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Bird Brown: Let's 'Take a Break' and do what's right

Sports have been such a huge part of my life. As you know if you've read any of my columns, I grew up in a pretty active family with a mother who to this day is the most accomplished athlete in the family. My sister was the fastest girl in school and my brothers both were accomplished athletes in their own.

I consider myself blessed to have grown up in an environment that encouraged participation in sport and to try anything that grabbed our interest. I have learned so many lessons from the years of participation as a player, manager, parent, coach, administrator, and journalist that I have carried in to my own life.

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Hopefully through my 35-plus years of coaching, I have imparted some of those pearls of wisdom on my own players.

The greatest gift that I received from sports is the hundreds of teammates and players that I have had relationships with. In each of those roles, every one of those have enriched my life and opened my eyes to new viewpoints, different from many of my traditional beliefs. A wide collection of backgrounds and experiences that we all brought to the table helped us work together to accomplish our goals and we rarely thought negatively about the differences we had that made us look different, talk different, love different, or act different.

My team in college was a great example of what I'm talking about. Starting a new collegiate soccer program in South Carolina in the early 1980's was a difficult task for our mentor who reached far and wide, leaving no stone unturned, to recruit any male soccer player with a heartbeat who could at least spell soccer or had maybe kicked a ball in an organized game at the community park.

He had been an assistant coach in a successful Division I soccer program and was tasked with building a program that could compete with some of the best teams in the south that were in our conference.

Because the pickings were slim, Coach Griggs brought to campus in a small country town a group of young men that were more diverse than the United Nations to a very small, formerly all-girls school, with virtually no social life, for the single focus of developing a successful soccer program. In a school with a student body of a little more than 250 on campus and with nothing else to do and nobody else to hang out with, we were forced to learn to live with each other, warts and all, not only on the pitch but around campus as well.

We had African-Americans, Jamaicans, Koreans, Englishmen, Irishmen, Caucasian-Americans, surfer dudes and stoners, Yankees and Rebels, Gamecocks and Tigers, and Red Sox and Orioles fans.

Instead of focusing on our differences, we ate together, we trained together, we played together, we studied together, we cried together and felt the pain when one of our own suffered a personal tragedy or a romantic break-up. Through that we developed a life-long friendship and brotherhood that continues to this day.

These past few weeks, the world of sport has highlighted the worst of human interaction on many sides and it breaks my heart. Sport to me has always been a sanctuary where I could go to get away from the conflict and stress of "normal" life — void of the politics, relationship issues, and school or work that was the pressing matter at the time.

I've combed social media over the last week and have witnessed much hate between people who only a few months ago either didn't know one another or have been long friends and can no longer see eye to eye.

I even struggle to communicate our differences of opinion with my sons in my own house.

What I'd like to propose is a new campaign called, "Take a Break."

If you feel the need to take a knee and protest to make your point during our National Anthem, take your knee but take a break and try to understand the effects of your actions on people with very strong opinions that don't match your own.

If you feel the need to protest the NFL's behavior from last weekend then by all means burn your jersey, skip the game, or sell your PSL's but take a break from the hate and vitriol toward someone you don't know or don't understand.

If you're using the situation to further your own political goals or views or stir things up just for your own entertainment, please for all of us, take a break.

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Like my college soccer teammates, let's all take a break and reflect on what it means to be an American and the values we all share, not the beliefs that tear us apart.

As The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia used to sing, there "Ain't no time to hate."

410-857-7896

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