Imrem: Society could stand to heed Tomlinson, Maddon and sports teamwork

  • In his Aug. 5 induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, LaDainian Tomlinson asked Americans to come together: "... let's not choose to be against one another. Let's choose to be for one another."

    In his Aug. 5 induction speech at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, LaDainian Tomlinson asked Americans to come together: "... let's not choose to be against one another. Let's choose to be for one another." Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/14/2017 12:53 PM

LaDainian Tomlinson is my athlete of the month and maybe of the year.

And he doesn't even play football anymore.

 

The honor is awarded in the context of violence that flared the past couple weekends.

Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a white supremacist rally and a counter rally collided, resulting in one being killed and 19 being injured.

Tomlinson's induction speech a week earlier at the Pro Football Hall of Fame addressed the country's angry mood.

The former Chargers running back referenced his great-great-great grandfather coming to America on a slave ship from West Africa in 1847.

Tomlinson said, "On America's team ..."

(He meant the United States, not the Dallas Cowboys.)

"... let's not choose to be against one another. Let's choose to be for one another. My great-great-great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray we dedicate ourselves to being the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind. Leading the way for all nations to follow."

Tomlinson spoke from both the heart and perspective of an athlete who spent years in locker rooms with a diversity of teammates.

"I'm of mixed race and I represent America," Tomlinson said. "Football is a microcosm of America -- all races, religions and creeds living, playing, competing side by side."

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At 5 a.m. the same day that Tomlinson issued his plea, an explosive was directed at a Muslim mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota.

More hate essentially for the sake of hate.

Recently I looked down from the Wrigley Field press box and saw the kind of hope Tomlinson hopes for.

In the Washington Nationals dugout was Dusty Baker, a black manager, leading a diverse team that led the NL East.

In the Cubs dugout was Joe Maddon, a white manager, leading a similarly diverse team that led the NL Central.

Their players were from various outposts in the United States, from various countries in Latin America, from Asia ... perhaps even from planets yet to be named.

A sports team is a mixed bag, a hodgepodge if you will, that somehow melds into a stir fry of teamwork.

Think back to how many different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds were represented on the Cubs during their 2016 championship season and, come to think of it, on the White Sox' 2005 champions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maddon pointed out last week that it's that way in all sports.

"Especially in today's market," he added, "where players come from all over the world ... especially in baseball."

If the Cubs pitching staff wasn't already diverse enough, last month they traded with the Sox for Jose Quintana, one of the few major leaguers from Colombia.

"There's no color, there's no nothing," Maddon said of sports. "All those lines are blurred and we step into the other person's existence and kind of enjoy it."

Even a polarizing athlete like Colin Kaepernick can blend into a locker room when given the opportunity.

Politicians could stand to transition their thinking from the divisive world of politics to the unified world of sports teams.

Heeding LaDainian Tomlinson would make this country so much better off ... from Bloomington, Minnesota, to Charlottesville, Virginia, to various other outposts from sea to shining sea.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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