Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hall of Fame Careers on the Gridiron and in the Classroom


Another Dallas Cowboy is in the Hall of Fame: Deion Sanders!

Well, ok, not just a Cowboy, but an Atlanta Falcon, a San Francisco 49er, a Washington Redskin and a Baltimore Raven. But, he actually WAS a Dallas Cowboy and helped them win a fifth Super Bowl Championship - so, there!

I almost always watch the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies. Yes, the speeches are too long, most of the players aren't the most eloquent - or even articulate. But they are sincere and they give you a glimpse into what it means to reach the pinnacle of success in a game that turns business and requires sacrifices that we can scarcely imagine. 

Of course its always interesting who these former players credit with their success. They all thank their parents. Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk and Deion were effusive in their praise of their mothers. Rightfully and deservedly so. Their mothers and grandmothers (in Sharpe's case), couldn't possibly know that their sons would grow to be so rich and successful. And, in those cases where these men come from single family homes they actually put the lie to the idea that all single mothers (particularly of black children) are indolent ne'er do-wells waiting on the next welfare check. There are far more young boys who will grow up to be great husbands, fathers and citizens, who come from single family homes and will never be inducted into anyone's Hall of Fame. 

But it was also interesting to hear almost every inductee appreciate another group of people with their success: teachers. 

Nearly everyone, with or without detail, gave at least a word of appreciation to an educator who made a difference in their lives. Some were coaches of course, but in most cases it was a coach and some other teacher who showed confidence in them, or disciplined them, or challenged them. These men who were in their 40's or older, remembered an elementary or high school teacher, long after they've left a classroom. 

Think of it. These guys have achieved near world wide acclaim. They've been on television and magazine covers. They have received accolades from their peers, their coaches and their communities. Tucked away, sometimes with emphasis, often with just a mention, in their acknowledgement of who helped them get to where they are, were teachers. Men and women who taught lessons, much of which formed the fundamental knowledge and instructions that armed them for the lives that they would lead - and on the biggest stage upon which many of these men will ever stand, they were appreciated. 

Teachers were credited among parents, wives, children, extended family, neighbors, agents, professional players, team owners.

Imagine that!

I know its just a game. The idea that sports teach you about life, is a cliche that sometimes make my eyes roll. But last night, while I listened to speeches, that sometimes were almost a little too self-congratulatory, I was struck by the fact that teachers can make such a difference. They have in my life. If you're reading this it means they've made a difference in your life too. 

Last year, just before my father, Rev. Gerald Britt, Sr. died, I ran into a former state legislator, who was running for a judgeship. I first met him when I was at the state capitol several years ago. He recognized my name because my father had a brief career as a teacher and he taught this man in middle school. This man couldn't not stop raving about how he loved my father and how much he admired him and made me promise to thank him for what he had poured into his life. When I met this man downtown last year, after brief pleasantries, the conversation again turned to how much my father meant to him. I was almost jealous! 

When I would tell my father about the legislator (now judge) he would tell me that he was the class cut up! Now he's a successful politician, who credits my father with a measure of his success. 

Imagine that!

I hope that there are teachers now, who amid the 'drill and kill' of standardized testing and budget cuts, will remember that these children before them will remember them. I hope that one day those kids will thank them for what they have meant to them. And I hope teachers and students will be able to celebrate the memories of their times together. 

See, it really isn't all about testing!

And congratulations to Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Les Richter, NFL Films Ed Sabol and of course Deion Sanders. 

And congratulations to their teachers!

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