The latest in our ongoing series on American Heroes and Idols
By: Michael Beckman
Cross-Posted From: Tales from a tribble
As a big Rockets basketball fan, I was very excited along with the rest of Houston fans when the Rockets signed center Dwight Howard as a free agent in July of 2013. The Rockets had just signed the best center in the NBA to go along with another super star of the Rockets, James Harden. This dynamic duo would surely be fun to watch, and it has been. The Rockets are now one of the best teams in the NBA with a legitimate chance to fight for an NBA Championship. But more than just acquiring a great basketball player, our city of Houston has been blessed to have a great man join us.
That may be surprising to some because when Dwight decided to sign with the Rockets [especially over his previous team, the Lakers] there was a lot of negative talk that came out about Dwight. You could read comments on twitter that Dwight was a loser, he was selfish, he would be a negative on the team, and he didn’t care enough about winning. Those descriptions about Dwight could not be further from the truth. None of them apply to this gentleman. Dwight Howard is a winner, a team player and a big positive to the team, on and off the court.
There is one main reason that the last description of Dwight Howard, that he didn’t care enough about winning, came about. That is because before the game, during the game and after the game, you will always see Dwight with a smile on his face. Many basketball fans have taken that to mean he just doesn’t care. If only they knew the real reason Dwight always has a smile and a positive attitude, even in defeat. It has nothing to do with Dwight not caring about the game, as he hurts as much as anyone else on the team when they lose a game. It has to do with life itself.
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What comes to mind for you when you hear the name Dick Butkus? Immediately, I think along the lines of the caption on this Sports Illustrated cover … “Dick Butkus of the Bears – The most feared man in the game (NFL Football)”. No doubt, many others (especially those of my generation) share that same first thought. And, there’s ample justification for that line of thinking. The 6 ft 3 in, 245 lb Butkus, was known as one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers during his nine years as a player for the Chicago Bears.
Next, you may think of Dick Butkus as a celebrity endorser and actor. That’s my next thought too. And, here too, there’s plenty of good reason for thinking that way. The “most feared man in the game” persona of this Pro Football Hall of Fame member has been very effective in promoting brand names, from his Miller Lite commercials with Bubba Smith to his “I’m sorry, Dick Butkus” spots for FedEx. And, Butkus has had numerous roles on TV and in the movies. He was even the namesake for Rocky’s English Mastiff, in both the Rocky and Rocky II movies.
So, if you met him today, wouldn’t you expect to meet a somewhat older version of the Dick Butkus you’ve come to know about over the years? That is, an imposing figure who still lives in his hometown, Chicago, whose time is mostly spent enjoying the leisure activities of retirement, along with some dabbling in the worlds of sports and entertainment. That’s what I thought when my Wife, Ruth and I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at a MarriageTeam Tailgate Party & Auction. I will say that the qualities I expected to find in his makeup all seemed to be present and undiminished. However, I also got to start becoming acquainted with some dimensions of the man that were a pleasant surprise. One of these is a campaign he started, called Play Clean™. It’s a program that encourages teens to “train hard, eat well, and play with attitude”, instead of resorting to illegal steroids. His willingness to take this stand against steroids caused USA Today to comment that Butkus may have a greater impact on the game in his 60s (now 70s) than he did playing in his 20s. Continue reading
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