Heroes Of The Week!

Imma hit the ground running in this week’s episode by venturing into Gene Roddenberry’s backyard, a place no man has gone for at least the last half hour. The final frontier of space will achieve two positive outcomes for yours truly; it will keep the treads on my Nikes pristine whilst ensuring that my carbon footprint doesn’t get brought up on charges.

And you can blame the lovely Dale for dishing up an assist on this one. She sent me this article featuring NASA Engineer Farah Alibay, a little girl at heart whose wild side got saddled with a dream when she was still learning to drive . . a bike. “My earliest memory of falling in love with space is watching Apollo 13 when I was 8 years old. . . What fascinated me was not only the vast expanse and dangers of space, but that teams of engineers rallied together to solve what seemed to be insurmountable problems,”

This Montreal born chica studied Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cambridge, where she earned her Masters before accepting an internship to the NASA Academy. That’s where she found her calling in robotic planetary exploration before moving back across the pond to MIT where she pursued a PhD in Systems Engineering. The rest is busy making history on Mars, as Farah is a part of the brilliant team of minds whose passion led to a rover named Perseverance going where no man . . or woman, had gone before.

Where some see stars inside the blanket of night, Farah sees open roads.

There was a time when hockey was prize fighting on ice. Nowadays, it’s rare to see two players drop gloves. But this week Marcus Foligno of the Minnesota Wild faced off against San Jose Sharks Nikolai Knyzhov, with Foligno choosing common sense over caveman. Even in the homogenized version of the NHL, the dude has fixed his share of knuckle sammys, but when it became apparent that Knyzhov was never gonna be mistaken with Canelo Alvarez, Foligno waved the refs over to break things up before the kid got hurt. Heroic? Nah. Cool? As the sport he plays.

peter-oppegard.jpg

As proof that the real ballet on ice has its share of brutes, I give you Peter Oppegard. He’s a former Olympic bronze medalist who later won acclaim as a figure skating coach before 2020 happened. And the allegations of abuse being thrown his way are every bit as ugly as the year they came out of. He’s coached up ten national champions, while also scoring a “Choreographer of the Year” award as well as “Coach of the Year” honors. And then Lombardi turned into a great big lout as one story after another came to light regarding Oppegard’s coaching ‘methods’,  which included biting skaters as well as throwing hot drinks on them. It’s the latest reminder that competitive sports needs to continually upgrade the network of safeguards in place, seeing as how the heart and soul of its young athletes lay in the balance.

Father John Ubel is auctioning off his 50 most valuable baseball cards

Speaking of cool sports, I move to the world of baseball card collecting with this next story. The woebegone hobby out of another time experienced a boom inside the age of COVID and Father John Ubel of St. Paul Minnesota could have cashed in, seeing as how he owns a sweet stash. Ubel’s impressive collection of vintage sports cards; with names like Terry Bradshaw, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson and Nolan Ryan comprise but a handful of the more than 2,000 cards he’s collected over the years. But instead of profiting for himself, he’s hoping to raise $25,000 by auctioning them off, with all the profits going to the Aim Higher Foundation– a scholarship program for low-income students, where Ubel serves on the board. On the website, the auction is referred to as “Hitting It Out Of The Park” and I gotta believe Babe Ruth just tipped his cap to that one.

Restaurant owner Adolfo Melendez spent $2,000 of his own money to help other restaurants in his Wisconsin community.

Adolfo Melendez considers himself to be one of the lucky ones. The owner/operator of El Mezcal in Steven’s Point Wisconsin has navigated the myriad obstacles thrown his way over the last year while keeping his doors open and his clientele coming back for more. But many of his competitors haven’t been quite so fortunate, and so Melendez decided to help them out. Yeah, you read that right. He took $2,000 of his own money and bought gift cards to competing local restaurants that he will raffle off to his customers.

