February 10, 2021 – Sweetness

Watching the Super Bowl with our good friends caused me to rethink the topic of my post this time around. I had planned to post something more serious related to current events in the nation, but I’ve decided to take a lighter touch. The Super Bowl wasn’t the best game of this NFL season. In fact, it was probably one of the least entertaining Super Bowls I’ve seen in a long time. The commercials were pretty good compared to recent years, but the musical performances were less than spectacular in one old guy’s opinion. But the real gift was having a Super Bowl.

I’m a firm believer that sports contribute significantly to each of our lives whether we see the immediate impact or not. All you readers who are anti-sports can stop reading here. Let’s take Jackie Robinson for example. #42 played for the Dodgers seven years before the Supreme Court ruled “separate but equal” unconstitutional. Did MLB integration happen soon enough? Was it implemented perfectly? No and no. Even today’s gestures at righting these wrongs, such as including Negro League statistics as professional stats, aren’t perfect…but they are progress and progress matters. The examples of how sports have impacted society in a positive way are myriad, but I’ll only add one more example. So many athletes have given back in meaningful ways to their hometowns and society at large: Lebron James, Cal Ripken, Andre Dawson, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King,…

During the Super Bowl every year since 1999, the NFL awards the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Prior to 1999, it was simply the NFL Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes one player for their exceptional leadership on the field and in their local community through charitable and volunteer work. The NFL describes this honor as its most prestigious award. The award was renamed to honor Walter Payton for his work as a humanitarian which set the standard for the league throughout his career.

Most people only know Sweetness for his on field accomplishments. As a kid, I followed Walter Payton from his rookie season through his retirement after winning Super Bowl 20. He was clearly and unequivocally the best RB to ever play the game imho. I was in complete awe watching his determination and passion for the game especially during the early years when the team around him was less than Super Bowl caliber. The yards, and bruises, he racked up through most of his career came while surrounded by average at best offensive teammates while other RBs usually listed in the NFL’s best were surrounded by much better talent. But let’s not have that argument here.

Being a local kid growing up near Chicago, I not only got to hear about his record breaking career milestones. I got to hear about the powerful programs Sweetness built for the Chicago area community which continue to have a positive impact to this day through the foundation he and his wife Connie founded and she still runs. His impact changed the lives of Chicago’s children and homeless veterans during his career and as his legacy to the city.

I revered Walter Payton for his play on the field. Every time we played a pick up football game, I strove to be Sweetness running the ball, throwing a devastating stiff arm, and hurdling defenders into the end zone. Of course, I was waaaaay better in my imagination than on the field, but it felt amazing to play like my hero. He played with heart and he served with heart. He wasn’t perfect just like the rest of us, but he set the sweetest example I know for how to put others first in all aspects of our lives. I just hope I can serve following his example a little better than I played pickup football pretending to be him.

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1 Response to February 10, 2021 – Sweetness

  1. ROBERT HALE says:

    👍😊

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