Coach Beilein, Chris Webber, starry-eyed boys, and $100,000 worth of inspiration

Submitted by buddhafrog on February 7th, 2012 at 7:34 PM

 

As you probably know from the repeated forum posts, Beilein is in a close race with Ohio's coach Matta for the ESPN Inspiration is Contagious Award (vote now).  I clicked over there today to vote for Beilein as much as I did to vote against Ohio.  But then I saw that the winner recieves $100,000 for their charity, and Beilein's charity is the St. Louis Center... which brought back some powerful memories from the Fab Five era and my first job working at St. Louis.  Please read my story (and first diary) below.
 

~~~~~

 

Back when I was an undergrad in the early 90's, I worked at St. Louis Center, a home for mentally/emotionally/physically disabled youth and adults.  Probably around 1/2 of the kids had gone through some abuse and as wards of the state, were placed in St. Louis.  Some of the stories that some of these kids went though would blow your mind.  Two decades later, these boys and some of their stories are still prominent in my mind.

I took the upper youth home (middle school / high school) on field trips every weekend.  We went to Crisler a few times for women's basketball games.  We'd watch the game, and then afterwards, would help clean the arena and UM would pay St. Louis Center for our work.  (our work was slow and low quality, but they would always hire us none-the-less).

One Saturday, as we finished our work and were walking back into the players tunnel, the men's team came out of the tunnel for their practice.

You have to understand what my boys looked like - some looked as disabled as you could imagine; some didn't know how to interact socially; many wore braces or helments, etc.  For some people, for various reasons, it is hard to face people like this - even harder to connect with them in any real sense. 

As you can imagine, as the players came out of the tunnel, my boys put up their hands to give them a high five sort of tunnel.  They were so stoked!  Back at the home, we would always watch UM basketball and the boys were well aware of the Fab Five.  My boys called out their names as they passed...

Both Ray Jackson and Juwan said hello, politiely.  Jimmy King looked terribly uncomfortable, but he smiled and said "Hi", and tried to act normally.  I appreciated it becuase I could tell he was trying.  But Jalen Rose and Chris Webber stopped and talked - for a long while.

I probably had at least 10 kids with me, and each asked them at least one question, often awkward and hard to decipher questions.  Jalen and Chris laughed and talked with the boys.   One kid asked Chris to dunk for him.  Chris immediately ran onto the court and threw down one of his left-handed power dunks.  Then he jogged back to our group and celebrated like they just won the game.  He then promised that he'd dunk for real in the next game just for those kids.

Watching that next UMBB game back at St. Louis Center, you can probably imagine the excitement when Webber had his first dunk.  All the boys really believed that dunk was for them.  Why?  Because Webber (and Jalen) were so real with the boys.  

Weber and Rose saw through their disabilities; they saw through the wall that makes most people much more comfortable by just turning away.  They treated the boys as real boys, as real people.  It meant the world to my boys at the Center and was probably the highlight of their year.

Later, as Chris Webber went through all the scandals and problems for UM, I never could judge him harshly.  I still won't.  It might be illogical to give him a pass for those things simply b/c of that one day with my boys from St. Louis Center, but that's how I see it.  I feel like I saw something in Webber that is hard to see from most people, let alone stars.  

Webber was enjoying his time helping other people.  He was doing it for the boys, yes, but he was doing it for himself also because he truly loved making people happy.  That, I believe, says a lot about who he is.  More than the money he took and the reasons why.  In my mind, Webber will always be that guy could see the humanity in others and loved making them happy.

anyway, that's my story....

It's great to see UM basketball's connection with St. Louis Center is still active, and likely even stronger. Go Blue, Go Beilein, and you GO VOTE!

 

Vote for Beilein and help give $100,000 to St. Louis Center!

Comments

Bando Calrissian

February 7th, 2012 at 7:54 PM ^

That's a great story, but it's completely unrelated to the fact that Chris Webber couldn't look beyond his own personal greed when offered over $100,000 by Ed Martin.  And has not cared enough about the University of Michigan to show a shred of remorse for the ramifications his actions had on the University when they came to light.  

I'm sure he was a nice guy, and is capable of being a friendly, gregarious, kind-hearted person.  Saw that out of him myself.  But it doesn't do anything to change the fact that Webber tarnished the reputation of the University of Michigan.  And, simply, doesn't seem to care.

buddhafrog

February 7th, 2012 at 8:23 PM ^

I understand completely and know that this is what many/most people feel.  

It was a minor pary of my diary, but I did say, "It might be illogical to give him a pass for those things simply b/c of that one day..."  I get it.  But that day did change how I would view Webber through the future scandals.  

My diary is not meant to be an excuse for Webber, but rather as support for St. Louis Center and UM's and Coach Beilein's continued support for this home for boys.  

By the way, Jalen Rose, not Webber, is my favorite UM player, partially for how he's handled the entire scandal.

Bluemandew

February 10th, 2012 at 2:51 PM ^

It's called personal responsibility.  Could Webber have taken the money if Martin hadn't offered? Nope but he still made the choice to take the money. He has his own share of the blame to shoulder. He wasn't the poor kid from the ghetto that Jalen was. His dad was a plant manager and his mom a teacher. If he wanted money for pizza all he had to do was call dad.

ChillChet

February 12th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