The lifeblood of every small business can be found in the people who open the doors for their community every single day. And so Melendez figures that the best way to go about achieving a healthy bottom line going forward is to look out for your neighbors when you have the chance. What a concept.

‘People must stop focusing on the symptoms of hate, that’s like putting a bandaid on cancer’ ... Daryl Davis

We began with space and we’re gonna finish things up in that very same place, with yet another hat tip to Dale for this keeper. This one ain’t about space exploration but rather, the space between. It’s where things like dimension, substance and humanity are replaced with a weeping void of hate and ignorance. And it’s the kind of history that gets planted in the darkness over hundreds of years and scores of generations to right here and now.

It’s estimated there are over 1,000 active hate groups in America today, causing musician Daryl Davis to lament that “Our ideology needs to catch up to our technology,”. But don’t take this statement to mean he’s giving up, because Davis doesn’t know that song. The pianist who’s played with luminaries such as Chuck Berry, BB King and Jerry Lee Lewis has been penning a different kind of song for almost forty years now.

This journey began in a bar in Frederick, Maryland back in 1983 when Davis got into a conversation with a man he would come to learn was a member of the KKK. That conversation changed his life, and ever since then, he’s made it his mission to change minds. With words, audaciously positive ones that seek light where the darkness has prevailed for far too long a time.

Davis has been meeting and befriending Klansmen ever since, and while he admits that some are beyond his reach, many have proven much more pliable than that. The point is, the courage behind his convictions possesses the kind of value that can span the canyons of separation that still exist in too many places. And he’s come to learn that there’s something much worse than losing, and it’s the idea that we don’t even try.

I just have to say, I read this story three times and I have it bookmarked so that I can go back and read it again whenever I feel, as SB likes to say, like I’m a quart low. Because for all the people, places and things that will try to steal your soul, I’d place a million dollar bet they’re vastly outnumbered by all the things that will replenish it. And so Melville, Martel, Twain, Wilde and Poe share the bookshelf that’s tucked inside a file on my computer, with Daryl Davis. A remarkable man whose spirit would give the Perseverance a run for its money. Because he’s not just imagining a better way, he’s doing something about it.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Davis hews out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

56 thoughts on “Heroes Of The Week!

    • Yeah, I saw it on PTI the other night and they rarely EVER talk hockey. So I knew it had to be something different.

      As for Davis, I can’t tell you how much that story shook me. And yes, he has a brother Darryl . . . and another brother Darryl.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. There are some people that quietly stand as beacons of hope for the rest of us. You highlighting them every week makes me smile, makes me laugh and sometimes makes me cry. Thank you. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for these nuggets, but most especially for the one about Daryl Davis. One mind at a time. Such a simple concept, yet that’s often what it takes to – some day – start a sea change in cultural attitudes. I was mulling that very thought earlier this morning, as I tried to counteract the negative self-talk that keeps me from writing my book. So I asked myself what I might accomplish if I wrote it? My answer: if I convince one person to stop killing wolves, that’s a win, because that person might convince another, and another….

    Time to go write. Thanks, Marc.

    Liked by 2 people

    • His story really got me where it counts. And you’re right, we never think in the micro structure of a given dynamic. It’s too often the big picture macro oriented picture. And the latter has too many issues so why even try?

      You try in the quiet, you try in the simple moments. You try when no one gives a damn for that particular try. That’s how things change. Really, it’s the only way things change.

      Go write RW. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great lineup, Marc. It sounds like Coach Oppegard needs to have a session with Foligno. I mean, biting and throwing hot drinks on skaters?!?! Are you kidding me? Bet he wouldn’t do that crap on hockey players who definitely have the right compass on what’s right and what’s not. Sheesh, where does USA Olympics find these knuckle-dragging criminal cretins? Bozos like that should be permanently banned from the sport of figure skating. Can you even call it a sport that when that kind of abuse seems so prevalent?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great stories, Marc. You have to wonder where the parents are when their kids are abused at the hands of a coach. Do they keep their mouths shut because they don’t want their kids tossed from the program? Sad commentary on parent behavior. Gotta love Adolfo Melendez and his actions that point to the theory when the sea rises we all rise. Daryl Davis has the right idea for sure. The only way out of bigotry and hate is communication. Good on the father and the hockey players. Gotta wish Farah Alibay all the best. Thanks for Ole Blue Eyes too.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. B,

    Let me start off by saying way to go on choosing a real Hero as the cover pic. And Farrah? She is just so damn beautiful as well as being brilliant.

