â€œThe future ain\’t what it used to be.â€ -Yogi Berra
“For few things in life are ever as good,
As the smell of your own glove, the crack of the wood.
Or being with friends, at that one special spot
and sharing what you haveâ€¦. with those who have not.” - A Glove of Their Own
*It was late August andÂ at the midpointÂ of the too-long pre-season the NFL is looking to eliminate in the next collective bargaining agreement. The Washington Redskins were at the New Meadlowlands for the third ofÂ four exhibition games. The Skins pulled out a 16-11 victory over the New York Jets that night. Toward the end of the game a group of youngsters went down to the railing behind the Washington bench. Some were heckling the visitors. Others were just seeking their heros’ attention. Dan Salomon is an 11-year old Jets fan. He was respectfully calling out to defensive end Andre Carter. Even though the game was still going on, Carter’s day was done. So he politely posed with the lad for photos. Dan proclaimed, “I can’t believe he came over and took a picture with me!” But it got better for the Central Jersey sports fanatic.
Much better. Later in the game, cornerback DeAngelo Hall came over to him as well. His pads were off and he was in a good mood. He joked with the boy. And Dan’s eyes lit up again. Hall kidded that it was a long game and he was starving. He patted his stomach and lip synced the words “HOT DOG!” So Dan showed his own foot speed and raced off to getÂ the three-timeÂ Pro BowlerÂ a weiner.
When the boy returned a few minutes later, he presented the hot dog to the cornerback and Hall walked away. Young Dan Salomon thought that was the end of his interaction with the star defensive back. But Hall went over to a nearby storage locker, reached in and pulled out a new Skins’ cap. He grabbed his buddy, veteran tailback Clinton Portis and both signed the cap. Hall presented it to the boy and thanked him for the hot dog.Â Hall downed the hot dog in a few swift bites.The crowd of onlookers went wild. Needless to say, Dan was elated. He could hardly wait to tell his friends at school, two of whom are Skins’ diehards.Â Dan still rooted for the Jets, but Andre Carter, Clinton Portis and especially DeAngelo Hall were elevated to favorite NFL player status. A simple act of generosity that lead to a memorable moment of kindness. Forever etched in a young man’s mind and heart.
The regular season started. It did not turn out as well for any of the three Redskin players involved. Andre Carter was forced to play out of position in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s 3/4 scheme. But like the true professional that he is, he never pulled an Albert Haynesworth. He just did what was asked of him. Clinton Portis came back from his concussion problems of 2009. Showed glimpses of the hard-running tailback that fans of the Burgundy & Gold loved during his seven seasons in DC. But persistent groin injuries eventually ended Portis’s season far earlier than he anticipated. His Skin career is likely over. For DeAngelo Hall, he was the lone steady factor in a defense ravaged by injury. His four-interception day at Chicago tied the NFL record, got his jersey sent to Canton and got him selected to the Pro Bowl last week. His first appearance as a Redskin.
Bob Salomon is Dan’s father. He read my blog several times. Knew that I was a thirty-year elementary school teacher and that I covered the Skins. He is the co-creator and driving force behind one of the most beloved children’s books on the market, “A Glove of Their Own.” I’ve probably done over three thousand read alouds during my three decades in the classroom. Obviously, I love sports. And this book was long one of my favorites. Long one of my students’ favorites as well. And every time I read it to them, I would stress the book’s message of sharing and kindness with my own childhood memories. We never had enough equipment growing up poor in Northeast Pennsylvania. We, too, played on a field covered in rocks with no bases. The happiest day for us was when the Archbald Athletic Complex opened up just up the road from that rock field. This book has the power to stir memories in grownups as well.
“A Glove of Their Own” has its own life force because of its effect on adults who played and loved the game.Â TheÂ award-winning bookÂ has become so popular that baseball icons like Yogi Berra and Joe Torre have jumped on board. Dozens of other professional players from baseball, including current stars Michael Cuddyer and Nelson Cruz , as well asÂ pros from other sports. Salomon’s bookÂ has generatedÂ fundsÂ for over forty non-profit charitable causesÂ such as Cheerful Givers,Â Covenant House, the Joe Nierko Foundation, and World Baseball Outreach. Major sports corporations like Rawlings,Â Upper Deck, Louisville Slugger and Modell’s Sporting Goods have joined the cause. A football book is in the offing.
The internet is a big, scary place at times. But it does have its special people. And its amazing stories. Bob Salomon would love to return the kindness of Andre Carter, Clinton Portis and DeAngelo Hall for making his son feel special at a the tail end of that meaningless exhibition game four months ago. I am going to see if I can use my connections to get the trio a copy of the book. Kindness begets kindness. That should be the lasting message as you head into the New Year. You can make a difference in a kid’s life: a little can go a long way. Giving back and extending friendship is written between the lines of “A Glove of Their Own“; a story of kids who play with little, worn-out equipment, without coaches or concession stands, all for the love of the game. Salomon’s goal is toÂ heighten awareness, raise funds, and motivate everyone to play the game forward. Whether you donate your old equipment, organize a community collection, or donate funds to the dedicated organizations I mentioned earlier, you will have made a difference in the life of a needy child.
I got word late last night that CultureMob is reluctantly ending its sports department. Sadly, this will be my final article. These are tough economic times for many, including popular internet blogs. I loved working with Mike Showalter, the sites’ amazing publisher. He gave me a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. I am flattered and honored by your overwhelming support of my writing and wish you all nothing but health and wealth in 2011.