There once was a man by the name of Grantland Rice, who single-handedly elevated sports-writing from its raucous, gin-soaked past to respectability. Another great sportswriter, Red Smith, said the distinguished example set by Rice even led other writers to wear ties and jackets.
Sometimes, Rice's columns read like great literature, as in this classic description of a Notre Dame vs. Army football game: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army football team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds yesterday afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below."
It is probably one of the greatest sports columns ever written and to this day is regarded as an example of excellent prose. He was not only a master of words and a student of the English language, but Rice displayed insights into human behavior. His versatility in writing included poems, shorts stories and essays.
One of his best poems was titled "Alumnus Football" and the last couple of lines of that poem are as significant today as they were back in the 1920s and '30s. The poem describes the trials and tribulations of a young football star who graduates from college and then faces life's challenges both personally and in the business world. The point is that an individual has to persevere and never surrender to envy, jealousy, failure or any of the other forces most of us will contend with in our lifetimes. Rice ends with these famous words:
When the One Great Scorer comes to write
against your name-
He marks-not that you won or lost-but how
you played the game.
There are rules of conduct and behavior that any of us in civilized society try our best to abide by. Such as keeping our promises or helping friends when they need it. I heard a story the other day about an intervention involving a good friend of mine. Three friends of ours saw that this man was drinking his life away. With the consent of the man's family, they talked him into going into rehabilitation. They had spent weeks planning the intervention, seeking professional advice, arranging with a recovery facility in another city to accept their friend if he decided to go, and then footed the whole bill, not knowing whether their friend would recover. That's true friendship, and such acts of kindness and sacrifice happen all the time.
Then there are those who do so much in healthcare for others, but unfortunately too often their efforts are taken for granted. I recently received an e-mail from a man who had a distinguished career in our industry. His story is one that often goes untold. This man wrote: "Last month, I had my first encounter with our healthcare system (as a patient). My health has been splendid and I was enjoying retirement doing garden tours as a volunteer at a local garden and playing tennis three times a week, among other things. Suddenly I had a severe stroke at home.
"I must tell you that my entire experience with our `healthcare industry,' at least in my community, was absolutely incredible and confirmed my faith in the system. From the Ventura County (Calif.) paramedics-men of steel-to the ER at Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Woodland Hills (Calif.) and its ICU, and later inpatient rehabilitation at Northridge Hospital Medical Center (followed by home physical therapy provided by Kaiser), the healthcare providers-physicians, nurses, therapists, dietary-everyone concerned was polite and cared about me and my comfort, restoration to health and my family. The staff at these facilities represented a potpourri of ethnic groups and were all amazing. You really know how great they are when you need help getting out of bed at 3: 30 in the morning and they respond with smiles and patience.
"I have some challenges to face in the near future, but it is comforting to know that should I need hospitalization again, these wonderful people will be there for me and those other patients they treat. While I would not wish my medical problems on anyone, it was an eye-opener to experience acute healthcare as a patient."
What a wonderful missive and a great tribute to those caregivers who give of themselves every day to their patients all day and night, performing incredible acts of mercy and love without publicity.
Too often we hear the bad and not the good, which generally outweighs the bad. Grantland Rice knew this when he wrote that the most meaningful thing about life is not whether you become a millionaire or a captain of industry or even a sports star. What really counts is what kind of individual you are and if you care enough to make this world of ours a better place. To my way of thinking healthcare workers are on the front lines and we are blessed to be involved in an industry where the people involved play the game well every day.