The former basketball star, at 50 and not ready to retire:
"Once, the whole world watched him compete and win -- Game 6, the Delta Center -- and now it's a small group of friends in a hotel room playing a silly kid's game. The desire remains the same, but the venues, and the stakes, keep shrinking. For years he was beloved for his urges when they manifested on the basketball court, and now he's ridiculed when they show up in a speech."
"His self-esteem has always been, as he says, 'tied directly to the game.' Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance. When the schedule clears, he'll call his office and tell them not to bother him for a month, to let him relax and play golf. Three days later they'll get another call, asking if the plane can pick him up and take him someplace. He's restless. So he owns the Bobcats, does his endorsements, plays hours of golf, hoping to block out thoughts of 218. But then he gets off a boat, comes home to a struggling team. He feels his competitiveness kick in, almost a chemical thing, and he starts working out, and he wonders: Could he play at 50? What would he do against LeBron?"
PUBLISHED: Feb. 15, 2013
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7955 words)
George Visger played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1980. Now, he's diagnosed with chronic traumatic brain injury, frontal and temporal lobe disorders, generalized seizure disorder and cognitive impairment—and he's trying to make sense of his life:
"On a postcard-perfect Southern California morning, George Visger is pissing blood. This comes as a relief. For me, mostly. But also for him. Things could be worse. He could be having a seizure. Or slipping into a coma. Which means I could be jamming a one-inch butterfly needle into a thumbnail-sized hole in the side of his skull, trying to siphon off excess spinal fluid while avoiding what Visger calls 'the white stuff.'
"The white stuff being brain tissue."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 9, 2013
LENGTH: 35 minutes (8849 words)
How late 49ers coach Bill Walsh wrote a 550-page book that became a bible for NFL coaches:
"So it was no surprise that Walsh instantly regretted retiring. Believing that he left at least one Super Bowl on the table, Walsh was 'melancholy and terrible,' according to Craig. That the 1989 49ers were more dominant in the playoffs under new coach George Seifert than they ever were under Walsh made it worse. Walsh hated that Seifert won a championship that year with his team, his West Coast offense, his philosophy; he so hated the ring that the team awarded him that he gave it away. 'He didn't want them to win,' Craig says. 'He couldn't hand over the team he had created to someone else, because he wasn't capable of it.'
"He tried broadcasting but quit in 1991. 'I'm not going to sit for three hours and let some 27-year-old f-- in my ear tell me about the game,' he told Brian Billick, former Ravens coach and one of his many protégés. In 1992 Walsh returned to Stanford, where he had coached in the '70s, but left after two losing seasons in three years, his magic gone. 'He needed to be Bill Walsh,' Billick says. 'He needed to be a genius.'
"So he decided to write a book."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5238 words)
PUBLISHED: Dec. 11, 2012
LENGTH: 2 minutes (648 words)
An Iraq war veteran becomes blind during combat and learns how to live on:
"When the doctors told him the blindness was irreversible, he felt a rage and despair that made him feel like his head would explode.
"Castro began therapy a week after waking up, and he only halfheartedly endured the rehab sessions with a 6-foot-tall girl he called 'Katie the Physical Terrorist.' The first time she asked him to stand, he couldn't. He could barely lift a one-pound dumbbell.
"Evelyn tried to focus him on the positives. Obliterated as his body was, his brain was OK — remarkable considering that traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has become the trademark of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and that thousands of soldiers sent to Walter Reed had to battle it. But in a way Castro wished he'd not been spared, because an intact brain meant the other thing he could actually see was exactly how much his life had been ruined. He'd ask, 'What kind of man can I even be?'"
PUBLISHED: Oct. 8, 2012
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5197 words)
This fall, Mo Isom is trying out for LSU's football team as a kicker, and would like to prove that her athletic ability outshines the fact that she is a woman. She has already proven to be resilient after overcoming personal struggles and experiencing tragedy:
"In Isom's family, her mom and her sister were 'brains.' She and her dad were 'hearts.' They were also giants (He was 6-foot-4, 300 pounds). Together, they worked with Special Olympians, tossed the football in the front yard, and whiled away Saturdays watching SEC football. They butted heads when she hit high school, and things got worse when Isom stopped eating. The more secrets she kept from her father, the less she could bear being around him. By college, however, she says she was back to being 'the epitome of a daddy's girl.' But from a distance she couldn't see how her absence had worn on him or how other, unspoken weights had left him lethargic and cold.
"Spring passed. So did summer. Fall arrived, and with it, Isom's freshman season. It took only two games before she showed up on ESPN.
"Early in the second half of a home game against BYU, a foul was called just outside the goalkeeper's box. Isom waved off her teammate so she could take the free kick. This was why she'd been recruited, after all. Not just for her defense in goal, but also for her leg.
"She stepped back, struck the ball, and as she watched it, she thought, Whoa. It sailed over the awaiting players and landed just in front of the goalkeeper's box. The opposing keeper rushed forward, but she misjudged the ball's trajectory, then leapt as it bounced over her head."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 20, 2012
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7592 words)
The new Ohio State football coach made a promise to his family that he'd put them first. Will he keep it?
"Eighty or so people filed into the school cafeteria. Urban and his wife, Shelley, joined their daughter at the front table, watching as Gigi stood and spoke. She'd been nervous all day, and with a room of eyes on her, she thanked her mother for being there season after season, year after year.
"Then she turned to her father.
"He'd missed almost everything. You weren't there, she told him.
"Shelley Meyer winced. Her heart broke for Urban, who sat with a thin smile, crushed. Moments later, Gigi high-fived her dad without making eye contact, then hugged her coach. Urban dragged himself back to the car. Then -- and this arrives at the guts of his conflict -- Urban Meyer went back to work, pulled by some biological imperative. His daughter's words ran through his mind, troubling him, and yet he returned to the shifting pixels on his television, studying for a game he'd either win or lose. The conflict slipped away. Nothing mattered but winning. Both of these people are in him -- are him: the guilty father who feels regret, the obsessed coach who ignores it. He doesn't like either one. He doesn't like himself, which is why he wants to change."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 8, 2012
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7279 words)
On the fate of Marko Cheseto, the former Kenyan track star who lost his career, his best best friend and his feet at the University of Alaska:
"He's in the first days of his new life. A man who could run farther and faster than almost anybody in the world now sits to shower. He washes his hands only in warm water because his frostbitten fingers are sensitive to cold. He removes his legs at night and massages his stumps. In the morning, he fits his nubs into cups at the top of plastic shins, then pushes down hard, as if he's squeezing into ski boots.
"He tells everyone he's good. Losing his feet, he says, is sufficient penance for ignoring William. But privately, Marko says what his closest friends now know to suspect: 'Just because I say I'm good doesn't mean that everything is okay.'"
PUBLISHED: June 18, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4420 words)