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Wheelchair bound but standing tall
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Forsyth County News

 

Sports should be a diversion. A place to escape all the bad news that incessantly bombards us.

Right.

The 2011 National Football League season faces cancellation because the owners and players can’t figure out a way to divvy up annual revenues in excess of nine billion dollars.

Seriously.

And these idiots — on both sides — expect to find sympathetic ears on the millions who’ve spent the last three years suffering through the worst economic times since the Great Depression.

Anyone for Spam casserole?

Here’s an idea: you clowns spend the next year drawing lines in the sand. Let ESPN slide some mid-major conference games into the Sunday time slots. Certainly plenty of teams out there would appreciate garnering some exclusive exposure. And isn’t it less disruptive to play on Sunday than on a weeknight?

Next we have Jim Tressel, the sanctimonious head football coach at Ohio State. He appeared at an ill-conceived press conference last week to not explain why he violated his contract, the NCAA rulebook, and every ethical consideration known to man, by refusing to come forward with information about his players committing NCAA violations.

Tressel’s press conference became so Nixonian as to be humorous, were it not so sad. The only quote missing was, “I am not a crook.”

To attend the press conference, Tressel had to interrupt a tour promoting his latest book: “Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Your Best.”

Too bad he hasn’t read what he wrote.

Right next door, Gene Chizik had to dismiss four players from Auburn’s national championship football team. Nothing major alleged, other than five counts of first degree robbery, and assorted other charges.

At least they weren’t in on poisoning Toomer’s trees.

Why, you can’t even compile the NCAA basketball tournament without people getting all bent out of shape. How can UAB and VCU be in, and not Colorado, St. Mary’s, or Virginia Tech? Not to mention Harvard.

The outrage!

Perhaps if tournament selection committee chairman Gene Smith, the athletic director at Ohio State, hadn’t been distracted by his football coach earlier in the week….

But no matter.

Putting all negatives aside, I’ll be rooting for Villanova when the Wildcats take on George Mason Friday in Cleveland. Specifically, I’ll be rooting for one of Villanova’s student managers, Frank Kineavy.

You see, Frankie’s restored my faith in the inherent goodness of people. He serves as a basketball manager despite being confined to a wheelchair. Despite being unable to speak or write. He communicates through a keyboard on a computer system built into his wheelchair.

Frankie has cerebral palsy. But it hasn’t stopped him, or made him feel sorry for himself.

“He’s more popular than us on campus,” senior guard Corey Stokes told Kathy Boccella of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Everybody knows who Frankie is. What’s beautiful about Frankie is, even though he has physical disabilities, he doesn’t complain, or use it as an excuse. He uses his abilities to help us get better!”

“He can’t play, but this means the world to him,” coach Jay Wright told WPVI-TV. “He makes us step back, and so, we’re lucky if it means so much to him.”

Beyond that, Kineavy evaluates game and practice film with a practiced eye. “He picked up concepts on what we do quicker than any player, or any person, in our program,” Wright told Greg Bishop of the New York Times.

Incredibly, Frankie isn’t alone. Nick Gaynor works as a student manager for Villanova’s women’s team. Gaynor also suffers from cerebral palsy, though he is able to talk.

“I like the girls — they’re cuter than guys!” Gaynor told Boccella. “If they have a bad day or a good day, they can always count on me to put a smile on their faces!”

According to coach Harry Perretta, Nick’s greatest contribution is as a motivator. “We draw strength from Nick,” he told Bishop, “way more than he draws from us.”

Recently, Nick and Frankie were the subject of a documentary produced by the social justice filmmaking class. “We can’t make people want to be friends with them,” faculty director of disability services Stephen McWilliams told Boccella. “But we can make people aware that they have a desire to have relationships. That’s the theme of the movie. It’s not just access to buildings, but access to hearts.”

Before Villanova hosted Pittsburgh on Feb. 12, an ESPN feature about the two managers played on the video board. When it ended, the student section shook The Pavilion, evoking tears from Wright, with a chant of “Nick and Frankie! Nick and Frankie!”

Nick and Frankie, indeed.