Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pep Talk: "Find Your Niche And March!"

As the assembly of peaceful and prayerful humanity snaked through northeast Denver, my simple mind wandered to an earlier moment that spoke to the power of unity.

The cranium-crashing moment was from a few days before. The tenth "Buffs 4 Life" golf tournament. As a sportscaster, I covered University of Colorado athletics for almost 20 years. There are many cherished memories of hosting coaches' television shows, traveling on the team plane and developing relationships that will last until this aging jock croaks.

Especially from the Buffs' football program. It has certainly fallen on challenging times, but for a stretch, especially from 1988 through 2001, CU was a national power. The players, coaches and staff from that era have remained valued friends.  Events like a golf tournament bring us together and ooze with the truth of what's possible when personal egos and agendas are set aside and everybody rallies behind a common cause. In the case of Buffs 4 Life, that's caring for members of the Buffs' athletic family who have experienced adversity.

Devoted to a cause beyond ourselves. That thought pulsed through my veins as 225 people of all colors, addresses and beliefs strolled through northeast Denver for the first of five prayer walks encouraging a lessening of gun violence that plagues our city and nation.

Back in 1989, the Colorado Buffaloes' football team powerfully demonstrated the power of unity. Inspired by the tragic cancer-induced death of starting quarterback Sal Aunese, a talented, but young, squad of Buffs had a magical season. Under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Bill McCartney, CU won every regular season game, rose to number one in the polls before losing, in disappointing fashion, the national championship battle to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.

"One Heart Beat" was the team's motto. It produced fantastic results. As I ran ahead of the crowd walking through Park Hill in an effort to get a picture capturing the moment, the hopes of a simple dude from Missouri were that we can replicate a similar spirit in stopping the senseless gun violence.

It will not be easy. We have to give kids alternatives to gangs and their violent tendencies. It's one goal of Victory's A Stronger Cord wellness movement. We're trying to build dynamic sports programs in gang-infested parts of Denver. Kids need another team to play for. We need coaches. These kids need positive male and female role models. You?

Sports and fitness, in addition to being excellent stress reducers, are wonderful connectors and equalizers. Folks, this ain't rocket science, but it takes a united effort. Whether we're talking about becoming superior to our former selves in reducing gun violence, providing quality education, running a successful business or whatever, unity and a common sense of purpose are critical to prevail against what ails.

One heart beat. Yoked. Willing to charge from the foxhole together. Call it what you want. Look around this week to see where your time, talents and treasures can help.

Find your niche and march!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pep Talk: "Those Who Called You, Grandpa"

“I love Sundays,” offered the handsome and lanky college kid. “I play golf with my dad.” This heartwarming statement came from my nephew about his father, my brother.

It came on a warm Missouri day during a golf tournament to raise money for youth sports in Raytown, Missouri. Long ago, when your scribe grew up there, youth sports were vibrant. A community super glue. Like everything, things have changed and a dedicated group is trying to transform youth sports’ participation in the Kansas City suburb. We all know from experience, it’s good for kids and community. Through Victory’s fledging Another Team project we’re trying to accomplish the same thing in gang-influenced parts of Denver.

Anyway, on Father’s Day 2015, while flying back to the Mile High City from Kansas City and a fabulous weekend that included the golf outing, mom’s 80th birthday celebration and other cool stuff, cranium kept wandering to nephew Nick’s “I love playing golf with my Dad” comment.

History was repeating itself. This young man’s father, younger brother Matt, had a similar history with our father, the late Marvin “Mac” McIntosh. After our parent’s divorce, the youngest of four kids, now a successful Minnesota-based businessman, husband and father, began playing lots of golf with the McIntosh clan’s patriarch. 

The three older kids, this knucklehead included, were away at college or beyond. A bond between father and son was forged over forged irons, metallic woods and fond memories. A love affair that now involves a third generation of that limb of the family  tree. 

Being the ever-growing sentimentalist, tears of joy moistened thy face as we cruised down the fairway in pursuit of tee shots. Also in our foursome, the before-mentioned brother and Uncle Al, dad’s brother. A wonderful man, now 81-years-old and the only surviving sibling of my father’s generation.

Heart yearned for another round of golf with, as buddy’s called him, “Hacker Mac.”  We had much fun at the course. Heart swelled with pride knowing younger brother and his son were keeping the McIntosh golfing spirit alive. I get to play with them. Yay me. 

The memories aren’t about unbelievable shots or lucky bounces, but of time together. Dad would open up on the golf course, or in the clubhouse bar afterward. Share the struggles and joys of a guy, oldest boy in a brood of six kids, forced to grow up fast, become a man and face life with an amazing spirit of turning lemons, the heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas.

My old man was respected. Adored. My younger brother is a chip off the ol’ block. Those traits are filtering to Matt’s two sons. As the father of two amazing kids, I feel a genetic pull to keep Hacker Mac’s spirit alive too. It’s touching the next generation. Now it gets personal, Dad, those who called you “Grandpa.”

Perseverance. Optimism. Character. You embodied them and many other admirable traits. You’re gone but will forever, especially from golf carts rolling down fairways, be remembered. Pops, thanks for showing the way.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pep Talk: "Stand in the Gap and Lose the Gut"

With head bowed, eyes closed and heart open, your knucklehead scribe listened intently to a buddy’s words: “Let us stand in the gap for the lost and forgotten.”

