A man and his messages
There are days when you look around and see too many mean-spirited jerks. Then you turn on the television and meet Tim Green.
Green appeared on the 60 Minutes television news show recently and provided viewers with some much needed inspiration.
He was a star linebacker and defensive end who played eight seasons with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. He retired as an active player in 1993, then really got busy.
He earned a law degree, joined a New York State legal firm, became a television commentator on PBS, Fox and ABC and began writing. He has published more than three dozen books in the adult suspense and youth sports genres.
One of his books, Unstoppable, debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list. It is about a troubled 14-year-old boy who finds a real life in playing football, only to have to face a fierce fight against cancer.
Green has made 1,200 school visits, speaking to more than half a million school kids about the importance of reading books and getting a good education. He urges the children to read 20 minutes every day.
“Reading is weightlifting for the brain,” he has said.
His main message is: Put school before sports and think of success not as fame and fortune, but in terms of kindness and personal relationships.
It’s an important, powerful message but unfortunately Tim Green won’t be able to deliver it himself for much longer. He is dying, which is a tragedy because when you watch him for only a few minutes you wish the world had millions more humans like him.
A couple of weeks ago he made a Facebook post announcing that he is suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig was a professional baseball player diagnosed with the disease in the 1930s.
Green has a slow moving form of the disease but ALS always is fatal. It affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, weakening muscles and making it difficult to talk, walk, eat and breathe.
He was diagnosed two years ago after having difficulty using his hands. He had trouble using nail clippers and opening things with his fingers. A hand surgeon told him he had ALS and a neurologist told him to get his affairs in order.
The disease is threatening his voice but on the television show he was able to say that the best time of his life is right now. “I have everything,” he said.
Despite the ALS his purpose is “the same as it was before: be the best husband, best dad, lawyer, writer, businessperson I can be. And also to tackle ALS.”
“I can still write and that opens up a universe.”
He has been writing his latest books on his smartphone, typing the words with his thumbs. He has a sensor in his eyeglasses that helps him to see and type the letters.
“People will say, ‘God bless you,’” Green said, “and I would say, He already has.”
Eighty per cent of ALS patients die within two to five years of diagnosis, says the ALS Society of Canada. It says an estimated 3,000 Canadians currently are living with ALS and that the disease is responsible for two or three deaths each day.
Green is a driving force behind ALS fundraising efforts, notably the website www.TackleALS.com/teams/Atlanta-Falcons. He appears in a video there, wearing his trademark No. 99 Falcons jersey.
Dr. Merit Cudkowicz, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, says in the ad that the number of ALS diagnoses will grow by 70 per cent over the next 20 years. She does not give reasons for that large increase, however, presumably it comes from the fact that the disease strikes mainly people ages 40 to 70 and the world’s population is aging.
Some research suggests that military veterans are 1.5 to two times more likely to get ALS. Researchers have suggested that exposure to toxins during warfare, and strenuous physical activity, might be reasons why military veterans and athletes seem more at risk to developing the disease.
Meanwhile, Green continues to deliver his messages of inspiration.
“Life can never be long enough,” he told the 60 Minutes audience.