Category: Heroes

Lessons From Kobe

Lessons From Kobe

One week ago we were stunned by the news that NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in California. Since then we have seen an outpouring of grief and accolades on a scale rarely seen:

  • Kobe’s death has been mourned by millions around the globe
  • Superstars in all sports have been reduced to tears as they’ve described their loss
  • Some, like Shaquille O’Neal who had years-long tension in his relationship with Kobe, have committed themselves to changing their lives
  • Perhaps all of us have felt some level of stunned grief

Perhaps we’ve also felt a sense of mixed emotions at the adulation Kobe has received. Yes, we know he was a talented basketball player; but we can’t forget the incident in Colorado when he was accused of assaulting a young woman.

As I’ve read blogs and articles, listened to broadcasts and paid attention to my own reactions, I wonder, Why the overwhelming grief, and why mixed emotions? Here are my thoughts:

1. He was a living legend.

For those under age 35, there’s a very strong likelihood that he was the embodiment of a living basketball legend.

  • For those a little older it’s Magic and Larry.
  • For those a little older, it’s MJ and Dr. J.
  • For those a little older still, it was Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson.
  • And for some who can’t remember…it was Jerry West or Bob Cousy.

For a whole current generation, full of energy and dreams, Kobe was a hero in the flesh. (And of course, LeBron James is a part of that conversation, too). That’s one reason the grief has been so enormous. Living legends are supposed to be living.

2. His accomplishments are simply astounding. Kobe was:

  • One of the first to sign a pro contract right out of high school
  • 5 time NBA champ
  • 2 time NBA finals MVP
  • 18 time All-star
  • 4 time All-star game MVP
  • 2 time Olympic gold medalist

The list goes on. Most agree Kobe was absolutely one of the Top 10 most accomplished basketball players ever. It’s quite likely many would agree he’s in the Top 5. The world is grieving the loss of a stunningly accomplished athlete.

3. For many he became a villain. For them Kobe represented all that is wrong with prima-donna athletes who force themselves on others and expect special privileges of exoneration. An honest appraisal of his life requires us to acknowledge that:

  • He was accused of rape by a 19 year-old hotel worker in Eagle, CO
  • She eventually refused to testify and the case was dropped
  • He did however agree to a plea deal in a civil suit, and publicly apologized
  • Many NBA fans, and certainly almost all Denver Nuggets fans, never forgave him. For the remainder of his career, the Denver Pepsi Center was filled with boos and jeers every time Kobe touched the ball.

As a result, for many he remained a permanent, infamous, unforgivable villain.

4. His focus after basketball has without any question been his family, especially his four girls. Whatever one’s opinion of Kobe the opponent, or the abuser, there is no denying he restored his marriage, and along with a supremely forgiving wife, turned much of his attention to his daughters:

  • He started and ran the Mamba Sports Academy to teach girls basketball. He and Gianna had hopes that she might play for U. of Conn some day.
  • He was on a flight to oversee an event at that academy when the helicopter crashed into a hill in the fog.
  • Fathers across the globe have posted on #girldad over 175,000 time to express their respect for Kobe and their commitment to their daughters. The most repeated word: Love
  • As the proud father and father-in-law of two wonderful women and the grandfather of 5 girls I can relate.

Countless athletes, bloggers, broadcasters and journalists have vouched for the visible impact Kobe made on them as they watched his undeniable dedication and love toward his girls.

It makes me wonder, could there be a connection between his shameful disrespect of a young woman in 2003 and his admirable respect for his daughters in 2020? What do you think?

5. Lastly, perhaps the most subtle, but deepest reason for the outpouring of grief and admiration is, his story is like all of ours…just vastly more pronounced and evident. It looks like redemption to me:

  • Like Kobe, we all have God-given, innate talents that we can hardly take credit for. We should gratefully acknowledge, embrace and deploy them.
  • Like him, we have accomplishments for which we are known. Just vastly more unnoticed.
  • Like him, we are engaged in a career, vastly less profitable, that results in provision and impact. Whatever the scale of ours, there is dignity in our work.
  • Like him, every one of us has committed self-serving, other-harming acts of outright sin. Ours have just been vastly less publicized.

Jesus said to pious men who would stone a sinful woman, “Whichever of you is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8) They had enough sense to turn around and slink away, or just run. We should have the same reaction whenever we get in a pious, judgmental mood toward others.