... if we want to judge Ohio players and others for taking cash/gifts, we also have to judge Michigan.  Granted, as posters above indicated, taking money doesn't make one a BAD PERSON, it means they made irresponsible, disingenuous, and BAD DECISIONS.  Everyone has made bad decisions and I'm willing to wager there are posters on this board who have made poor choices which have had, or have the potential to generate, more seriously negative consequences (not even criminal... think of cheating on a spouse, drunk driving, etc). 

-Chet

 

Bluemandew

February 13th, 2012 at 3:27 PM ^

I agree that taking the money doesn't make Webber a bad person. I am glad to hear that he took the time to put a smile on these kids faces. I hope there are many more stories like this about Webber. I just get frustrated when people try to give Webber a complete pass such as one of the posters above did.

Class of 1817

February 7th, 2012 at 8:08 PM ^

...comPLETEly unrelated.

Trust me, I'm just as filled with rage at the Fab Fallout as anyone. I spent many years idolizing those guys and seeing how the program was left in shambles in the following years because of the loose culture and scandals...

...yeah. It doesn't belong at Michigan.

But for someone who has always found it easy to demonize those 18 year old kids for not caring about compromising the integrity of our program, I enjoyed the story because it offered a perspective I hadn't heard.

Plus...it was also an anecdotal story meant to be related to Beilen's charity, not an attempted vindication of the Fab Five.

big gay heart

February 7th, 2012 at 8:48 PM ^

Once again, Bando Calrissian just HAS to interject with his tired, over-the-top holier-than-thou nonsense. 

Buddy, I hope that someone, somewhere, someday, jams your flute so far up your vagizzle that you shit musical notes for a week. 

Good story, OP, I hope the Beezer wins. 

StephenRKass

February 7th, 2012 at 10:07 PM ^

My wife works with severely disabled special needs kids at a school in the Chicago area. It takes someone special to work with and relate well to these children, especially over the long haul. I love your story. Obviously, Webber is a flawed individual, as we all are. But I appreciated your anecdote greatly, and am glad you shared it here.

MGoViso

February 7th, 2012 at 10:59 PM ^

This is my favorite diary ever, I think. 

Thanks for posting your story. I didn't care which coach got to choose a charity before, but I'll vote now.

luppo2381

February 8th, 2012 at 10:36 AM ^

What a great story!!! I also worked at the St. Louis Center. It is great to hear you call them your boys. I do the same when I tell stories about the Center. I had a similiar story with the boys. We went to the annual Mott's Golf Outing with a group of the boys, which as stated before when most people see the boys in the community they look and feel ackward towards them. All the former Michigan Football players said hi to the boys and posed for pictures, but the best was Charles Woodson. Charles talked with the boys, threw a football with them, and to top it off he had his heisman trophy with him. He posed for a group picture with the boys and had the heisman trophy front and center. I know Buddhafrog can relate, those boys were so excited and all they wanted to do was go back to the center and watch Charles Woodson play. I swear everyone of those boys from Martin, Sage, and St. Joe's hall put that picture up in their room. I hope everyone votes as many times as they can for the great facitilty that could use the help.

StephenRKass

February 8th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Your story makes me tear up. It isn't everyone that has a heart for these boys who have had to deal with so much, from families, from life, from everything. In fact, my wife and family tolerate my mgoblog addiction and generally just wonder why I waste so much time following Michigan sports. However, this story was so good, it is the first time I've ever cut and pasted and printed a story out, so my wife could read it later today. Thanks much for sharing this.

"When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

buddhafrog

February 8th, 2012 at 6:50 PM ^

Thanks a lot Stephen.  Your wife works with special needs children.  I had my job at Lt. Louis Center for a couple years.  I was a psych major at the time.  My work there taught me that I didn't think I could handle doing that work every day for the rest of my life.  It was so hard in so many facets.  It was less "I can't do that" and more "I don't have what it takes."  It takes a specail person to do that job very well. The pay is often not that great, yet the work they do is so important and very challenging.  After graduating, I've worked as a teacher overseas and as a school counselor back in the states.  But in many ways, that first job defines me.  It certainly changed how I saw and interacted with the world around me.  Tell your wife that she is appreciated and admired.

MGoShoe

February 8th, 2012 at 1:11 PM ^

...and as a fellow cleaner of Crisler (back in the day the NROTC unit would do it for games and concerts), I feel a kinship with your kids from shared experience.

Truly a fabulous anecdote and a wonderful way to put a human face on the St Louis Center and its mission. Let's put Coach Beilein over the top.

Feat of Clay

February 8th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

Thank you for sharing that.  I loved reading it. 

My feelings towards Chris Webber have been super complicated for awhile and you just made them more so.  But what a wonderful diary entry.

wolfman7

February 8th, 2012 at 2:54 PM ^

As the father of a special needs daughter I have been around these kids a lot.  What a great story.  It really takes special people to do what you were doing with those kids, I thank you for that.   

buddhafrog

February 8th, 2012 at 7:19 PM ^

I may regret this... I apologize in advance as this is getting far MGoBlue OT, but it does directly related to my diary here.  I'm a bit of an amateur writer and published a book of poetic-essays some many years ago.  The first item in my book is about one of the boys that went on that trip to Crisler, and my trying to come to terms with how easy life could be for me yet how this boy was given such pain that he couldn't bear it.

