Sunday, January 29, 2017

Pep Talk: "Our Snapshot Influence"

There are life snapshots forever burned into our memories. The occasions are good and bad: The birth of children, acceptance of a marriage proposal, horrible news of an illness diagnosis or receiving word a loved one has passed. These snapshots define our dash between birth and death.

For your knucklehead scribe there are many snapshots including long ago as a clueless 25-year-old lying on an apartment couch in a one-bedroom pad. It was winter, football season. I was living in Denver, hated my job and wondering, “What the hell am I going to do with my life?” You see, I had it all planned out from an early age. I was going to be a professional athlete. It was the one and only dream of a southpaw who grew up and prospered in football, basketball and baseball. Because of my size and talents, the best route to fulfilling the dream was through the latter. But an accidental poke in the eye during a high school basketball game led to a series of debilitating injuries.

As a 17-year-old high school senior labeled a “five-tool” baseball player (run, throw, field, hit and hit with power) life was good until a life-altering poke led to fainting, crashing to the floor, bashing my head, fracturing my skull, shattering bones in my middle ear, tearing up rotator cuff muscles in my throwing shoulder and losing hearing in my left ear. In seizure and bleeding from the ear, officials had to stop the game, summon an ambulance and rush an injured youth to the hospital. Athletic dreams were dashed from the crash.

Eight years after that defining snapshot, in December 1983, I lounged in a spartan Denver apartment on a Sunday afternoon. Lonely, depressed and wondering, what next? I was watching television and was moved by, at the time, KCNC-TV’s stellar main sports anchor Ron Zappolo. The magnetic talent was flawlessly executing a live shot from the Denver Broncos’ locker room after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Baltimore Colts. It was quarterback John Elway’s rookie season. Broncos fans might remember, the Stanford star had told the Colts, “Don’t draft me because I don’t want to play for you.” A trade had been engineered to bring the rifle-armed #1 overall pick to Denver. This was the first of many legendary comebacks for the future Hall of Famer and franchise’s current general manager. 

Zappolo’s live report was an epiphany for a young man searching for purpose. It inspired a lost soul to return to school and earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and enter the television sportscasting world. A few years later, in 1988, KCNC-TV hired an eager sports guy whose primary responsibility was covering the CU Buffs football and basketball programs.

Ron Zappolo opened a door in my mind to possibility. His example infused hope in a dude who had little. This week, don’t underestimate your snapshot influence on others. It could change a life!

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