Jesus was explicitly clear about how he felt about those who would point out a speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye, while ignoring the plank in their own. The word he used was “hypocrite.” (Matt. 7)

In the clarifying light of God’s righteousness none of us has the slightest excuse for standing in judgment of others. Especially when it seems evident that the other has experienced a transformative change in their priorities and behavior.

As I watch and read I think these are the reasons behind the almost unparalleled grief we have seen over Kobe’s death:

1. For a whole generation he was a living legend.

2. His accomplishments are simply astounding.

3. For many he became an infamous villain.

4. He directed exceptional love toward the women of his family.

5. His story is wounded just like ours. God redeems broken stories.

One of the most magnificent attributes of God’s nature, as illustrated by Jesus in his description of The Prodigal’s father, is his unlimited capacity to forgive and redeem the worst acts of our lives.

I thank God that he has done that for me. Perhaps he’s done that for you. I just wonder if he did the same for Kobe.

To me, his story looks like redemption.

Heroic Men; Genuine Masculinity

A term we hear these days, which we never heard until just a few years ago, is Toxic Masculinity.  I think I understand the intent of those who use it; and I agree with their intent. It’s used in reference to alcohol-fueled frat boys who force their will on alcohol-incapacitated women; to sports thugs caught […]

Heroic Men; Genuine Masculinity
At Last!

At Last!

“What was the highlight of 2016 for you?” our Christmas party host asked around the dinner table. Beryl and I had the same responses, “First, the birth of 5th granddaughter, Gemma. Very close after that…the Cubs winning the World Series!!”

“Really?” some asked. “A sports event was a highlight?” Clearly, they were not aware of the cosmic significance of the event. At least not of its impact on the Glass clan. Why did this rank as a highlight of the year? Because it was of far more significance than just another sports event. For these three reasons:

Family Tradition Passed On

My dad, born in 1922 on the South Side of Chicago, staunch White Sox territory, was a rabid lifetime Cubs fan. He lived 90 years and never saw them win the Series. That’s a sports drought. Nevertheless, my siblings and I all picked up Cub fever from my dad. Of course, I passed the same affliction on to my kids. Thankfully, our son- and daughter-in-law have followed suit.

I fell in love with the North Siders in 1969; the year the Cubs put their entire infield into the All-star Game. The game roster didn’t allow additional room for two future Cub Hall of Famers. In the middle of August they had a 9 game division lead over the New York Mets. No matter; by the end of the season, they lost by 8 games.

So, for our family to see the Cubs actually in the series, then win it, was stupendously historic. Millions of Cub fans all over the world felt the same way. Like them, we mourned the lives of loved ones, in our case my dad, that had been lost before they ever saw a Series win. And like many thousands in the vicinity of Wrigley Field, my two sons, Alec and Conor, wrote their names and memories in chalk on the brick wall of the stadium set aside for that significant purpose. Conor wrote: “Make someday today.” Alec quoted my dad’s favorite cheer: “’Atta way!” Family tradition passed on.

Hope Fulfilled

By now many readers know the details of the years of futility for the Cubs. But for the unaware, a quick summary: the last time the Cubs had even been in the Series was 1945. The last time they won it was 1908; the longest span between championships of any team in major league sports, any sport.

With horrifically painful playoff failures in 1984 and again in 2003 the expectation, or at least nauseating fear, of failure hovered over every Cub fan in these playoffs.

This time, when the Cubs fell behind Cleveland 1-3 in series wins, the pit in every Cub fan stomach ran deep. When in the final game the Cubs blew 5-1 and then 6-3 leads, as Cleveland tied it up, every Cub fan silently had the thought, “Oh, so this is how they lose it this time. This will be the most painful story.”

So for the Cubs to come back from a rain delay, that visibly sapped the enormous amount of momentum Cleveland had built, to win in extra innings, the explosion of hope fulfilled in the hearts of Cub Nation was indescribable.

Unbridled Joy in Community

Long before the Cubs made it to the series, our family decided that if they did make it we’d all head to Chicago to watch the games together. We savored every game with our kids and granddaughters.