My mind immediately raced to a wonderful recent memory. Daughter Rachel walking across the stage and receiving a diploma, at the Denver East High School graduation ceremony. In the stands were many gathered to celebrate kids (623 students, a record for the school) including a crew cheering on the University of Oregon-bound teenager: mother, stepfather, father, stepmother, grandfather, grandmother, brother and a trio of dear friends. Ten supporters. To steal Hillary’s book title, “It takes a village.”

That village has expanded and contracted through 18 years, weathered a parental divorce, seen mom and dad move to new frontiers and future spouses. Through it all, and I sure hope she believes this, a young girl’s security net was ever present. That thought came racing through my brain powerfully as my buddy muttered those words; “stand in the gap for the lost and forgotten.”

He knows quite a different story. A gentle soul has dedicated his life to serving the needs of Denver’s youth, especially those living in juvenile justice centers. The Kansas State Wildcat fan had recently attended a graduation ceremony for one of the kids he mentors. Ken Allen was the only one present.

No parent, no relative and no friends. No flesh and blood witnessed this young man receive his GED. A major milestone considering the obstacles self-imposed because of poor decisions and inherited because of poor support from his “village.” It didn’t exist, at least not in a healthy and productive way.

We are products of our environments. My heart aches seeing the young boys and girls of the north Park Hill neighborhood where Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement is active. There are kids EVERYWHERE in that once-proud area of the Mile High City. What is not present? Men.

There are many moms, often with children from multiple sources, but few men. To plagiarize my buddy’s line, men are absent in, “Standing in the gap for the lost and forgotten.”

Folks, we gotta wake up. It’s a major problem dragging society down. We have too many kids without proper mentoring, especially from males. Cranium wanders to my upbringing in Raytown, Missouri, a Kansas City suburb. Talk about a village? Wow. Wherever I roamed there were people: parents, relatives, parents of friends, teachers, coaches, administrators challenging me to “work hard, make healthy choices and show love and respect for others.” It influenced me greatly then and, still, today.

Look around. We need to understand the times. We need to open our hearts. Where this week can we stand in the gap for the lost and forgotten? Maybe it’s not a kid. Maybe it’s a senior citizen currently housed in assisted living. Few get consistent visitors. There’s plenty of options. More and more moms, searching for positive role models, are bringing their kids to ASC workouts. Join us.

Stand in the gap and lose the gut. Serve and sweat!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pep Talk: "Take the Steroid and Ignite the Libido!"

“My goodness,” cracked the woman offering the thought. “That steroid the doctor has me on is re-igniting my libido.”

Yikes. A scary thought considering it came from my almost octogenarian mother.

It was one of many hilarious comments that flowed from the lips of this still sharp-as-a tack mother of four. But there were some serious moments in the usual Friday morning conversation. It’s a weekly ritual for mother and son as your Pep Talk scribe makes a 25-minute drive from central Denver to the southern suburbs for a rendezvous with other goofs. It’s a little dude time designed to strengthen our faith. On the way, I give the Kansas City resident a call and we chat.

This particular morning the lively bantering ranged from crazy weather, “Did you get hit by a tornado?” Colorado’s Front Range was experiencing, to her medically induced friskiness awakening and to the Olympic champion formerly known as Bruce, now, Caitlyn Jenner.

I’ve always joked with mom that she would make an ideal radio talk show host. The feisty woman used to call my sports talk show and rip into my co-host. There is not a topic without opinion, often caustic. After Patsy Sue was born, as she would say, “They threw away the mold.”

The former Bruce Jenner and the transformation into Caitlyn Jenner. From man to woman, in all ways but biological. Full disclosure, after watching Jenner’s national television interview about the life-long struggle with conflicting identity issues, I had empathy for the inner conflict endured for so long.

Our conversation centered on the resolve the New York native, whether identifying as a man or woman, has demonstrated many times in life. Trust me, from a life centered on sports as an athlete or covering the games as a journalist, it takes tremendous dedication and sacrifice to achieve what Jenner did in winning the Olympic decathlon gold medal in 1976.

“The world’s greatest athlete” possessed athletic talent, but the secret sauce for his incredible achievement rests with a reservoir of grit that lies deep within. Most athletes are not willing to pay the price in sacrifice and suffering that elevates high achievers like Jenner, Jordan, James, Vonn and others to the penthouses of their sports. It’s too hard.

Obviously, opinions vary to the 65-year-old’s decision to finally, her words, “Get real.” Regardless of where one stands on all that, one thing can’t be disputed: Jenner is not afraid to step outside the box, cast fear aside and go for it.

Resolve. Defined as “To come to a definite or earnest decision about.” Jenner has a bounty of it. For each of us, where is it time to come to a definite or earnest decision about - fill in the blank? A job? Relationship? Fitness plan? Whatever?

Back to mom and where this conversation about Jenner started. Metaphorically, take the steroid, ignite the libido and unleash the resolve. I just hope, considering her age, mom wasn’t serious about the boob job.
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