” episode. (Almost there!)

But there is one special day that we no longer have to wait for. The start of the NFL season is here!

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America is celebrating. For the 30th straight year, American sports fans said football is their favorite sport. In a January 2014 Harris Poll survey, NFL football dominated Major League Baseball (14%) and College Football (11%), auto racing (7%) the NBA (6%), the NHL (5%) and college basketball (3%). Football’s popularity is rising fast, up 11% from 2013.

Now we can have some fun. Is anybody going to dethrone the Seahawks? Is anybody in the AFC preventing a Super Bowl rematch? Will the Chicago Bears defense improve enough to help the offense make the playoffs? (My favorite team) Will Johnny Football start games in 2014?

There are other questions millions of fans will be asking, every week, all season long. For example, here’s my question for the day: Should my Mississippi Muscleheads of the ESPN Iron Giant Fantasy Football League start Cam Newton today or Phillip Rivers? Pierre Thomas or Mark Ingram? Fantasy football adds another level of enjoyment to the game and allows us to interact and be a part of something fun. It’s not too late to play if you want to get in on the excitement!

For me, football has always been a faithful friend. As a child, I could count on football when I couldn’t count on my spine to hold me upright. It kept me company when I was left out of the neighborhood snow ball fight. As a teen and young man, it gave me a canvass to develop my art as a writer and broadcaster. As a man, it gave me purpose when I drove my sons to practices and games and camps. And in recent years, through a television mounted high on the wall of a hospital room, it kept me from panicking as my heart failed.

Having a passion, a strong and barely controllable emotional response to something is good for your inner strength. Football is one of mine. Speaking, writing, fishing, boating, traveling are among others. But I would shut up, get off the keyboard, stay on land and stay home for a long time rather than give up my NFL!

What are you passionate about?

NFL’s Domestic Violence Policy: Getting it Right

Chicago Bears Fan Greg Smith

By Greg Smith

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is a very smart cookie. Yesterday, he announced that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon would be banned from the league for one year for repeatedly getting busted smoking weed.  The same day, he made the public relations gesture to one-up the weed smoking penalty, kicking players who beat their wives out for six games for the first offense and forever for the second.

In doing so, he beat most critics at the pass. But not this one. I am a huge fan of the NFL and support the commissioner and respect the difficult decisions that he has to make to preserve the game and its integrity. But I am not letting him off the hook this time.

When he made the announcement, Goodell admitted bad judgment by suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for only two games.  (Rice allegedly knocked his future wife out cold and dragged her out of an elevator.) Goodell’s new severe penalties have been well received by domestic violence-prevention advocates.

“I got it wrong,” said Goodell about the Rice suspension, but claiming an error of his ways does not fully correct the situation. The new rule states that players who are “convicted” of domestic violence must serve the suspensions. It says nothing about players who “allegedly” beat women or players who did not face charges.

Ray Rice did not face charges. Therefore the new six game suspension would not apply to him despite his admission of guilt and video evidence.  So under his own rule, the commissioner lied yesterday when he said he didn’t get it right. He did get it right because Ray Rice only “allegedly” hit his then-girlfriend (now wife). The new domestic violence policy would not have affected Rice.

But Goodell’s timing of the new penalties makes a lot of sense. Without his PR intervention yesterday, the critics would have come out of the woodwork.

“You can beat your wife, but you better not get caught smoking a joint.”

The commissioner says he did not get it right in the Ray Rice case. If that is the case, he should suspend Rice for six games. Either that or admit that he did get it right.  I welcome the new domestic violence policy, but it is an affirmation of the commissioner’s initial reaction to the Rice case.  It is not an “I now see the light” moment.  It is a political public relations reaction to what would have been an uproar at a time when the season is about to kickoff… a feel-good time for the league.

Commissioner Goodell, you are doing a great job. The new domestic violence policy will make players think twice in the future about getting physical with women. But be real with the fans.  You need to either suspend Ray Rice for six games or admit that you had it right in the first place.

Greg Smith is a Chicago Bears fan, son of a quarterback and high school football coach, and father of two sons who played college football.  He is a motivational speaker who uses a wheelchair and has muscular dystrophy.  

You Can’t Win if You Don’t Take a Shot!

Shutting up the Negative Voice Within has Created an Exciting Opportunity! 

By Greg Smith

Sometimes, opportunity is right there in front of us, but we let it slip by because we listen to the negative voice within.  This has happened to me too much in life, but I want to share with you a recent example of what can happen when we silence that voice.

I was in an email dialogue with a producer at NFL Films.  He contacted me weeks earlier because I submitted an entry into a contest and almost won.  I emailed him, thanking him for the opportunity.  I added as a footnote to the email:

“For what it’s worth, I’ve always dreamed of being the voice of an NFL Films production.”

