Okay, I admit it. I was not among the nearly 100 million people around the country who tuned into the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2. I am more of a basketball fan, but like many of the large sporting events in this country, it was hard to avoid the inspirational stories that evolved in the days leading up to the big game.
It all started when I saw the now famous Duracell commercial featuring Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman. If you aren't a Seahawks fan (or football fan), Coleman was likely not a household name to you, but quietly, he was working his way to achieving the dream of playing in the NFL and winning the illustrious Super Bowl title. Can you imagine what would have happened if Coleman would have instead listened to his critics and given up? He didn't, and now, he can proudly say he is on the number one team in the NFL, the team who brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy home in 2014.
Then, there is the story of someone who is in fact a household name, though one who has never escaped his doubters. Peyton Manning, the former quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, who lost everything, including feeling in his throwing arm. Two years ago, Manning made his debut as a Denver Bronco, donning the orange and blue, and proving to everyone that he had something left to give. Now at 37 years old, Manning has broken numerous regular season records and was once again preparing for the biggest game of the year. What would have happened if Manning too had believed those who had said he would never get back, would never experience the success of his early days? What would have happened if Manning had given up?
It is at this moment that I think back to one of my childhood sports favorites -- Larry Bird. Bird grew up in a small town, where his mother worked two jobs to support her six children. After Bird's parents divorced, and his father subsequently took his own life, Bird said that he utilized basketball to escape his troubles. He would go on to receive a scholarship to play with the Indiana Hoosiers in 1974, but less than a month later he was overwhelmed and left. After working municipal jobs, Bird would enroll at Indiana State University in 1975, and go on to help his team reach the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Though Indiana State would lose the championship game to Michigan State, it would mark the beginning of one of the most famous sports rivalries in history -- Bird vs. Magic Johnson. Bird had everything going against him, but he didn't give up, instead he went on to win three NBA titles, three MVP awards, an Olympic gold medal and legions of fans in the process.
Of course, I can compare these sports greats to each and every one of us, but the vast majority of us will never stand on that grand of a stage. But, the lesson remains -- never give up. My daughter Alex exemplified this very mantra, she never gave up in her personal fight against childhood cancer, and she also never gave up in her quest to make a difference for others. She heard the words "no," "impossible" and "never" more times than most, but she believed that with the help of others, she could make a difference, and she was right.
I often think about what my life would be like if Alex had given up, if she had decided that a front yard lemonade stand literally didn't "stand" a chance of raising a million dollars to find cures for kids' cancer. Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation simply wouldn't exist, and the research projects that we have had the honor of being a part of may too have fallen by the wayside. But, that didn't happen. Alex knew that you must never give up, and so, she never did.
Comparing these sports figures to my daughter, who had a dream of curing childhood cancer may be a stretch. It's a stretch because Coleman, Manning and Bird, win or lose, will have another season, another day to battle it out on the field or the court. However, my daughter Alex, and many of her friends along the way, would not have this luxury, they would not have another day or another season, they ran out of time waiting for the day when better treatments and cures would become reality. This is a harsh fact associated with childhood cancer that we must face every day, that children are still being diagnosed, and that lives are still being lost.
We have followed in Alex's footsteps in so many ways over the years, holding lemonade stands, realizing the power of community, and most importantly we follow in her footsteps now -- we will never give up.