As upset as I get when the Chicago White Sox lose to the Minnesota Twins, or as “Earth-shattering” as this summer’s NBA free agent news seemed the moment it became public knowledge, I have perspective. I know that what I observe, analyze and then publish about every day is a matter of win or lose, not life or death.
The sports world is filled with people who have perspective- like Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. Stan and I have both fought and conquered Hodgkin’s disease- twice. And in a remarkable instance of coincidence, I received my own stem cell transplant, 6 years to the exact date of Bowman’s. Since 2003, I have been in remission and living healthy enough to even swim in the Triathlon last summer. I actually met Bowman in a cancer survivor/patient support group before I started covering his team.
Saturday night, I met another famous sports figure, Ohio State legend Chris Spielman, whose life has unfortunately also been shaped by this monstrous illness. On the night of his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, I spoke with Spielman about the Stefanie Spielman Fund.
By Paul M. Banks
After playing for Detroit for eight seasons, and with Cleveland and Buffalo for two, Spielman took the 1998 season off to be with his wife Stefanie, who was battling breast cancer. Unfortunately, after five separate bouts with the disease, Stefanie Spielman passed away at the age of 42 last fall. When commenting about his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Chris Spielman remembered his late wife Stefanie:
“There was such a genuine smile on her face and pure joy that she’d gotten out of this, because she understood what my passion for college football is. It’s amazing.”
Spielman has never been shy about discussing the recent tragedy. He and his family have approached the grieving process head-on; never talking around it.
“It’s easy to raise awareness if you’re in the public eye, so what are you going to do with that awareness, and that’s raise money, with the understanding that the cure is going to come through research. And that research requires dollars,” Spielman said.
“Stef and I had an opportunity to make a difference: we started the Stefanie Spielman fund at the James Cancer Hospital with the goal of $100,000. Well, as of last week, we’re closing in on the $8 million mark over a 12 year period. And so I think just because she passed away in November that fight doesn’t stop,” Chris said.
“I promised her I would be the best Dad I could be and continue her legacy in this fight,” he continued.
When I was battling cancer in 2000, I was looking for a hero to draw inspiration from. I found it in my mother, a breast cancer survivor from 1998. Now that I’m looking for a place to give, to help in the fight against cancer, I’m seeking a philanthropist hero. I think I’ve found one in Spielman.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguruFollow paulmbanks