It’s true.  When I was a child, the voice of legendary announcer John Facenda, combined with the slow motion highlights and the dramatic music of NFL Films productions inspired me.   It helped me forge a passionate bond with football and sports broadcasting.  As a kid, I watched “Inside the NFL” on our big wooden color TV console while holding a Nerf football, tossing it in the air and making a fingertip catch of my own pass while diving onto the couch.  And I would imagine Facenda’s “Voice of God” slowly delivering the words… “a spectacular catch to seal the victory…”

All of those hours watching NFL Films productions created a desire to go into broadcasting as a career.  Luckily, I inherited my voice from my father, which translated into a formula for success as an announcer.

The email was immediately returned and the words surprised me:

“Not making any promises,” he said, “But we’d like you to read the attached scripts and send them back to us.  We’re always looking for new and different voices.”

Suddenly, a life-long dream never pursued turned into a real possibility.  If I didn’t put that one sentence at the end of that one email, this dream of mine would never have had the chance to see the light of day.

I recorded the scripts last week and submitted them yesterday.  I was going to wait for NFL Films’ response before sharing this story, but I changed my mind because I have a lesson to teach regardless.

I took the shot!

I created an opportunity for a dream to come true.  Regardless of whether NFL Films adds me to their voice team, I feel victorious just taking the shot!

Muscular dystrophy affects all the muscles in my body, including my facial muscles.  Some sounds are difficult for me to enunciate clearly.  The “J” sound in particular is a challenge.  It takes careful concentration and focus to minimize it.  I can hear it in the final product.  It may or may not be a show-stopper.  We’ll see.

Muscular dystrophy also impacts my respiratory system.  My lungs are small.  More frequent breaths need to be taken to get sentences out.  I need to sneak in breaths during pauses and mask the sound of the breathing.  And my condition results in a large accumulation of mucus.  That mucus needs to be dispelled frequently during a recording session.  My “spit cup” ain’t sexy, but it gets the job done.

Despite all these limitations, I didn’t pay any attention to that negative voice within.  That voice kept saying, “You can’t be an NFL Films voice because you mumble your words!  You have a decent voice but if you can’t articulate or breathe properly, you might as well not even try!”

Whatever, Negative Voice.  Now, like Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part.  Will I be disappointed if they decide to pass?  Yes.  But this experience has inspired me to reassemble my studio and get back to announcing.  Either way, I am better off from taking the shot.

From now on, I will always take a shot when an opportunity arises.  And I will always do my best to MAKE opportunities arise.  In every aspect of life, I will never let the negative voice talk me out of it.  I want you to do the same.  Take the shot.  If you miss, you’ll still be better off.

 

At 50: Shooting for Happiness

Here is My 50th Birthday Wish:  To Change Lives on a Mass Scale!

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By Greg Smith

My sister,  Tonya, just came in the room to wish me a happy birthday and asked me a question.

“Are you happy?”

I answered honestly, immediately, and with a smile.

“No.  I don’t have abundance,” I responded.  “I don’t have prosperity.  As a result, I can’t give enough of my gift to the world because of lack of resources.  I live paycheck to paycheck.  I don’t have a romantic soulmate.  And the Cubs are gonna suck again!”

“Are you unhappy?”

“No.  I have a wonderful family.  I have a few good friends and an army of supporters and ‘fans.’  I have a God-given talent for helping people discover an incredible feeling of self-empowerment and inner strength.  I think I still look pretty good for a 50-year-old dude.  I can still sit upright in my power chair and drive my modified van and fly in airplanes.  And the Bears offense looks Super Bowl ready next year!”

In my 50th year, I plan to go for true happiness!  True happiness means abundance.  I want to be financially secure enough to make decisions without money being the deciding factor.  I want to be able to afford to do things to elevate the impact of my message so I can exponentially help more people discover their inner strength.

To not have prosperity and abundance in my life would be a true waste of the gift which I have been bestowed.  I believe I’m destined to help a great mass of people from all walks of life.  It is my responsibility to figure it out.  I’m proud of what I have accomplished and grateful for being blessed to have such an impact.  But I believe what I have done so far is a mere drop in the bucket of what I’m capable of.

Here’s my plan.  Starting today, my 50th birthday, I have taken on the liberating belief that my gift to society is extremely valuable!  If I focus exclusively on delivering that gift, the abundance will come as a byproduct.  No longer will I be “selling” speaking engagements.  From now on, I will be “offering” the incredible feeling a person experiences when he or she discovers their inner strength!

I was supposed to be dead at 15.  There has to be a reason why I’m still around.

Why are you still around?  What is your destiny?  What do you believe about your prosperity, abundance and true happiness?

