|Unfortunately, I was so busy listening to Eminem's Christmas album over the
past weeks that I once again failed to mail my cards on time. So please
tolerate my use of this space to deliver my belated holiday greetings and
New Year's wishes for 2001. . . .
Like Chris Weinke, even when you are balding may you always have
the option to change careers, the wisdom to know when to do so, and the
strength to see it through the pain of injury, the challenge of a new path
and the wisecracks of teammates who keep asking whether they can borrow your
May you be able to run as swift and true as Australia's Cathy
Freeman, no matter if the weight and pressure loaded upon your shoulders is
akin to piggy-backing CJ Hunter around the track.
May Scott Boras represent you at your annual salary review.
Like Shaquille O'Neal, may you have the desire to further your
education and still earn your college degree even after you have signed a
contract for more than $100 million, won an NBA championship and been
rewarded with an MVP award. May your perspective be so broad that you still
strive to better yourself and talk about future careers even if you have
already recorded two rap CDs and earned your SAG card. And may you also
improve your shooting percentage from the foul line.
May your children avoid the coaching of Bobby Knight, the aim of
Roger Clemens and the appetite of Mike Tyson.
May you handle adversity and triumph with the same amounts of grace
and perspective, whether you are leading the St. Louis Rams to their first
Super Bowl victory or are stocking Green Giant canned vegetables at the
local grocery store.
May your car radio lose its reception when Allen Iverson comes on
the air. Or the Baha Men, for that matter.
May both your talents and your goals be so high that even winning
three gold medals may be considered a disappointment, though never a
failure. And may you have a deejay career to fall back on should your
endorsements fall through.
May all your at-bats be at Wrigley Field with the wind blowing out
and Jose Lima on the mound.
May your drives always sail farther and straighter down the fairway
than anyone else's, may you always feel as if you have a 12-stroke lead
going into the final round and may the PGA give you a slice of its
television revenues. And if not, may you have a special golf ball that no
one else can use.
And finally, may you show the heart of the Olympic swimmers, and
not just the champions such as Ian Thorpe and Lenny Krayzelburg, but those
swimmers from third world countries, the ones who swam in the morning heats
only, the ones who had no hopes for a medal but were there solely for the
chance to compete. The ones such as Rawanda's Samson Nyayishimye, who was
the flagbearer for a country that lost 20 to 40 percent of its population to
slaughter or exile during its wars last decade. The one who may be my
favorite athlete of the year.
"I lost all my grandparents," Nyayishimye said in Sydney. "I lost all my
uncles and aunties. I lost cousins. I lost many friends. But that's the way
life goes. You can't live in the past. I hope they're in heaven.
"When I was going out there to swim, I knew they were looking at me. I don't
know how I can explain it, but I felt like they were all around me."
Nyayishimye swam the first heat in the men's 50 free. He finished dead last,
13 seconds behind the next slowest swimmer.
But for a country that didn't compete in the 1996 Olympics, just
participating in the same pool as Australia and the U.S. and all the other
nations was of supreme importance.
"Now is the time to open our eyes and find the world in sports,"
Nyayishimye said. "I love my country. And things are going to get better
May that be true. This year. And all the ones after.
Happy New Year.
Jim Caple, who writes a weekly "Off Base" column for ESPN.com's baseball page, is a regular contributor to Page 2.
|Cathy Freeman of Australia, in the blocks before the women's 400-meter final at the Sydney Olympics, served as a representative for the Aborigines.||