JOHN DOHERTY: Nice guys can finish first

2013-09-09T18:15:00Z 2013-09-12T22:28:08Z JOHN DOHERTY: Nice guys can finish firstJohn Doherty Times Columnist nwitimes.com
September 09, 2013 6:15 pm  • 

Leo Durocher managed the Cubs from 1966-72. However, it was in 1948 while managing the Brooklyn Dodgers, he is credited with having said, “Nice guys finish last.”

Over the weekend, I saw two guys in action who prove the axiom inaccurate — one on video, one in person and both addressing issues that tend to dominate this space.

The video star was Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo. With thunderstorms approaching East Lansing before a scheduled noon kickoff, the public address announcer there had asked fans to evacuate the stands.

But the students were refusing.

Whereupon Izzo obtained a microphone, walked down the sidelines, stationed himself in front of the students and pleaded with them to put safety first. In return for their cooperation, he promised to sit in their midst for the entirety of the game, once it started. True to his word, after the weather cleared, that is exactly what he did.

Izzo is as fine a college basketball coach as there is in the country (six Final Fours and a 2000 National Championship in 18 years) but few of his peers are “nice guys.”

I'm sure, having seen Izzo in action coaching, there are times he's pretty tough on referees and his own players. Still, Izzo's conduct Saturday certainly was not out of character. I know from personal experience.

Eight years ago in South Bend, after the Spartans defeated the Irish 44-41, I attended Mass in one of the dormitories on campus with family and friends. Just as Mass was starting, I heard a buzz in the congregation behind me, looked back, and saw Izzo and his family slide into seats three rows behind me.

And there he stayed — until long after Mass had ended. Once the priest gave the final blessing, Izzo was mobbed by dormitory residents. Eventually, his wife and children slipped out of the building but Izzo remained until every last admirer had received an autograph, posed for a picture, or exchanged a word or two. Not on his own campus, Izzo didn't have to do that.

A little closer to home on Saturday, another nice guy did something he didn't have to. Community Healthcare System in Munster was holding its annual Innovation in Neurosurgery Symposium for staff physicians and nurses.

Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes, MD is one of the foremost concussion experts in the world. Since 1994, he has been a neurological consultant to the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA), which has supported research on the effects of head injuries on professional athletes. He is the Medical Director of the Center for Study of Retired Athletes based at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has been an advisor to the NCAA and also is the Medical Director for Pop Warner Football, the largest youth sports association in the U.S.

Saturday, on what should have been a day off and on relatively short notice, he drove down from Evanston and gave a presentation entitled “Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries in Sports: Are They Really Mild?”

Next week in this space, Dr. Bailes answers that question.

John Doherty is a certified athletic trainer and licensed physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at ptatcsport@sbcglobal.net. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.

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