Today, my 50th birthday, I appreciate all your “happy birthday” messages.  I appreciate you for believing in me.  My request for you today is to tell someone about “The Strength Coach.”  Share me with someone who can introduce my work to hundreds, thousands or millions, and move it forward in the direction of prosperity and abundance.

You could also give me the “hookup” on a lady you think might enjoy meeting me!  Maybe I can one day take her to a Cubs World Series game!  A Bears Super Bowl is more realistic.

 

Together We Miss Football

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Well, welome to the annual abyss.

The Super Bowl is over.  I can’t get into college basketball until March.  I can’t get excited about the NBA until June.  Baseball doesn’t turn me on the way it did when I was a kid.  There’s nothing in the sports world for me to get excited about until May 8, the date of the 2014 NFL Draft.  From there, it won’t be long until the Hall of Fame game and the kickoff of the pre-season.

46% of Americans say that football is their favorite sport.  Why?  The NFL asked its fans.  Thousands of people submitted essays and videos about why they love football to NFL Films for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.  I submitted my entry and amazingly, I received a call from NFL Films!  They wanted to come and shoot some video of me watching son’s game!  Donovan’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Bulldogs were traveling to East Mississippi Community College for a first round playoff game.  Missing one of my son’s football games is something I hate to do but I had a speaking engagement on that date.   Now, not only would I miss the game, but I’d miss the opportunity for NFL Films to put mics on Donovan and on me for broadcast nationally.  We did agree that if Gulf Coast won the game, NFL Films would come to the championship game the following week.  Didn’t happen.  That was the end of my chance to go to New York.

But I did make a cameo on the big show!  “Football America” aired nationally on Fox and on the NFL Network.  Millions of Americans saw my 10 second appearance near the beginning of the show.  Check it out, and enjoy the whole show.  It is a wonderful, heartwarming presentation of stories about what’s great about America’s favorite sport.

Here’s a link to my “almost winning” submission to NFL Films:

Here’s a link to the full program: “Football America.”  Enjoy!

 

Your Super Bowl Memories

A lifetime of memories from an annual game

Super Bowl Portrait

Super Bowl Sunday!  My favorite American holiday.  All across the country, and in many parts of the world, people have gathered in celebration of our favorite game.  We love the food and the beer. We love being around so many of our friends. We savor the memories that are created by our experience of watching each game.

Where were you in January 1973 when the Miami Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII?  I was sitting on the shag carpeting in the basement of my parents home in Big Flats, New York. I was 9.  My face was wet from tears because the Redskins were my favorite team and they lost.

How about 1982?  When the San Francisco 49ers’s squeaked out a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, I was a senior in high school, having recently found out that I would attend Arizona State University for college.  I watched the game on our family’s wooden TV console — a cross between a television and a big piece of furniture.

Where were you in 1986 when the Chicago Bears blew out the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX?  I watched that game on my rented TV, alone in my apartment complex in Tempe, Arizona.  I didn’t want to be around anybody during the game.  It was the Bears.  I wanted to be able to yell and scream and curse and if necessary, cry, in privacy.  I was angry at my dad because he chose to use his tickets to the game on a business associate instead of his son.  It was frustrating because I had been a part of the Bears championship run that year.  Home to Chicago for the holidays, I had secured media passes for both the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Giants and the NFC Championship Game versus the Rams. I got to meet Mike Ditka, Walter Payton, Richard Dent, Jim McMahon and the rest of the charismatic bunch that comprised the greatest football team ever gathered!

Where did you watch Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 when the Patriots beat the Panthers?  I watched the game at my home in Ocean Springs but I have an interesting memory about that game.  I had just invented “The Strength Coach” persona and decided to go to Media Day at the Super Bowl to collect interviews and to get videotape of myself interacting in that environment for use in the documentary film “On A Roll.”  I traveled to Houston alone.  It was a frigid cold day in Houston.  When it’s cold, my hands don’t work.  I could not use my cell phone to communicate with the film crew and we never made the connection.

Lombardi Trophy

In 2001, I was living in the Super Bowl city, Tampa, and attended all the festivities that week.  I enjoyed the game at a big party with several of my closest friends.  I was pulling for the Baltimore Ravens, who beat the New York Giants 34-7.

When Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, I was screaming with joy at my 50″ plasma.  I was with my family at home and we were celebrating too early.  When the game was over, I turned the TV off and went to bed.  Final score: Peyton Manning’s Colts 29, the Bears 17.

Today’s game is a family affair once again.  Football is such an important part of our family structure.  My dad played.  My sons played.  I coached and I watch.  As far as I’m concerned, you can have the big Super Bowl parties.  I’m excited about watching this year’s game on our 55″ with the surround sound turned way up and my father and sons within yelling distance.

For a fun exercise, go back and look at the history of the Super Bowl. Where were you?  What was going on in your life?  Who were you watching it with?   What about your experience with this year’s game?