Alec, Conor and I decided to watch the final game (played in Cleveland), come what may, at a sports bar three blocks south of Wrigley Field: Sheffield’s. We were in the neighborhood long before the pub opened, soaking in the once-in-a-lifetime feel of electricity in the whole area.

We walked into Sheffield’s as they opened at 11, and waited endlessly (there are only so many chips, sandwiches, and beverages you can consume in one setting; we found the limit) for the 7:00 game time.

When Cubs’ lead-off batter, Dexter Fowler, hit a deep fly against the Indian’s pitcher, who had totally dominated the Cubs twice already in the series, Cub fans battled split-second emotions of “Holy cow, this can’t be…can it?!”…wait for it…“It is! It is! It’s a home run!”

Chaos ensued. (Watch it here.) That one stroke indicated that the summit of what seemed like a virtually insurmountable mountain a few days before, and even at the start of that last game, might actually be in sight.

When Cubs third baseman, Kris Bryant, threw the final out in the 10th inning and the game was won, Sheffield’s exploded in complete pandemonium. The three of us screamed, hugged and bounced for an unknown length of time. We high-fived countless new best friends.

Then we joined the massive throng filling the streets heading to the Wrigley shrine as if on a spiritual quest. I don’t know the official number in the streets, but it was the largest crowd I’d ever been in. It was certainly hundreds of thousands, or more.

The utter exuberance and camaraderie shared by complete strangers, and even by the 4000 police in the streets, was simply indescribable. Community, joy, transcendence.

It may have been just a sports event to many people. It went far beyond that for the Glass Family. No doubt about it, it was a highlight of the year. In fact, it was a highlight of a lifetime.

I just wish Dad could have been there.


Value Your Values

Value Your Values

“I violated my values and it was wrong. I behaved shamefully.”

Those are the words of Christopher Correa, the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, recently convicted of hacking into the player personnel system of another major league team. He has lost his dream job, faces 46 months in prison and has been ordered to pay a fine of nearly $280,000.

What he would do if he could only turn back time and make another choice when faced with temptation to further his reputation as a winner! Too late; the secret is out.

How sadly often it is that we read very similar stories in the news:

  • imagesHead football coach Art Briles, a man of faith, whose decision to ignore, hide or discredit the stories of numerous women who reported sexual assaults by his football players, cost him his job and has cast a dark shadow over the outstanding reputation of Baylor University. He is not an exception; he is only the most public and recent of coaches to betray their own beliefs, and those who trusted him, for the sake of success.
  • images-1Closer to home for me, the former sheriff in my county of El Paso, Terry Maketa, who 4 years ago stood at the summit of our political scene due to his heroic leadership in battling devastating wildfires in the Colorado Springs area, had to leave office accused of sexual misconduct, financial impropriety and discriminatory hiring and firing practices. A local university political professor spoke for everyone when he said in disbelief, “Here you have this rising political star…and the next thing you know, he’s leaving office in disgrace.”

Men, these stories, which appear on a regular basis, smack me in the face. How could a man of integrity make such an awful error of judgment? How could a man who calls himself a Christian compromise every past victory or success, by choosing a character short-cut, in order to get a piece of power or praise? It’s almost beyond belief; until we remember, all of us have the capacity to make just one questionable decision to enhance our reputation, our influence or our wealth.

That’s all it takes, one choice, for the possibility of everything to collapsing. We don’t expect it to, because it hasn’t before. That kind of tunnel vision, or arrogance, is shocking when we see it in others. Are we toying with the same risk?

Someone has perceptively said, “Don’t just give people rules to follow; give them values to believe in.” I think that is remarkably insightful. The list of lifetime rules to follow can be almost limitless, and they can change depending on circumstances. But values are more encompassing; they don’t waver; they provide a foundation; they determine how we live our lives.

What are your values, the principles on which you have built your life, or at least intend to? I’ll bet some are:

  • Integrity
  • Dependability
  • Faithfulness
  • Humility

If we are honest, we know there are circumstances in which we have been, or might be, tempted to take one risk (which usually soon leads to the next one)  just to look or feel better. Men, I urge us all to regularly ask ourselves whether we are compromising any of those bedrock values for the more superficial “success” the world praises.

After his cheating was exposed, Correa lamented, that he is “overwhelmed with remorse and regret for my actions.”

Let’s decide that our words, actions and decisions, today, will not bring that kind of compromise of our values. Let’s commit instead, “I’ll never let that statement be true of me.”


