Monday, February 14, 2011
The Toronto sports media market is, for lack of a better word, relentless. To be an athlete in the city is to be faced with ongoing scrutiny and criticism and virtually every athlete, regardless of their accomplishments on the field, has had their name mentioned in a negative light at some point during their career. Except, perhaps, for one.
Michael "Pinball" Clemons is undoubtedly one of the most popular athletes in Canadian sports history; an incredible talent with an infectious personality and relentless desire to help others. A terrifically exciting player with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League, Pinball excited a generation of Toronto football fans with his play, winning three Grey Cups from 1991-1997 and the league's Most Outstanding Player award in 1990. Have a quick look at the video below and you'll quickly see how Pinball acquired his nickname. Even if you're not a sports fan, you can't help but be impressed with his energy.
But all of Pinball's accomplishments on the football field pale in comparison to what he has done since his retirement. Since its inception in 2007, the Michael "Pinball" Clemons Foundation has quickly become one of the most generous, well-known and successful charities in Toronto. Its focus on improving the lives of underprivileged youths, coupled with Pinball's magnetic personality, has helped to raise millions of dollars for those in need, while teaming with other local initiatives such as Habitat for Humanity and Free the Children. Schools and homes have been built for those less fortunate, and scholarship funds have been created to help educate and sponsor youths. Pinball has been successful as a motivational speaker (see below after the 'jump') and is widely recognized as the gold standard for which other athletes aspire to equal in terms of humanitarian generosity.
I've had the pleasure of hearing Pinball speak in public on one occasion, several years ago. The way he engages audiences was fascinating and a fantastic learning tool for each of us trying to develop our presentation skills. To hear him speak is to hear true passion on one's voice. I encourage each of you to take a minute and look at examples of his speech techniques (I've even done the Google Video search for you. Give it a click). This short blog post cannot truly demonstrate Pinball's generosity and humanitarian contributions, but he is without a doubt an individual that has gone far Beyond the Boxscores.