~~~

THICKER

than the fog that one Sunday morning.

Returning to Michigan from Florida, in a spring-breaked car
swollen with dozed teenagered youths,
I hit a fogged-wall of absolute grey.
In fear of hitting somethining in front of me,
afraid of slowing the car and being as a mouse
swallowed by a metal snake from behind,
without knowing what else to do,
I just kept driving, kept moving,
and I prevailed,

like Han Solo and his Millennium Falcon,
when a push of a supposed magic button
and the turn of a clever quantom stick
meant they would obrain light speed and just fly.
Just Fly.
Star and planets and universe so plentiful they pass 
like the stalks of a cornfield, and they
never so much as brush one.

Untouched in the middle of thickness.

of snow, when I was young enough that snowfall was a toy.
I'd play and run and roll, and every originally finite
and distinctively individual snowflake
that touched my selfish warm body
would melt complete.  There was so much toy
that my destruction was not considered,
but I did butcher,
just plain melted it into something soemwhere,
different,

than the other boys.
I was talking to "John" at the "Young Boy's Home,"
and he was telling me how he was gonna hang himself again,
make himself into a wind-sock and just blow,
like his rabid mother always blew.
And how she had touched him and stuffed 
some stiff something or another in a particular cavity of his
and how he had been so touched,
and in my eyes, so melted,
so juicy ice-creamed on a scorching August day,
melted so complete,

that he was no longer him.  His mushy mind not his own,
or so we like to tell ourselves --
because we know it is his mind,
only it was touched,
like a specific snowflake,

sometimes precariously hanging somewher onto something,
somehow highlighting it.
You can see it for all of its solitary personalized intricacy --
delicate and one
though surrounded by a billion billion others that
when put together are only seen as white white.
The snowflake,

exists. And how is it that some people
can just pass through the epicenter,
the chilled molasses of thickness --
life,
and never be melted,
while others are touched in places unthinkable,
apparently unbearable?

eth2

February 9th, 2012 at 8:59 AM ^

Buddhafrog:

Your words remind me how fragile life is, how flawed we all are, and how thankful most of us should be. 

While your experience working with those kids was challenging, it has paid great dividends in grounding you as a person and allowing you to see things in others that most would miss.

I believe everyone can have opinions about Chris Webber, but find it too convenient for people to judge another from afar.  IMO, whatever redemption Chris ultimately seeks should be there for him.  As one Michigan fan, I would happily welcome him back.  Again, my opinion only.

gobluednicks

February 8th, 2012 at 9:32 PM ^

oh my gawd, please spare me the "look what he did to the poor university and he shows no remorse".  i am so sick of people saying that.  universities all over the country USE student athletes for their own financial gain. it happens every day of the year.  do you really believe that scholarship denard is getting is payment enough for the millions of dollars his jersey sales have brought in?  even with the michigan arrogance accounted for, i'd say most people would agree that he's getting the raw end of the deal.

same with webber.  i don't blame him a bit for doing what he did.  at that point in a young man's life someone flashes money in front of you and what you'd REALLY do and what you SAY you'd do on a blog are two totally different things.

there are many things the athletic dept does that are far worse and screw more people over and are worse decisions than the one webber made.  rawk music in the big house, for example, has ruined the game experience.  it's quite possibly the dumbest thing evar.

and for the record, webber alone didn't harm the basketball program.  making the dumbest hires imaginable had a lot to do with that.  ellerby?  amaker?  seriously?

FieldingBLUE

February 10th, 2012 at 12:04 PM ^

Half of them are benefitting Coaches v Cancer. That's like the default coach charity.

Matta winning pretty big now, we need to mobilize the base and win this thing...for St Louis House.