Week 5 of the 2012 NFL Season brought us the first weekend of football in October and the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the NFL.
It is always a great sight to see professional football players, coaches, staff and sports journalists alike wearing pink shirts, ties, hats, ribbons, wristbands, socks, towels, gloves, cleats, etc., at this time of year. And while game balls, equipment, goal posts and fields are clad with pink ribbon decals calling attention to the fight against this awful disease, we are once again reminded of the influence America’s most popular sport has on young people. Simultaneously, we are also reminded of the personal stories too many of us have with respect to those we know who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Power of Player Influence
Over the weekend, I spent time talking with several friends, family and colleagues about this topic and the level of influence the NFL and its players have on the next generation of young athletes, and I have to say powerful is an understatement when describing just how influential the league and its players actually are.
One friend and colleague of mine who coaches youth football in Northern California, told me how his entire team of 25 plus eight and nine year-olds showed up to their Pop Warner football game on Saturday morning with as much pink on as they could possibly wear! He was amazed at the number of pink socks, wristbands, gloves, hand towels, tape, and whatever else his little mighty mites could get their hands on. But even more amazing was that the conversation amongst the boys centered around two things: guessing which NFL players would wear pink that Sunday and how their personal stories of how breast cancer had affected their families. Later that evening, he took his son and a couple of his teammates to the UCLA vs. California, PAC-12 Conference game, and noticed how impressed the boys were with the college players wearing pink.
The Personal Side: My Mom and Her Fight Against Breast Cancer
I always thought I was the epitome of a strong successful woman, but when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I learned exactly what it meant to be those things.
My mom fought through major surgery, weeks of chemo and the horrible side effects that come with it. And through it all, she did it with a smile on her face and an unbelievably positive attitude. She was the strength that helped me to not be so scared. Having lost my father at 18 to a heart attack, I was scared out of my mind that I would lose her too. She promised me she would fight and win, and she did!
The Battle Against Breast Cancer: It Takes Teamwork
One of the things we all learn from sports is that you never quit. You don’t give up. You stick together as a team and fight to overcome adversity and find a way to triumph. These lessons parallel much of what we go through in life.
Sunday, Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano was in the hospital fighting leukemia, so the Colts’ impressive comeback at Lucas Oil Stadium had an even more significant meaning. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s ability to rally his team back from a 21-point deficit in the second half en route to a 30-27 win, epitomized the meaning of the squad’s “Chuckstrong” campaign, which was created to raise money for leukemia research and support Pagano.
In the war against cancer, the stakes are as high as they get. Having a strong support team to rally and help in the battle is critical to the one who is fighting. Coach Pagano has that team and his Colts were not just “Chucktrong” in their comeback win, they are helping galvanize a community for someone in need.
The NFL is doing a great job leveraging its greatest asset – its players and their influence – to raise awareness and bring attention every year to breast cancer. It trickles down from the stars of the sport to the next generation and opens the door to educate many people about breast cancer who may otherwise not know much about it.
We should all do the same for those we know as well as those know we know of who are battling cancer.
We must all be “Chuckstrong.”
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