Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lesser-known heroes...

Often when I see stories of success or good news in sports, it relates to a game won or a professional athlete receiving word that his shoulder/back/knee/big toe is not as injured as previously thought. Maybe I'm cynical, but that kind of news about a person who is most likely going to get paid an absurdly large amount of money to play a child's game regardless of whether he is on the field or the bench does not warrant my attention.

However, I do love me some sports stories with unexpected protagonists. A lot has been made of the Oregon-Boise State nonsense, where the Ducks proceeded to punctuate a disastrous game with one of its players punching a member of the other team. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's less-than-stellar debut was played over and over and over again on all the major networks. As Yahoo! points out, part of being a fan is taking the good with the bad, but sometimes it's so bad, it's not fair. Ducks fan Tony Seminary decided he wasn't going to go quietly into the night and fired off an angry but composed email to Kelly with an invoice for his travel expenses from the game. Much to Seminary's surprise, a few days later he received a personal check from the coach.

Boise State and Oregon's nascent rivalry has nothing on the drama going on between Puma and adidas. The two sportswear companies began as a single venture between two German brothers - Adolf and Rudolph Dassler. But shortly after World War II, the siblings had a falling out and formed two separate companies. The chasm between adidas and Puma was so bad, the town in which they were both headquartered literally divided itself in two; there were separate shops and schools depending on who you supported. According to WBUR, this past Monday employees from both companies temporarily buried the hatchet in honor of World Peace Day. They played soccer on mixed teams, and the team that had both CEOs on it won.

Staying in world news for a second, as reported by the AP on September 9, 64 year-old retiree Ruth Day shot two holes-in-one in one round, besting what some are calling 67 million to one odds. She made her first shot on the 149-yard third hole and duplicated the feat 10 holes later on the 161-yard 13th hole. Day, a former showroom manager in northern England, has now done something even Tiger Woods has not yet managed.

For perhaps the sweetest story of the day, we come back to the States. Imagine for a second being told your two year-old daughter has autism and may never speak. Now fast-forward five years and behold that same little girl standing in front of tens of thousands of people and belting out the National Anthem. Gina Marie Incandela's parents decided early on to aggressive treat her autism, enrolling her in occupational and intensive speech therapy. Progress was slow until Gina began music therapy; she connected with it, and not only her speech but her grades and social skills began improving. After seeing someone sing the National Anthem on TV, the little girl declared she wanted to sing at a ballgame. God bless her mother, but Michelle Incandela found a try-out for a Mets' spring training game. Gina aced the try-out, and her little career took off. Considered the good luck charm for the Orlando Magic last year, she sang at nine playoff games - including three Finals games - hockey arenas, conventions and the US Open tennis tournament, according to CBS News. Gina's performance at a Mets game, linked from CBS News, is darling, and her dress is adorable.

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