Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sports Teams Encourage Reading

Today, most people understand the importance of reading and keeping kids engaged in reading all year. Throughout the year, there are many formal programs around the country that encourage kids to read. One of the biggest is the NEA's Read Across America program, which is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss. This NEA Program is meant to keep children reading 365 days a year. According to the NEA:

Across America, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading.

Read Across America allows for local communities to shape their own programs. President Obama and First Lady Michelle are big backers. Entertainment celebrities promote the program as well. Kids can see Justin Bieber reading The Cat in the Hat.

Some programs are meant to encourage reading through friendly competition. One program that is close to us at Sporting Chance Press is America's Battle of the Books, a reading incentive program for students in grades 3rd-12th that selected Maddie Takes the Ice as one of its books for 2011. Students read books and come together to demonstrate their abilities and test their knowledge of the ones they have read. The competitions vary depending upon the needs, resources and personal preferences at various school sites or at the regional/state competition levels.

Sports Teams Are Involved

Many professional sports teams back reading programs. Often they work with local libraries to encourage kids to participate in reading programs--including summer programs that typically provide sign up sheets and logs that formally record individual reading activity and measure achievement that is often awarded with prizes donated by the teams and other businesses.

For example the WNBA’s Chicago Sky teams up with the Chicago Public Library for their annual Chicago City of Big Readers summer reading program. This year’s program offers eight weeks of free activities and prizes at Chicago’s 79 public libraries. According to the Sky web site:

Chicago Sky players will host twelve “Reading Time Outs” at various library branches, working to promote library exploration, while also reading stories to some of the 45,000 plus children involved.

Sporting Chance Press author Patrick McCaskey is a Senior Director of the Chicago Bears. The Bears are deeply involved in literacy programs. 2011 was the seventh consecutive year that the Chicago Bears have partnered with ComEd to offer “Tales to Tackle,” for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. The program provides a reading notebook that features pictures of Bears players, includes a list of suggested books and has plenty of space for students to write book reports and keep track of the books that they read. The program encourages students to read three teacher-approved books each month during a three-month period. For younger Bear fans, Staley’s “Tackle Reading” program targets students in 1st through 5th grades.

Many Teams Take Part

Most professional sports teams and their players give back to the community. Often they include programs that involve reading. Here are just a few reading related programs that involved sports teams:

Each year, the New York Football Giants participate in the National Education Association's (NEA) "Read Across America" program by visiting numerous schools in the NY area.

In St. Louis, the baseball Cardinals are a sponsor of the library's reading program donating hundreds of tickets used for prizes.

The LA Dodgers Dream Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and the Los Angeles Times join forces for the annual Team Think Blue Program, which helps students improve their literacy and language arts while encouraging the development of a healthy and active lifestyle.

The NBA Champion, Dallas Mavericks, offer the annual Mavs Reading Challenge to 2nd-5th grade students, which supports the NBA's Read to Achieve literacy program.

PGA golfers participate in the Reading Above Par program an extension of Wells Fargo’s Reading First program.

Professional athletes and their teams have a great opportunity to influence kids in positive ways. We salute the many who are supporting reading.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

LeBron Learns Life Lessons

Last year at Sporting Chance Press , we wrote about the LeBron James charitable giving and his team selection TV extravaganza "reveal" --we made the case that James had done nothing immoral and there was a great upside for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America by the huge sum of money raised for them.

Much has been written on the NBA Championship Series and LeBron's play--lots of it negative. In sports, there are many detractors and LeBron is going to have those regardless of how he plays. If you are in the limelight, you will get the requisite scrutiny and often the criticism that follows will be unfair. Many in today's media of course, don't stop at criticizing play, they often make it personal--that's what sells in our hot-wired world. Some believe you have to be ten times nastier than the guy on the next channel or in the other local paper to get an audience. For LeBron, they will talk about choking and his character, although some commentators have tried to point out that unlike many sports celebrities, James seems to get demonized without scandalous behavior,which should be precursor to such media roasts.

As the publisher at Sporting Chance Press, I try to look beyond the hype and see the hero within--in both athletes and all of us athlete wannabees--that's what my company is all about. Our books bring out the best in people, not the worst.

One of my authors is Patrick McCaskey and his dad told him when his sports career was sidetracked by serious injury, "the steel of manhood is tempered by the fire of adversary>" (Sports and Faith). Also in Patrick's book, Sports and Faith, his grandfather George Halas is quoted giving McCaskey some advice when he came under criticism by schoolmates -- "this is a test, if you run from this, you'll run from something really difficult later in life..."