Build Good Men. Continued.

p_blacksmith_1660195cYet again, we come face-to-face with the bewildering, heart-breaking news of another mass killing in the U.S. This time, for my wife, Beryl, and me, it pierces even closer to home—3 killed, 9 wounded in Colorado Springs, our home for the past 16 years. Revulsion, grief, ache, and anger boil to the surface.

And, just days later, another horrific scene of slaughter takes place in San Bernardino, CA. We watch the horror unfold in stunned disbelief.

Coming so shortly after the bombings and killings in Paris and Mali, a world that already felt unstable and unsafe, now feels even less safe and even more bewildering.

What is going on? I feel compelled to comment, mostly on the Colorado Springs event, because it happened in my backyard. I’m intentionally bypassing the political issues of abortion, terror or gun control. There is another time and place for that conversation. I’m landing on the common thread in these stories that motivates me more than any other.

Build Good Men. Continued.
There Will Never Be Another

There Will Never Be Another

yogiSaturday mornings, waiting for Mom and Dad to wake up, were a cartoon-fest in my home when I was a boy. Among others, one of my favorite shows was Yogi Bear. Because he was “smarter than the average bear.”

So it was with disbelieving shock that I eventually heard of a Yankees baseball player, Yogi Berra, apparently named after the cartoon star. What parent would play such an awful trick on their child?

Of course, later I discovered it was the other way around; Berra was such a successful ball player (eventually playing in 14 World Series, guiding his team to win 10 of them) that his name was adopted for the star of Saturday mornings.

Today I learned that Berra passed away at the age of 90. His sports accomplishments may never be repeated. But it was his unique way of twisting the English language that was truly one-of-a-kind.

Some examples as summarized by the Associated Press:

On selecting a restaurant: “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.”

On travel directions: “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”

On being told he looked cool: “You don’t look so hot yourself.”

On seemingly repeated events: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

On economics: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

On being asked what time it was: “You mean now?”

His approach toward baseball: “90% is mental. The other half is physical.”

On his team’s diminishing pennant chances (and now, his life): “It ain’t over til it’s over.”

On death: “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

Yogi’s spontaneous comments were bewildering, hilarious and insightful all at the same time. He was smarter than the average bear.

There will never be another quite like him.


A Quiet Testimony

My first memory of a championship football was listening to the radio, as a 10 year-old in December of 1963, cheering on the Chicago Bears as they beat Y.A Tittle and the New York Giants. One of the stars on the Giants was Hall of Fame wide receiver/running back, Frank Gifford, who later went on […]

A Mother’s Wisdom

A Mother’s Wisdom

My Mom—Yvonne Kuhlman Glass

The impact of mothers is amazing. They carry us for months, painfully deliver us into the world, love us at all costs, bear countless burdens for us, believe in us and send us on our own journey. What a gift moms are.

In 1938, when he was 14, President George H. W. Bush’s mother gave him words of wisdom to live by. He wrote them in the cover of his Bible:

I would be true, for there are those who trust me.
I would be pure, for there are those who care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer.
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be a friend to all, to the foe, and to the friendless.
I would be giving, and forget the gift.
I would be humble, for I know my weaknesses.
I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.

Timeless words of wisdom from a mother.

My mom gave my siblings and me countless words of wisdom throughout her lifetime, but the phrase that comes to mind most IMG_1847 (1)quickly is a fairly humorous one I heard for years: “Beat Gonzales!” That was Mom’s well-meaning, yet mispronounced, encouragement to beat the completely-out-of-reach, world class and future record-setting Olympian swimmer, John Kinsella, in a high school swim meet. Those were the last words my mom would say to me before just about every swim meet thereafter, regardless who I was competing against. Over time they took on a much larger meaning: “I’m with you! I believe in you!”

Decades later, during a swimming competition at Stanford University in 2009, my impish wife, son and a couple of friendly cheerleaders, revived those significant words for me.  (Unbelievably, one of the official timers for that race actually knew who Kinsella was; she dated him in college!)

I’ll never forget Mom’s encouragement. What advice did your mom give you that you’ll never forget?

Glory and Ruin, Part II

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”   —Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn As a survivor of the Gulag Archipelago, the massive Soviet system of […]