    And glad you felt Miss Alibay was Hero-worthy. So very cool to see how far someone can go when they have a dream.

    Foligno was very cool to get the refs to stop the fight… I can’t imagine that happens too often! A gentleman fighter…

    I am so pissed at Oppegard. Why it took so long for this to become known is beyond me. There are so many excellent coaches out there who don’t feel the need to bite and throw hot drinks at. Tell you what… too bad he didn’t have me as a student is all I can say.

    Father John is how you want to picture a man of the cloth…

    Adolfo Melendez is a beautiful soul. Rise up your fellow man rather than squash them.

    And I feel you when it comes to Daryl Davis. I read his story more than once, too. How amazing is he? This is where it is at. This is how you fight the ugly. He is walking the talk in a huge way.

    Fly me to the moon, to Mars, to where the stars shine…

    Q

    Liked by 2 people

    • Q

      Who knows? Maybe it’ll become a thing. And yeah, Farah’s got the brains and the beauty and now she’s conquering space!

      As me and Monika were just saying, hockey players, by and large, they just get it. Maybe because many of them are Canadians? I dunno . . .

      Maybe there was some coverup involved? I have no blessed idea. But yeah, it would have been justice indeed, to have had you as a student.

      The Father brings his good name to an archdiocese that is in dire need of some of them.

      Melendez understands what the small business community is. It’s a unique assemblage of people, whose dreams are interwoven.

      Davis. What more can I say about this remarkable man that I haven’t already said? He’s just such an inspiration. Not just to black people, not just to white people, but to ALL people. Amen.

      It was a Frankie kind of week . . .

      B

      Liked by 2 people

      • Not a bad thing, I say and she does have the full package.

        I think you’re right. They do get it, by and large. Are there still that many Canadians playing? 😉

        I can’t believe any parent would want to cover this up – as I typed that, I remembered all the football parents who did just that. It would have been once. Then his ass would have been grass. If I had any talent worth developing, another coach would have been found,

        He does (and can we say how nice to hear good things about the church?)

        I love that Melendez more than understands. Such a selfless thing to do.

        Daryl Davis. Remarkable is but one of many we could use. Amen to him.

        There are weeks like that 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I can’t praise Daryl Davis enough. We all need to learn how to engage people the way he has done.

    On a down note, I was disgusted to read this week that the Rs here in Colorado want to take our “gold standard” election system and trash it in the name of “improvement” (i.e. voter suppression to improve their chances of winning). The low blows just keep on coming.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. So glad you brought up Daryl Davis- he is truly a remarkable man. First I heard of him was in a PBS doc about him and he is fascinating. His life has been truly fascinating, from the time he moved here to Boston from Europe as a young child til now. He is doing great work procingy…We can’t hate someone or something we know nothing about.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. enjoyed the flow and cool how you make the stories connect with all their diversity
    and the hockey fighting still makes me wonder about adult athletes and also the human head was nkt made for such hits and that is my take – i know we see less of this (as you noted) but i detest it

    and like how you worded this regarding the health and protection of athletes in a different endangered area:

    “competitive sports needs to continually upgrade the network of safeguards in place, ”
    so well
    said

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Well, I thought for sure the Sinatra album at the end would have the title “High Hopes” which of course so well describes the objectives of this weekly post. Another thought that serves a similar purpose is “Character is when you do something good and don’t expect anybody else to be watching.”

    Liked by 1 person

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