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How do you respond to the circus around you?

August 24, 2009

It might not be Barnum and Bailey, but we all live with circuses around us.

Parents are taking kids here, there and everywhere to sporting events, dance class, band practice, scout meetings and just about anywhere else you can think of.

Teachers are grading papers, discussing today's topics in political science class, dealing with kids who just don't want to be inside those four walls and trying to educate our youth.

Coaches are putting their best players on the athletic venues, dealing with kids who are whining about playing time (or is that the parents?), watching to see what kids are giving it every ounce of effort on every play and telling teams that some team somewhere is working harder than them.

Kids are trying to figure out life and taking most of their cues from the adults prominent in their day-to-day worlds.

We all have lives that sometimes seem like we are that person in the center ring with 50 hula hoops going around our bodies doing our best to make sure none of them hit the ground.

How do you respond to the circus around you?

Although there are many to choose from, I have selected three to talk about in the positive light - Liz Repella, Tim Tebow and Tony Dungy.

Although there are many to choose from, I will also discuss others like Plaxico Burress, Dante Stallworth, Timothy McVeigh, Roger Clemens, Pacman Jones, Mark McGwire, Michael Vick and Brett Favre.

It's just me, but I'll take the likes of Repella, Tebow and Dungy any minute of any day.

I talked to Liz the other day and said I wanted to do a story on her that focused on her academics and her hard work and I would mention basketball in the article, but not make it a focal points.

I think she appreciated that.

She is being pulled and tugged in many directions as a Division I athlete at a major college playing a major sport.

She pulls a 3.95 grade-point average with a major in exercise physiology and minors in multi disciplinary studies - business, communications and sports and exercise psychology.

She is also the face of the West Virginia University women's basketball program and will be for two years.

Repella has said she knows what her potential is and won't settle for anything less.

At the same time, she knows she is a role model and takes that responsibility rather seriously.

If she acts like an idiot, she lets a ton of people down - parents, family, friends, teammates, younger girls, the school, herself - and she will not allow that to happen.

Her circus is getting home from a game at Georgetown at 2 a.m. and, instead of hitting the sack, cracks open some books and prepares to study for a couple of exams in a few hours and then head to practice at 1 p.m.

That's not an individual occurrence.

She does her best every day on and off the court because that is what she was taught and that is what she believes and that is how she lives.

Ask Rick Camilletti and Gus DiMarzio at Big Red how hard Liz worked in the weight room.

Repella was one of 21 student-athletes named as recipients of the 2008-09 Big East Conference's Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Award, which recognizes academic and athletic achievement as well as community service.

One player from each sport within the conference is honored with the award and Repella won it for women's basketball.

How many athletes do you think play sports in the Big East?

That is 16 schools times the athletes in 21 sports at those schools.

She is one of 21.

Getting good grades is a choice, not a mistake.

I am not sure I have seen a better collegiate leader that Tim Tebow.

There was talk about Tebow leaving the University of Florida for the NFL after his junior year, when he led the Gators to their second national championship in three years.

But, in front of 40,000 people, he announced he was staying.

"Overall, I just felt loyal to this place," Tebow said after the celebration. "I feel like I'm a role model and a lot of times people start things and don't finish them. I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to be loyal to the university. I wanted to finish what I started and play another year."

He has averaged completing about 65 percent of his passes and a 125 passer rating in his three years.

But, enough of that. Let's talk about what he does off the field.

The quarterback spends his free time preaching in prisons, working with his parents' missionary programs in the Philippines, where he was born, and volunteering with the poor.

On his eye strips - the black patches football players wear under their eyes to cut down on glare - he writes "Phil 4:13," a biblical verse: "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."

He has said on more than one occasion that each day includes four things for him, in this order: God, family, academics and football.

If it were up to other people, Tim Tebow would have never been born.

His parents, Bob and Pam, were Christian missionaries in the Philippines in 1987 when she contracted amoebic dysentery, the leading cause of death in the country.

Pregnant with her fifth child at the time (Tim) she was very dehydrated and very sick when she went to her doctor who advised her to abort the baby because of the powerful medicines she would have to take to survive.

That was never an option. Both mom and baby survived.

"We thought we lost the baby about four times," Bob has said. "He's a miracle baby, so we've reminded him of that hundreds of times."

He was featured in Sports Illustrated recently and I would suggest that read.

Tebow visits penitentiaries and unabashedly talks to inmates about his faith. He looks forward to those visits. He wants to go on those visits.

Being a man of God is a choice, not a mistake.

I have read both of Tony Dungy's books and they are excellent. I also suggest those reads.

People can talk all they want about what he has or hasn't won as a football coach, but he's far more than that.

He never let football define him.

He is a man of God and now is in a position to help many people with that faith.

His 18-year-old son committed suicide a couple of days before Christmas in 2005. How do you get through that without faith?

I know I never want to find out.

But, because of that incident, Dungy has another avenue to talk about his faith. He has been able to help parents who have gone through that situation. He has also been able to talk with young men and young women who have thought about that situation.

On Feb. 4, 2007, he became the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl, joining Mike Ditka and Tom Flores as the only individuals to win the Super Bowl as a player and head coach.

Warren Sapp calls Dungy "the greatest man I've ever met in my life."

Derrick Brooks played for Dungy in Tampa Bay.

"'No excuses, no explanations.' I first heard coach Dungy say these words in 1996, when he explained how we were going to turn the Bucs franchise around," said Brooks. "But coach challenged us to be more than just a winning football team. He wanted us to be winners in life - and he led by example. You don't have to win a ring to be a champion . . . but I am so glad he has won a Super Bowl ring so he can continue to use the platform God has given him."

Not long before Dungy was fired by as the head coach at Tampa Bay, rumors were swirling that he was on his way out.

It was a daily circus around the Buccaneers establishment on Dungy's future before he was fired after the 2001 season.

In his book "Quiet Strength" Dungy relates a story that an assistant coach was getting ready for a run late in the regular season, which was weeks before he was eventually fired, and the coach looked at the head coach and said, "Coach, I just wanted to say that I've appreciated seeing your witness in light of the circus that is occurring all around."

"I think there are times when I believe God welcomes the circus into our lives to give us an opportunity to show that there's another way to live and respond to things."

Being a man of God is a choice, not a mistake.

The other side

of the circus

Dante Stallworth.

Driving drunk was a choice, not a mistake.

Plaxico Burress.

Carrying a concealed unregistered gun into a night club was a choice, not a mistake.

Pacman Jones.

Being an idiot is a choice, not a mistake.

Pete Rose.

Betting on baseball and lying about it for 15 years was a choice, not a mistake.

Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.

Taking illegal substances was a choice, not a mistake.

Timothy McVeigh.

Bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was a choice, not a mistake.

Michael Vick.

Brutally killing dogs was a choice, not a mistake.

I understand why Dungy was brought in to mentor Vick. The criminal needed a strong male influence in his life and I cannot think of someone better than Dungy.

I do not want to hear that this is a second chance for Vick.

He had six years full of second chances.

He is remorseful because he got caught and was treated like a criminal. If the man had not been caught, do you think he would have stopped his actions on his own?

I vote no.

Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Brett Favre.

Having that attitude is a choice, not a mistake.

"He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls." - Proverbs 25:28

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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