How many times have we heard great sports figures say that you learn from defeats not victories. I believe that's true. A good sports contest is often compared to great theater. In a good play, tragedy is characterized by loss, but punctuated by growth and wisdom. The same is true in championship series like the Dallas-Miami one just completed.

There was enough negative energy around LeBron this year to give Lord Voldemort nine more lives. A positive result of the season is that LeBron is now officially human and I believe he should also be officially likable in the media because I think he is a very likable guy. Now I hope sports fans look beyond the hype and I hope a lot more people cheer for him--at least when he's not playing the Bulls.

LeBron James most recent message is a very positive one that most of us can relate to in our lives at any time: [I've got] "a lot to learn from this year, a lot to build on, and a lot of work to do...'' Sounds like a winning formula to me. Sounds like what we must do everyday, pick up the pieces, the mistakes, and get on with it. In sports there are great lessons for all of us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sporting Chance Press Author, Patrick McCaskey to Appear at the Cable Show

Mr. Patrick McCaskey Senior Director of the Chicago Bears will be a featured guest at the CatholicTV exhibit booth on the afternoon of Thursday, June 16 at the Cable Show being hosted in Chicago's McCormick Place. McCaskey is the author of Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout published by Sporting Chance Press. He has appeared on CatholicTV Programs and is well-known for his support of faith based education and Christian charities. He is chairman of Sports Faith International, an initiative that recognizes outstanding athletes at the high school, college and professional level who live exemplary lives.

CatholicTV is a nationally-broadcasted television network streaming a live feed 24 hours a day at CatholicTV’s exhibit is hosted by CatholicTV Network President Father Robert Reed, Executive Vice President Jay Fadden, and Marketing Programming Manager Bonnie Rodgers.

The Cable Show brings together the full spectrum of the global cable industry, fostering fresh dialogues with leaders of the entertainment and high-tech sectors to encourage collaboration and business relationships.

Monday, June 13, 2011

J. D. Thorne to Sign Books at Burghardt's on Father's Day

One last minute Father's Day gift, a signed copy of The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life), can be snagged on Father's Day itself at Burghardt's Sporting Good Store in Brookfield, Wisconsin from 2-4 p.m. Author of the popular book on the principles of baseball, J. D. Thorne, will be at Burghardt's to sign what has been called the "perfect storm" of baseball books.

The modern baseball fan may never have heard of baseball's Joe McCarthy. McCarthy is one of the most influential managers in baseball history. Although he spent 20 years in the minor leagues as a player and manager, he never made it to the big leagues as a player. Nevertheless, he managed the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in what some would describe as the Golden Era of baseball. McCarthy still holds the winningest percentage for all MLB managers. He managed Hall of Famers such as Hack Wilson, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams.

While managing in the minor leagues he created a document called The 10 Commandments of baseball and Sporting Chance Press published a book by the same name on the topic by J. D. Thorne. The Commandments are a simple list of principles that may seem self-evident to those who were coached well as kids playing Little League:

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball.
2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
3. An outfielder who throws back of a runner is locking the barn after the horse is stolen.
4. Keep your head up and you may not have to keep it down.
5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. He who changes his mind may hav to change a good leg for a bad one.
6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anyone can field the good ones.
7. Always run them out, you can never tell.
8. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder.
9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.
10. A pitcher who hasn’t control, hasn’t anything.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life) provides a concise review of these principles illustrated with brief stories of golden age greats baseball greats along with the author's personal experiences. It's a thoroughly fun read that is accessible to fans from 10 to 100. It is a paperback that costs $20. The Commandments makes a superb gift for Father's Day, graduation, birthdays or for those who shop ahead of time--Christmas. The book is published by

Patrick McCaskey Speaks at Andrew HS

Chicago Bears Senior Director and Sporting Chance Press author Patrick McCaskey was the featured speaker at St. Stephen Parish Men's Club Mass and Sports Sundays Event at 7:00 p.m. on June 11, 2011 at Andrew High School Auditorium. The Event also featured a showing of the Champions of Faith™ movie.

The popular Champions of Faith: Baseball Edition is a multi-award winning film that explores the intersection of sports and faith in Major League Baseball--profiling many of the most accomplished and devout figures in the game like Mike Piazza, David Eckstein, Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney, Jack McKeon and Rich Donnelly. In the film, each athlete stressed the fact that their faith was central to life both on and off the field. After the film, Bears Senior Director Patrick McCaskey spoke about his 36 years in the Bears organization and his growing up in an exceptional Catholic family. McCaskey's presentation was followed by a question and answer period, which included some spirited questions from young athletes in the parish. Books were signed in a meet and greet session after the film, moms and dads took photos of their kids and the Bears Director gave away copies of his Bears Prayer book marks.

Sports and Faith is available at select bookstores and directly from the publisher at